None of the above is possibly the winner of the 2021 South African local elections.
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But unlike the movie, where people went to the polls and explicitly voted None of the above, 28 million people who were eligible to vote did not. Approximately 14 million people who were eligible did not register. Only 12 million voted (45%) of the 26 million people who registered.
In all municipal elections after democracy, no more than 40% of the adult population has voted. But even so, this has been the worst participation to date, as the following table shows. Despite the population being 6 million more this year than in 2011, 1.5 million fewer people voted.
|Participation of registrants||48%||48%||58%||58%||46%|
|Participation for all adults||33%||33%||40%||41%||30%|
There are many reasons why people stayed away or didn’t even sign up.
But discontent with our political leaders, many of whom have a well-deserved reputation for being corrupt, incompetent, indifferent, out of touch, or all of the above, especially at the local level, was probably a key factor. It is a shame because effective local government can tangibly improve living conditions.
African National Congress
The ANC has lost majority control of eThekwini. Now, of all the major municipalities, only East London and Mangaung remain under the control of the ANC. And the latter alone: the ANC obtained 50.6% of the votes, up from 56.5% in 2016.
You will not gain absolute control in any of the nine Gauteng municipalities, with the possible exception of Lesedi, where the result is not 100% clear at the time of writing.
It is also completely out of the picture now in Cape Town and much of northern KwaZulu-Natal.
For the first time in a post-1994 election, less than 50% of voters have supported it. Almost three million fewer people voted for the ANC in 2021 than in 2016.
In some places, one had the feeling that the ANC forgot that it was election time and did not bother to campaign. The election of Fikile Mbalula as head of elections was not a recipe for success.
Over the past decade, the party has made most state institutions dysfunctional. Jacob Zuma allowed corruption and incompetence in the party to flourish, and his attempt (or that of his supporters) to destabilize the country in July likely contributed to the ANC losing its majority in Ethekwini. The hope of renewal that Cyril Ramaphosa brought to the party in 2018 has all but evaporated. The prospect of a revival in 2024 is fuzzy.
GroundUp’s pre-election coverage highlighted the dire state of some municipalities run by the ANC. This was the result in them:
- Our report asked if Emfuleni, Gauteng, was the worst managed municipality in the country. ANC support fell from 56% to 40%. While the DA came in second, the ANC may still form a coalition with the EFF, which is unlikely to improve service delivery in this municipality.
- In the extremely safe Madikizela Mandela MunicipalityThe ANC’s support fell from 80% to a still overwhelming 74%, but its vote count dropped from 60,000 to less than 47,000.
- On Mogale City, the ANC’s share of the votes dropped by eight percentage points to 40% and it now has 31 out of 77 seats.
- In Nama Khoi Township in the North Cape, where GroundUp reported R205 million in irregular expenses in 2020: the ANC won 42% of the vote, down from 48%, and now controls only seven of the 17 seats.
- In the Hantam Township of the North Cape, where GroundUp speculated that the ANC would retain control, the ANC won 44% of the vote, down from 48% in 2016. Here, the ANC won six seats, up from five in 2016. However, there are now 13 seats available in 2021, which means they can remain outside of a coalition.
DA membership should look closely at its leaders. 2019 was a difficult choice for the district attorney because of the hope that Cyril Ramaphosa brought. The district attorney responded to his drop in support by undoing his work from the previous decade, parting ways with his relatively new black leadership.
With the departure of Mmusi Maimane, Lindiwe Mazibuko and Herman Mashaba, the party appeared to focus on regaining lost support for Freedom Front Plus, but in doing so it undid any chance of gaining substantial support among black voters.
The Phoenix cartel debacle didn’t help, though it did make headway in a Phoenix neighborhood. The ANC district 52 won, but its participation in district 49 declined, although it is still the largest party.
Support for the DA has waned: in 2016, it won 26.9% of all votes and 1,782 seats. In 2021, he won just 22% of all votes and around 1,400 seats.
Party leader John Steenhuisen tried to put a happy face on things by noting that his share of votes has risen since the 2019 national elections, but the 2016 local elections are surely the best comparator. In any event, their outright support has dropped considerably since 2019.
