So, after a whirlwind through the cities of Gauteng (and obligatory music pun) what can we say about the EFF’s chances in the province in next year’s municipal elections?
EFF council seats post-2016
Firstly, the party will definitely win seats in each of the three metros, but these are likely to be proportional representation (PR) seats and not ward seats. The EFF’s overall level of support should see it win about 10 per cent of all seats in all three metros, which translates to between 20 and 30 seats per metro.
The party’s best chance at winning ward seats is in the Ekurhuleni metro, where it has a decent shot at up to five wards. A lot depends on the new ward demarcations.
Assumptions and counter-assumptions
The above calculations assume that the party’s support is little changed from the 2014 results, and that general voting patterns are also unchanged. Both assumptions may be unrealistic.
Firstly, there is (historically) a big difference between voting in national/provincial elections and voting in municipal elections. Turnout for the ANC is higher in the former and lower in the latter set of elections. If the EFF’s support, in absolute numbers, is unchanged from 2014 but the ANC sees a drop in support then the EFF (and other opposition parties) will win a larger portion of the vote.
Secondly, there is no guarantee that the EFF will win the same number of votes next year that it did last year. The part is facing a number of internal divisions and challenges, and Julius Malema is entangled in his own personal tax problems with SARS.
The party has only contested one or two wards in by-elections since last year’s general elections, and there isn’t much primary data to indicate how the party will fare in municipal general elections.
Where is the EFF’s support?
The analysis so far has only concentrated on EFF results in Gauteng, and the province’s demographics are quite different to neighbouring provinces (more urban, more people in formal housing, etc).
In the three metros, the EFF’s support is largely found in informal urban areas, in the newer, less-formal parts of established townships and in informal settlements. First-language Sepedi and Setswana speakers are the two largest demographics supporting the party. In most areas these supporters are recent migrants to the province, with many of them originally coming from Limpopo. In Tshwane there are pockets of support from Gauteng-born voters.
The high correlation of support with home languages / other provinces of origin is something that should be treated with sensitivity, particularly in light of the current violence against foreign black Africans in Durban and Johannesburg. The politics of ethnic and racial identity is an emotive subject.
The only hard data available for the EFF’s electoral success is the 2014 results. This doesn’t mean that the party can’t grow its support base and appeal to a wider demographic but it does suggest that the party’s growth is neither inevitable nor easy.
The EFF has announced its intentions to contest six wards in the Mtubatuba municipality in the upcoming May by-elections. its first real foray into municipal government elections. The party didn’t poll higher than 6 per cent in any Mtubatuba ward in 2014, so this is quite a brave move on its part. We’ll have to see if the party can win support in a municipality that is overwhelmingly Zulu-speaking.
Coalition politics in Gauteng?
The ANC’s share of the vote may fall below 50 per cent in any or all metros in Gauteng next year, which doesn’t automatically mean that the party will lose control of any councils. The most obvious coalition of opposition parties would include the DA and EFF, because there is no other route to a majority coalition in Gauteng.
Municipal elections are still a year away, but I would be surprised if the two parties aren’t already talking about possible horse-trading and strategy for the province. The new redemarcations will also be interesting to analyse once they are finalised – there are a number of wards where the DA and EFF are splitting the opposition vote, and a redemarcation of some of these wards might give both parties a chance at winning new council seats.