By-elections give a taste of the poll to come

2015-04-01 06:32


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Johannesburg - Politicians will contest by-elections in six provinces on Wednesday, the only real indicator of voter trends ahead of local government elections next year, according to an analyst.

Of the 11 wards to be contested, nine were previously represented by the African National Congress and two by the Democratic Alliance, the Independent Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) said.

Three wards were uncontested.

Six political parties will be represented, along with six independent candidates.

Local government elections

The by-elections come with almost a year to go until the local government elections.

Political analyst Steven Friedman said by-elections were the country's only real indication of how voters were making decisions, as opinion polls were often unreliable.

"I think it is far more useful to look at how people are actually voting in by-elections than to have a look at all these polls, most of which are wrong anyway... So it does give you a sense of what is happening on the ground."

However, he added that this needed to be put into context, because there were many people who did not vote in by-elections and therefore they could also be unreliable.

"There is a limit to its test but it's an important test because even a limited example of how people are voting is, I would argue, more important than some person who tells you they interviewed 3 000 people on the telephone or whatever the case may be," Friedman said.

''It gives you more of a sense of what is going on than any other source of information we have.''

Using by-elections to make a point

Neither political parties nor voters were using by-elections effectively in South Africa, he said. In older democracies voters had got used to using by-elections more effectively.

''People in older democracies use by-elections very deliberately to make a point and I don't see terribly much of that here.

''It's true to say neither voters nor parties are using by-elections as effectively as they could."

Friedman said there were two examples where voters had done this. In a by-election in Marikana the ANC lost a ward to an independent candidate and in Nkandla, northern KwaZulu-Natal, the ANC lost a ward to the IFP.

Friedman said smaller political parties should be using by-elections to their advantage, where they could do better than they did in the general elections.

On Wednesday, two wards - one in the Western Cape and one in the North West - were holding by-elections because the councillors had their party membership terminated. Other wards became vacant because councillors had either resigned or died.

Two by-elections would be taking place in the Western Cape.

DA councillor expelled

Ward 7 in Witzenberg, where Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille had been campaigning last month in the run up to the by-election, became vacant when the opposition party’s councillor Petrus Heradien was expelled from the party.

DA national spokesperson Phumzile Van Damme said Heradien was initially charged with misconduct by the party in 2012.

"The process was drawn out extensively by amongst other the difficulty in serving notices for the disciplinary inquiries on him," she said.

"Numerous attempts by the sheriff of the court as well as members of the DA to serve Mr Heradien with the notice proved unsuccessful."

Finally, towards the end of last year the DA's federal legal commission held a hearing into the matter and Heradien was found guilty of misconduct and it was recommended that his party membership be terminated.

Van Damme said his membership was terminated by the federal executive in November.

Heradien would now contest Wednesday's by-election as an independent candidate. The ward would also be contested by the African National Congress and the DA.

In Cape Town Ward 72, which was previously represented by the DA, would be contested by the opposition party and the ANC. The previous DA councillor resigned.

In the North West two wards in the Moretele municipality (Makapanstad) were expected to hold by-elections.

The ANC councillor in Ward 5 of the municipality, Benjamin Khoza, had his party membership terminated. The ANC could not be reached for comment on reasons why Khoza's membership had been terminated.

Wards uncontested

No by-election would be held in Ward 5 because the ANC candidate to take over from Salaminah Mmapula Matlou was standing uncontested.

However, Ward 2 in the municipality would be contested by an independent candidate, the African Independent Congress and the ANC. The previous ANC councillor resigned.

In the Eastern Cape, Ward Two in the Sakhisizwe municipality (Elliot) was uncontested.

The ANC’s Alfred Siyabulela Nxozi was the only candidate standing for the position of councillor. The ward was previously represented by the ruling party but became vacant when the previous councillor resigned.

Two wards were expected to be contested in KwaZulu-Natal with a third ward uncontested.

Ward Two in Richmond is uncontested and would remain in control of the ANC. The party’s candidate Welcome Thamsanqa Tshelembe was the only candidate standing. The previous ANC councillor resigned.

Richmond’s Ward six would be contested by the ANC and the Inkatha Freedom Party. The ward was previously represented by the ANC but became vacant when the councillor resigned.

Imbabazane municipality (Loskop) would hold a by-election in Ward 10.

The ward would be contested by the ANC, IFP and National Freedom Party.

Councillor died

The ANC councillor who previously represented the ward died.

The provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga would each hold one by-election.

In Limpopo, Ward 11 in the Maruleng municipality (Hoedspruit) two independent candidates would go up against a candidate from the ANC.

The ward was previously represented by the ANC and became vacant when the councillor died.

Ward 17 in the Albert Luthuli municipality (Elukwatini/Carolina) in Mpumalanga was being contested by the an independent candidate and the ANC. The ward became vacant when the ANC councillor resigned.

One by-election would take place in the Northern Cape in Ward 1 of the Karoo Hoogland municipality (Fraserburg).

The ANC, DA, Congress of the People and an independent candidate would contest the ward which was previously represented by the ANC. The ward became vacant when the councillor resigned.

Friedman said judging from the by-elections held since last year's general elections, the ANC and DA were hanging onto their support.

Read more on:    da  |  anc  |  iec  |  steven friedman  |  elections
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