Of the 25 wards that the DA was seeking to retain in this week’s by-elections, the official opposition party lost nine, five to the ANC and one each to the Patriotic Alliance, the Freedom Front Plus (FF+), Good and Al Jama-ah.
The ANC, emerging from the Covid-19-related lockdown during which the party brand was tainted by corruption allegations, however, managed to win the majority of the 95 wards up for grabs, snatching 70 wards across the country. The governing party retained 64 wards, lost two to the DA and the IFP and won six new wards, leading the party to crow about voters still believing in its message.
The large number of by-elections was due to postponements during the hard lockdown period.
The DA, although the biggest loser nationwide, still managed to be the biggest winner in the Western Cape, winning in eight of the 11 wards. The party’s attempts to win back voters lost to the FF+ in the national elections last year did not bear fruit, as they lost even more votes to the FF+. This included losing a ward in Potchefstroom in the North West. In Johannesburg, the party lost three wards, one each to the ANC, Patriotic Alliance and Al Jama-ah.
The Patriotic Alliance, led by businessperson Gayton Mckenzie, now has two seats in the City of Johannesburg. In this by-election, the party was supported by Andile Mngxitama’s Black First, Land First party, which says it is preparing for the 2021 local elections.
The IFP was the third biggest winner in KwaZulu-Natal, retaining five wards, and even managing to snatch a ward in Inkandla from the ANC. The party also made inroads in Umlazi in eThekwini. A very good sign for them on the road to 2021.
The EFF, the third biggest party in Parliament, did not manage to win a single ward across the country, although its support grew in most areas it contested in. The party exists in most municipalities because of proportional representation support, and is yet to control any municipality.
Of the eleven wards that were contested in the Western Cape, the ANC retained two seats and the DA eight. Good won one seat from the DA. Voter turnout in the province on average was 37.60%.
The by-elections were also characterised by low voter turnout with an average of 37.83% compared with 38.73% over the past four years. The highest turnout recorded on Wednesday was 75.29%, which was in Ward 4 of the Port St Johns municipality in the Eastern Cape. The Electoral Commission of SA said the turnout was not that bad given that this was the first election conducted during Covid-19.
Despite the overwhelmingly smooth, calm and peaceful nature of the by-elections, the commission said it was saddened and concerned by the disruptions caused to voting procedures earlier in the day in two wards.
“The opening of voting stations was significantly delayed in ward 130 (Naledi, Soweto) in the City of Johannesburg and at one voting station in ward 13 in Amahlathi Local Municipality in the Eastern Cape.
“Protests over service delivery targeted voting stations in these areas, including blocking access to voting stations by both election officials and voters. Through the intervention of the SAPS, along with provincial and municipal leaders, voting was able to finally get under way at around midday,” said the commission on Wednesday.
Surprisingly, the ANC managed to hang on to Ward 130, regardless of the fact that voting was delayed for hours as a result of angry residents complaining about electricity blackouts for the past six months. The party also held on to its wards in the embattled Emfuleni municipality in the Vaal, although turnout was very low.