Toughest elections since the end of Apartheid

Enter the era of coalition government.

South Africa’s Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has released the results of the country’s 2016 Municipal Elections, in which over 200 parties and 1.3 million new voters participated in what is regarded as the country’s most fiercely contested municipal elections since the dawn of democracy in 1994.

The African National Congress (ANC) won a 53.9% majority, a big drop from its 62% stronghold five years ago.

Most notably, neither the ANC nor any other party won an outright majority in 4 key metropolitan areas (and around 23 smaller municipalities) including Nelson Mandela Bay – the home of Nelson Mandela and “the struggle” – Tshwane (Pretoria) the seat of government, Johannesburg (the country’s economic hub) and Ekurhuleni. And in the Western Cape (including Cape Town), the Democratic Alliance (DA), the official opposition party, increased its majority to two-thirds, a resounding vote of confidence in its ability to govern.

This means that four of the country’s eight key metropolitan areas will now be run through coalition government which have to be formed within a 2-week period following the official results announcement on Saturday 6th August.

Julius Malema, leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), whose party has emerged as the kingmaker with 8.2% of the votes, has predicted that the ANC will not be governing South Africa when the country takes to the polls in the 2019 national government elections.

The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) gave the ANC a tough time in KwaZulu-Natal, retaining control of Nkandla where President Jacob Zuma’s controversial homestead is located, and where the President queued with the people to place his vote. Although overall the IFP only earned 18.4% of the votes, it was the Nkandla victory that counted the most.

According to Richard Calland, a political analyst at the University of Cape Town (UCT), people voted with conviction and it was inevitably “a referendum on the performance of the ruling party nationally”, which will set the tone for the national elections in 2019.

President Jacob Zuma adopted a conciliatory tone saying that the 2016 local government elections showed the world that democracy was thriving in South Africa. “You have shown the world that South Africa is a thriving democracy where differences of political opinion and diverse political preferences are allowed to flourish,” he said in a speech at the IEC’s results centre in Pretoria during the announcement of the official results.

Former ANC treasurer-general, Mathews Phosa, a businessman and former Zuma ally, summed up the ANC’s losses saying: “We need to accept the reality that there are many young people who voted for the DA. The masses are punishing us with the weapon we won for them. The vote.”

For now, coalition negotiations are the order of the day.

Words  Robyn de Villiers & Ruth Kolevsohn
Photo  CC/Flickr flowcomm

Leave a Reply