The outcome of the highly-contested Mamusa Local Municipality by-elections has brought a sigh of relief to the ANC, which took a risk when it agreed to the council’s dissolution.
With the community facing daily struggles of water shortage, inconsistent collection of refuse, a problematic sanitation infrastructure and deep factions in the council, the governing party was not sure what to expect from the voters.
The party managed to retain eight of the wards it won in 2016. Two proportional representation (PR) seats were added to its tally to give it a total of 10 seats in the council. It lost one PR seat.
The biggest loser was the small party, the Forum for Service Delivery, which failed to retain any of the three PR seats it won in 2016.
Its loss benefited the EFF, which is now the main opposition party in the council after more than doubling its seats – from two PR seats in 2016 to five this week.
In reaction to the results, EFF leader Julius Malema took to Twitter to thank the party’s supporters.
In what appeared to be a reference to next year’s local government elections, he tweeted: “ .... on to the next battle. We will continue to eat the elephant piece by piece.”
The Freedom Front Plus swapped a PR seat for a ward seat which it had grabbed from the DA in 2016, leaving the latter with a single PR seat from Wednesday’s by-elections.
It could have gone either way for the governing party, but, after months of intensive campaigning and mobilising, the ANC emerged victorious in the municipality based in Schweizer Reneke in North West.
“The risk was out there for the ANC that it could completely lose power. But it is in the nature of the ANC to emerge out of the most difficult of circumstances,” said Kenny Morolong, the spokesperson for the interim ANC provincial committee.
The North West government has had its hands full, dealing with a number of struggling municipalities placed under administration. But Mamusa was the one the ANC was most worried about.
Gordon Kegakilwe, MEC for cooperative governance and traditional affairs, acknowledged that Mamusa needed the most intervention.
Kegakilwe said when other municipalities were welcoming administrators as part of the provincial government’s interventions, Mamusa councillors were opposed to it.
“Councillors at Mamusa were fighting, literally dragging an administrator out of the office … they blocked interventions.
“Members of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) were also chased away on their visit to the municipality. It was things such as these and more that left us with no choice but to push for dissolution,” Kegakilwe said.
Morolong appeared to understand why the ANC’s support had declined in recent by-elections. “It is not imperceptible that our support has significantly declined given the state of the municipality, the collapse of service delivery and the abdication of duties by our councillors,” he said.
Amid the election victory celebrations, the party is mindful of the decline in its support. There was a drop in the number of votes it got this week compared to what the party scored in 2016, with a decline recorded in five of the eight wards it won.
Meanwhile, Kegakilwe said his department would keep a close eye on Mamusa and would continue to provide assistance to ensure improved service delivery.
“Things can’t change overnight now that the elections have passed. But all departments are going to support Mamusa, especially on water and sanitation matters.
“There is also, as mandated by the NCOP, going to be an investigation into what happened in the previous council and there will be consequences,” he said.
The Mamusa council was dissolved for the first time late in 2004 and rescued from a near collapse when its bank balance was at about R115 000.
Now, 16 years later, the same problems were its undoing.