In his Western Cape stronghold, the prosecutor lost the Cederberg in a midterm by-election. He had more than 50% of the vote here in 2016, but has now divided his vote with a party called Cederberg Eerste, and the ANC won a plurality. It has moved from second to third place in Kannaland behind the ANC and the dark ICOSA. In Bitou (Plettenberg Bay), their support dropped from just under 50% to 40%.
The district attorney came close to winning Gqeberha in 2016 with 47% of the vote. This has dropped below 40%. It now has the same number of seats as the ANC – 48. It will have a difficult time forming an alliance that can maintain the balance of power. The EFF has eight seats and nine smaller parties have 15 seats between them.
DA slightly increased his grip on Midvaal in Gauteng, but due to lower voter turnout, it actually received fewer votes than in 2016.
On Twitter, Helen Zille’s combative style could not have won her the affection of voters. Compare your style to Western Cape Prime Minister Alan Winde, whose star has shone for his handling of the Covid pandemic. Give the impression of being a warm person trying to get the job done, not picking fights over non-electoral issues. The district attorney needs more people like Winde and more black leaders.
If the district attorney had been patient after the 2019 election and kept his leadership intact, he could have done much better. Now the party really has a leadership crisis. Are John Steenhuisen and Helen Zille really the right people to lead it towards 2024?
On the surface, it may appear that the EFF got it right. His participation in the votes grew from 8.2% to 10.4% and he has more than 160 more seats. It will probably be the kingmaker in a group of hanging townships.
But he did not manage to win a single municipality. And its absolute number of votes has fallen since 2016. It should be apparent that it is not even the second largest party in any metropolitan municipality and is only the fourth largest party in Johannesburg, the largest metro in the country.
The VBS corruption scandal, along with its divisive rhetoric, does not appeal to the majority of voters, even those who are disillusioned with the ANC.
The IFP won several municipalities in KZN that were under the control of the ANC, although it will have to form coalitions in several of them. It has also gained votes since 2016, but benefited mainly from lower ANC participation. It remains relevant only in one province, although the second largest in the country.
The IFP, generally restricted to rural areas, performed well in two economic powers, Richards Bay and Newcastle. You may be in a position to demand these chains of mayors in a coalition.
Freedom Front Plus
The district attorney’s strategy of trying to woo Freedom Front voters didn’t seem to work well. The party has won votes since 2016. It may be able to form coalitions in some hung municipalities. But it will never be a highly successful match, although it now has a substantial presence in all provinces.
He came out in support of Cape independence, but it is unclear if this played any role in its growth from 1% to 3% and the reality is that the party is still smaller in the Western Cape.
Herman Mashaba’s party did not campaign much outside of Gauteng, but it already has 2% of the support of the electorate at the national level and almost 10% in Gauteng. He has not won any seats but, with his proportional vote, he is well placed to join coalitions. In fact, it may be a viable future competitor for royal power.
Mashaba has successfully projected an image of competition compared to the ANC due to the decline in services in Johannesburg after his mayoralty. But his anti-immigrant views have certainly been a factor in his popularity, and this is worrying for the future.
The emergence of smaller parties brings challenges. They may have enormous bargaining power in hung municipalities.
Incredibly, despite Kannaland being put under administration For four years, ICOSA remained the largest party in this area, with three of the seven seats available.
Patricia de Lille’s GOOD Party only had an impact in the Western Cape with 4% of the votes. Across the country it obtained less than 1%, just 150,000 votes more or less. When GOOD’s predecessor, the Independent Democrats, ran in 2006, it garnered more than 400,000 votes. Even Gayton McKenzie’s Patriotic Alliance did slightly better than GOOD, garnering nearly 1% of the vote nationwide, but fewer seats than GOOD in the Western Cape.
Barely registered anti-vaccine parties. The ACDP slightly increased its vote count to around 180,000 from 120,000 but, at less than 1% of the electorate, it remains irrelevant.
The Cape Independence party, fresh out of a “poll” that claimed that 800,000 people supported the movement that gives that party its name, won no seats and barely 14,000 votes.
|Choice||African National Congress||GIVES||EFF||YEP||FF +|
|2011||16,548,970||6,393,890||N / A||954,021||120,519|
© 2021 GroundUp. This article was published for the first time here and republished with permission.