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By Alec Hogg
I’ve often wondered why South Africans don’t pay more attention to by-elections, especially now the country is undoubtably entering a new era of coalition politics. By-elections, forced through the resignation, expulsion or death of an elected candidate, provide an excellent update on the electoral mood.
A total of 30 by-elections have been held in SA since the November 2021 Local Elections. The results show change is very much in the air. The incumbent political party has been replaced in almost one third of these contests.
Here are the headlines:
- Using a simple average of proportion polled at each warn, the ANC’s share of the vote has dropped to 41% from the 46% it achieved nine months ago (see detailed table bottom of page).
- Of the 23 seats the ANC had going into the 30 by-elections, it retained 17 and lost six – half of them to the EFF, one to the DA.
- The other two wards lost by the ANC were through big swings in previously safe seats to local heroes: In Thaba Chweu (Lydenberg) the ANC was well beaten by the African United Movement, a new political party in the district which attracted 47.5% of the vote. The other ANC loss to a non-aligned candidate was in the Eastern Cape’s Enoch Mgijima (Queenstown). Despite improving its share of the vote from 38% to 42%, the ANC trailed behind the Independent, candidate who won the ward with 57%.
- A bright spot in the ANC’s otherwise depressing trend came last Wednesday when it unseated the DA incumbent in an uMdoni (Scottburgh) ward in KZN. An increase from 24% to 29% of the vote edged a strong showing from the EFF (24%) with the DA down to 17%.
- The EFF’s three ward victories were achieved with outright majorities with shares of 69%; 56% and 55% in two-horse races against the ANC.
- The DA won two new seats, easily displacing the ANC in Kareeberg (N Cape); and benefitting from a floor crossing in Matzikama (Vredendal). The former mayor, elected in November with 27% of the vote for the Patriotic Alliance, was returned in the by-election with 62% after standing for the DA.
- In a Nongoma ward in the far north of KZN, the IFP lost a tight contest by just nine votes to its provincial rival the NFP.
- Action SA’s progress continued with three by-elections contested. The new party won 22% of the vote both in a City of Tshwane ward where it was second to the DA (45%); and in a City of Johannesburg ward where it helped turn a previously safe ANC seat into a marginal one. However, new Eastern Cape leader Athol Trollip has lots of work ahead – Action SA drew just 8% of the vote in the Nelson Mandela Bay by-election it contested.
What conclusions are we to draw from these by-election results?
Dr Frans Cronje’s superb analysis in our interview last week is supported by the data: the ANC’s decline since November’s Local Elections is accelerating. At the current rate of decline, the party will poll well under 40% in the 2024 National Election, confirming the likelihood of a coalition government for South Africa.
Helen Zille’s presentation to BNC#3 was prescient. The DA chairperson argued the ANC is the party of the past – that SA’s future political path would be a choice between the DA’s clean government, devolution of power, free enterprise approach and the centrist, socialist, entrepreneurial politicians of the EFF.
The by-election results suggest Action SA will play an important part in the future dispensation, while the successful campaigning by local independents in two of the nine wards that changed hands adds another wild card to the future puzzle.
South Africans have lived with the dead hand of the ANC on the tiller of their economy for so long, it’s hard for them to appreciate an alternate reality is possible. Results from these 30 by-elections show it’s time to start believing that’s truly the case. Hope springs.
More for you to read today:
- Russia vs Ukraine: What is SA up to and why? Irina Filatova writes on the interests, perspectives and ideology behind our approach.
- Zambia Restructuring Offers Clues on China’s Willingness to Ease Debts of Poor Countries. China committed to join other government creditors in providing relief on African copper producer’s $17 billion foreign-currency debt load.
- Crypto Prices Crashed, but True Believers Are Holding On. A divide is growing between investors looking to make money and those who believe in crypto’s mission.
- Nancy Pelosi to Visit Taiwan Despite Warnings From China. U.S. House speaker plans meetings with Taipei officials, raising prospect of increased tensions with Beijing.
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