The 5 townships that could tip Gauteng

2019-04-26 06:00
APRIL 3,2019. Residents of Alexandra brings everyt
Residents of Alexandra brings everything to a standstill in the township on Wednesday, 3 April when they embarked on a service delivery #AlexTotalShutdown Campaign. Photo: ALON SKUY

The Gauteng provincial election is going to be close. Very close. Although there's no doubt that the ANC will be the largest party in Gauteng, the key question is just whether the party will reach 50%.

Given historic voting patterns, recent by-elections and all of the polling we have seen, it is clear it will be a very tight race between the ANC and 50% in Gauteng. In a previous article, I explained the key drivers of the relative ANC weakness in the 2016 local government election. The two primary drivers were turnout and important shifts against the ANC in the black electorate.

In 2016, suburbs turned out at much, much higher rates than townships in Gauteng (71% of suburban voters turned out to vote in Gauteng whilst only 53% of township voters turned out to vote) and black voters started moving away from the ANC (the ANC received 87% of the black vote in Gauteng in the 2011 local government election, but only 69% of the black vote in Gauteng in the 2016 local government election).

Although it is still unclear exactly how these and other variables will play out on election day, it is becoming increasingly likely that we've got all of the ingredients for a very tight race in Gauteng.

Turnout will be absolutely critical. But even more important is the voting pattern in Gauteng's urban townships, where the opposition parties (primarily the EFF but to a lesser extent also the DA) have made inroads in the past.

To begin this analysis, we need to start by simply looking at the size of the electorate in these townships. For context, also keep in mind that the full Gauteng electorate consists of 6.38 million registered voters. Gauteng's top 10 largest townships:

1) Soweto: 675 551 registered voters (Special note: This is huge. More than 10% of the full Gauteng electorate live in Soweto.)

2) Vosloosrus-Katlehong-Thokoza*: 384 227 registered voters

3) Soshanguve-Mabopane*: 342 223 registered voters

4) Tembisa: 231 764 registered voters

5) KwaThema-Tsakane*: 207 414 registered voters

6) Mamelodi: 175 785 registered voters

7) Daveyton-Mandela Park*: 159 668 registered voters

8) Orange Farm-Driezek-Lakeside*: 120 118 registered voters

9) Ivory Park-Rabie Ridge*: 109 902 registered voters

10) Alexandra: 104 160 registered voters

These townships hold the key to the future of electoral politics in Gauteng; and in my view to the country's electoral future.


Soweto is enormous, and also internally somewhat heterogenous. There are differing levels of development throughout the townships and thus differing levels of income and slight differences in electoral preferences. Papering across these differences and simply aggregating the full results produce the following interesting historic results for Soweto.

Historic Soweto results:


My calculations indicate that the ANC needs to at least replicate the 2016 result. Anything below 70% will seriously jeopardise the party's ability to reach 50% across the full provincial electorate (given what we know will happen in the suburbs).


Here we have combined three townships from Ekurhuleni. Although technically three different townships, they are electorally very similar in the aggregate and also physically overlap across a number of wards and voting stations. The historic results here are:

Historic Vosloosrus-Katlehong-Thokoza results:


This has been an area of relative strength for the ANC, where it maintained a larger majority than in most other townships. Two variables will be critical here: Firstly, whether the ANC can maintain the relatively high level of support and secondly the level of turnout. Given the very large ANC majority in these areas, the ANC needs to maximise turnout here.


This is Tshwane's largest township, and a critical site of contestation in the 2016 local government election. Both the EFF and DA made significant inroads here. The ANC's underperformance in Soshanguve was ultimately a critical enabler of the DA's victory (the party won a plurality of the votes in 2016) in Tshwane.

Historic Soshanguve-Mabopane results:


Again, the ANC has to at least match the 2016 level of support it gained in this area; and preferably overperform it.


Tembisa is fascinating. It is one of the EFF's strongest areas in Gauteng and the country. The EFF inroads in this area were a crucial driver of the ANC's relatively poor performance in Ekurhuleni in 2016.

Historic Tembisa results: 


Together with Alexandra, Tembisa is the township where the ANC support is the lowest. The ANC's ability to claw back support in Tembisa (and Alex) will be critical to its ability to stage a comeback in Gauteng this year; and in 2021's local government elections.


Kwathema-Tsakane is another large township in the southern part of Ekurhuleni. It is another area of relative strength for the ANC.

Historic Kwathema-Tsakane results: 


This is yet another area where the ANC can run up very significant numbers if it maintains its relatively strong level of support; and, crucially, maximise turnout. It is also important to note – for reasons that are not entirely clear – that the DA has struggled to make inroads in this area, with its growth here lagging behind the progress it made in other townships in the province.

These are the five largest townships in Gauteng. Although the precise numbers differ, they exhibit the same trend: The ANC weakened severely over the last three elections and the EFF and DA are picking up support. This is the critical trend to watch on May 8. Does the ANC claw back support in these areas? Or does the trend continue, likely resulting in the ANC achieving less than 50% of the vote in Gauteng?

A very great deal depends on the decisions made in these townships in the next two weeks.

* These townships have been added together for this analysis. They are obviously distinct places, but because of geographic proximity, electoral homogeneity and overalapping wards and voting stations, I have aggregated them for this analysis. 

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