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More Opinion and Analysis

Why is Gauteng so important?

2014-04-29 11:21
There's a lot more to this election in Gauteng than the Premier's race.

After we’ve all gone and voted, the Independent Electoral Commission shunts the numbers through a formula to determine who gets how many seats in the next National Assembly, and all the provincial legislatures. It isn't, however, just calculated from a national pie - half of the seats (that's 200 of them) are dependent on the results in each province. And since Gauteng is so big (in number, not territory), it determines a fat portion of who occupies them. In 2009 it determined which bum went in 47 of those 200 seats.

As an example, the Freedom Front Plus won four seats in the last assembly, three of which came from the national count and one from the provincial number crunching. Although its 1.38% in Gauteng was only its third best result (it absolutely caned in the Free State with 1.61%), it is this province from which the provincial seat was allocated.

How about another? In the 2009 election the Democratic Alliance won 48.7% of the vote in the Western Cape, snagging 12 seats in the regional calculation. From Gauteng it won 10 of them with only 21.27% of the vote. You can win a plurality in a province that is not Gauteng, and win a smudge over one fifth of the votes in Gauteng, and wind up with similar results.

Put simply: the better you do in Gauteng, the better you will do.

It's no secret the DA has made Gauteng the centre of its election campaign. Reportedly R100m of its R173m election budget is being spent in that one province, and anyone who has merely stood near a piece of media in the last four months or so has caught a whiff of Mmusi Maimane's campaign for the Premier's office.

This is how Gauteng looked after the 2009 elections, broken down by municipality.  

That's ANC wins in every district. The big DA success outside the Western Cape is Midvaal (the lightest shaded municipality in the southernmost tip of the province), in which the DA holds control at the local level (and actually won a plurality of votes on the 2009 provincial ballot). Don’t get too excited by it, however, because in 2009 only 35 169 votes were cast in Midvaal, out of 4 199 863 in the province in total. That’s a measly 0.84%.

The secret to Gauteng, and therefore nearly a quarter of the regionally allocated seats in parliament, lies in three distinct municipalities: The City of Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni and Tshwane Metro, where 83% of the province’s votes were cast. That is where all parties contesting Gauteng need to do their work, and when comparing the 2009 election with 2004, we can see the DA making some impressions in heavy ANC territory. Up to now, however, it has had a small effect on the overall Gauteng vote: a drop of nearly six points in the City of Johannesburg, two points in Ekurhuleni and a small gain in Tshwane Metro.

As you can see below, in 2009 the ANC cleaned up in the province even though its share of the vote dropped by four points. Outside the Tshwane Metro, the marginal decrease was pretty fairly spread out. Only four regions – the West Rand, Mogale City, Randfontein and Nokeng Tsa Taemane moved eight or more points (and it is worth noting that the latter was one of the absolutely worst-run municipalities in South Africa, and eventually disestablished and incorporated into Tshwane before the 2011 local government elections).

The spreading out of the drop meant that there was no specific geographical or local issue driving voters. In fact it was more than likely the Congress of the People that somewhat disturbed the ANC’s hefty majority.

In 2011, however, during local government elections, things started moving. The DA hauled in 33% of the local vote, swallowing up virtually the entire opposition vote, reducing Cope to just over 1% and the ANC down another four points. While the ANC retained a majority of provincial support, dropping eight points over the course of two elections is never going to be welcome.

Another four points and all of a sudden you have the DA at nearly 40% and the ANC beginning to smell the 50% mark. And in a year where the public is pissed with the president, the economy continues spluttering and service delivery is again a tumultuous issue, another four-point swing isn’t off the cards. Obviously there are many different variables moving all over the place between a general and municipal election, but the trends are moving in one direction.  

Degree of success for DA

Although polls released this year have the ANC looking in a lot more danger than I would expect the party is, the DA can come away from this election with a fair degree of success, even if it fails to secure a majority in Gauteng. If another four-point swing does happen – and public and leaked internal polling shows it to likely be more than that – the 2012 allocation (which is up one from 2009 to 48 seats), would be around 26-27 parliamentary seats for the ANC, down from 31 in 2009, and 18-19 for the DA, up from 10. This is obviously hypothetical, as I haven’t taken into account Cope (which I expect to do terribly) or the Economic Freedom Fighters.

City Press reported in March that DA internal polls had the party at 36% and the ANC’s below 45%, while EFF would score 7%. Of the 200 provincially determined seats in the National Assembly, that would give the ANC 21 or 22 (down from 31), the DA closer to 17-18 and EFF three or four.

So even if the ANC retains control of the province, and Mmusi Maimane represents in Cape Town rather than Johannesburg (he’s on the national MP’s list too), the DA can make a significant difference to its chunk of parliamentary representation by going well in Gauteng. There’s a lot more in the province than the premier’s chair.
Read more on: da  |  ff plus  |  anc  |  mmusi maimane  |  johannesburg  |  elections 2014

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