Looking back at the 2016 Elections: EFF are the biggest winners!

AUGUST 8, 2016

There is no doubt that these have been the most dramatic and nail-biting elections for political parties, big and small. Never in the history of a democratic South Africa has the reality of coalition governments in municipalities been so inescapable.

The ruling African National Congress (ANC) has, since the first democratic local government elections in 2000, been a dominant governing party - winning an outright majority in almost all of the countries municipalities with the exception of the City of Cape Town and a handful of municipalities in the Western Cape where the Democratic Alliance (DA) had been dominant since 2006.

Many analysts agree these elections have been a show of the strength of South Africa’s democracy and institutions. The professionalism the IEC has handled the elections and the fragile period leading up to them has been described as the model for many African countries. South Africa once again delivered peaceful elections where each voter was given a chance to choose a party of their choice.

This week’s elections were the fourth democratic in the local government sphere. This is because the December 2000 municipal polls were the first fully democratic local elections in South Africa, following decades of a segregationist system. New municipal boundaries were drawn to include every part of the country and broke the old apartheid system that offered services along racial lines.

The constitutional reforms of 2000 required a total redesign of the former local authorities and their governance systems to create what was termed “wall-to-wall” local government with a mandate to create accessible services for all South Africans, irrespective of race. The achievements of local government can thus be seen in the increased number of people who now have access to many basic services that were previously reserved for a select few.

This is how it went down

Since the voting stations across the country closed at 7pm on Wednesday, results started to stream in at the IEC’s state-of-the-art results centre in Pretoria. Representatives of all the political parties contesting the elections have had their eyes glued to the results leader board for the past three days, witnessing democracy in action.

Then the first municipalities were allocated. The first province to wrap up its counting of results was the Northern Cape, ironically, South Africa’s largest province in terms of land mass. There, the African National Congress managed to retain its majority by winning over 58% of the vote, slightly reduced from the over 63% it got in 2011.  However, the party retained control of all 14 councils in the province. 

The ANC also retained its dominance in municipalities in the Free State where the party received just over 61%. The ANC also did well in KwaZulu-Natal, securing the City of Ethekwini, among other crucial municipalities.

The Democratic Alliance was not about to lose control of the City of Cape Town as shown by the two thirds majority votes the party received. The DA also snatched the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality from the ANC albeit without a clear majority to govern alone.

But, it was in Gauteng where all the drama unfolded. Voters watched as the country’s two major political parties battled it out for the soul of the administrative capital Tshwane as well as the economic hub Johannesburg. No one could guess who was likely to take the City of Tshwane or Johannesburg as the ANC and DA were neck-and-neck throughout.

The DA is now the largest in Tshwane having secured just over 43% of the vote to the ANC’s 41%. The ANC retained the City of Johannesburg but it did not receive more than 50%  - it only managed 44.55% of the votes.

EFF biggest winner

Some analysts say the EFF are the biggest winners in this election. The first time entrants, although failing to secure control of a single municipality, won 11 wards and will have more than 600 representatives in the country’s municipalities.

But according to observers what makes the EFF important in these elections is the party’s impending role as the so-called king maker. It’s likely that Julius Malema’s party will play a crucial role in negotiations for coalition governments but this remains a speculation. In Johannesburg, the EFF has managed to garner more than 10% of the vote. In Tshwane, the party stood at just over 11% and in Nelson Mandela Bay, won more than 5%.

When all is said and done, following this week’s election, South African citizens and the country’s democracy are the ultimate winner.