Cape Town - A lot has been said and written about the major metropolitan municipalities during this election campaign. And rightly so, the metros are by far the most contested regions of the country and are very important drivers of the economy. Whoever governs the metros holds the key to South Africa’s success.
But there are also a huge number of rural municipalities, collectively housing much more voters than the metros do. The ANC has traditionally done very well in rural South Africa, racking up huge victories in almost all rural municipalities outside of the Western Cape and the Zululand region of KZN. The expectation is that it will again dominate rural municipalities (probably winning almost all of them again), but likely by somewhat diminished margins this time around.
There are however a few rural municipalities across the country that are set to produce interesting results. These five rural municipalities may turn out to be the most interesting on election night:
1. Kouga (Eastern Cape)
The Kouga municipality in the Eastern Cape includes Jeffrey’s Bay, Humansdorp and the surrounding countryside. It borders the critical metro of Nelson Mandela Bay (Port Elizabeth) to the East and the beautiful Formosa Provincial Nature Reserve to the West.
In 2011, the ANC barely won the municipality by 50.17% to 48% for the DA. In 2014, the DA actually won the most votes in the region (51% for the DA to 45% for the ANC), but given that it was a national and provincial election the ANC still governs it.
The result in 2014, therefore, positions Kouga as the most likely municipality to flip from the ANC to the DA outside of the Western Cape in the 2016 local government election. It will be interesting to watch what happens in Kouga. It may be an early indicator of the results in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro. If the DA wins Kouga, and especially if it wins Kouga early in the night with more than 51% (in other words if it grows beyond its 2014 level of support), it will be a very good sign for the party’s chances in Nelson Mandela Bay given the demographic similarities between Kouga and Nelson Mandela Bay. It would be a big blow for the DA if it failed to carry Kouga.
- Election map: Previous results for Kouga
2. eDumbe and Nongoma (KZN)
eDumbe and Nongoma are two municipalities in the Northern part of the KZN’s Zululand region. These two municipalities are particularly interesting given that that they were the only two in the country that the NFP won in 2011. Both were former IFP municipalities before 2011. In 2014, the NFP again won the most votes in each of the two municipalities with very similar results to 2011.
It will be interesting to see how these two municipalities vote in 2016, given that the NFP has been disqualified from participating in the 2016 local government elections. These municipalities will probably provide the best indication of which party will benefit most from the NFP’s disqualification. If the IFP manages to win them back, it will indicate a movement of former NFP voters back to the IFP, resulting in a relatively good result for the IFP in KZN.
But if the ANC manages to win these municipalities it will have significant consequences for the election: Firstly, it will indicate a shift of NFP voters to the ANC and this could provide a significant boost for the ANC’s overall national percentage – potentially ameliorating the losses it will suffer in the major metros across the country. But secondly, it will also ensure total dominance of KZN by the ANC. This could be an extremely important development for national elections in future, given that rural KZN has a large number of voters which could act as a buffer against losses in other parts of the country for the ANC.
- Election map: Previous results for eDumbe and Nongoma
3. Rustenburg (North West)
Rustenburg is the EFF’s best chance of winning a municipality in this election. The municipality contains the city of Rustenburg, but also the outlying mining areas, which includes Marikana. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the EFF made dramatic gains in these areas in 2014 at the ANC’s expense.
The 2014 result in Rustenburg suggests that it is unlikely that the EFF will be able to win, given that it requires an enormous swing of support from the ANC to the EFF (in the order of 20%) to overtake the ANC. This is probably unlikely on top of the swing that already occurred in 2014. But it will be interesting to see to what extent the party is able to make further inroads into Rustenburg as it may be indicative of the party’s prospects of further growth in the North West province and Gauteng in general.
- Election map: Previous results for Rustenburg
4. Randfontein (Gauteng)
Randfontein could be one of the sleeper surprises of this election. The municipality consists out of the Randfontein town, Mohlakeng Township and the surrounding countryside just West of Johannesburg.
In 2011, the ANC easily won the municipality with 60.5% of the vote. In 2014, the ANC fell to 53% in Randfontein as the EFF syphoned off 9% of the vote. The ANC will, therefore, be relatively vulnerable in the municipality if the DA is able to engineer disproportionately high turnout in its strong areas in Randfontein and if the DA and EFF are able to reduce the ANC’s margin of victory in Mohlakeng further. The Randfontein results may be an early indicator on election night for what may happen in Johannesburg (and Tshwane to a lesser extent), as the demographics are quite similar to Johannesburg. If the ANC drops to below 50% in Randfontein, then we could be in for very, very close elections in the Gauteng metros.
- Election map: Previous results for Randfontein
5. Nama Khoi (Northern Cape)
Nama Khoi encompasses Springbok on the far Northern West Coast of the Northern Cape. The town’s population is majority coloured and is largely representative of the Western half of the Northern Cape. In 2011, the ANC won the most votes (49%), but the DA (35%) and Cope (15%) jointly received about 50% of the vote.
In 2014, the Cope vote collapsed in the municipality and most of it went to the ANC, who won the municipality with 56% of the vote.
The municipality has a large number of opposition voters who have traditionally splintered between various parties enabling the ANC to win. It will be interesting to see if the DA is able to unite the opposition vote and challenge the ANC in Nama Khoi. If the DA is ever to challenge the ANC for control of the Northern Cape, it has to achieve significant victories in the Western half of the province (where the demographics are very similar to the Western Cape).
If the DA does do well in Nama Khoi and the rest of the Western half of the province, it could set up the Northern Cape as a serious battleground in election 2019.
- Election map: Previous results for Nama Khoi
- Dawie Scholtz holds an MBA from UCT and is currently studying towards a Master's Degree in advanced management at Yale University. He is a former DA employee.
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