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Potchefstroom - Tlokwe, in North West, will probably revert to ANC control but at a price, political analysts said on Thursday.
“If you analyse (Wednesday's) three ward elections, with the exception of the influence of independent candidates... then basically it was a business as usual scenario, very similar to the scenario we had in the 2011 local government elections,” said North West political analyst Prof Andre Duvenhage.
“But what is important is that there were very, very, high levels of political apathy, if you compare this election with the 2011 elections.”
There was a huge drop in Wednesday's voter turnout.
The African National Congress retained control in two of the three wards in the Tlokwe by-elections.
In Ward 26, the party's candidate Oupa Mogoshane lost, with 900 votes to independent candidate Butiki “Stone” Mahlabe's 1425 votes. Mahlabe was a former ANC councillor.
A total of 5677 people were registered to vote in the ward, but only 2374 cast their ballots.
University of Johannesburg political analyst Prof Steven Friedman said the by-elections highlighted that the threat to the ANC did not come from other parties, but people from the organisation.
“It illustrates the point that the real threat from the ANC comes from splits. The party becomes vulnerable when there are splits,” he said.
The ANC won the by-elections in Ward Six and Ward 18.
In Ward Six, the ANC's Japhta Monaisa won 882 of the 1386 valid votes cast. The Democratic Alliance's (DA) Johann Coetzee came in second with 493 votes.
A total of 4254 people were registered to vote in Ward Six, but only 1408 voted.
In Ward 18, the ANC faced off with another former party member and provincial chief whip David Kham, who registered as an independent candidate. ANC candidate Thapelo Skozana won with 884 votes to Kham's 520.
A total of 3251 people were registered to vote in Ward 18, but only 1452 votes were cast.
Mahlabe and Kham were two of the 14 ANC councillors expelled from the party in July for participating in a motion of no confidence against Tlokwe mayor Maphetle Maphetle.
Maphetle was replaced as mayor by DA councillor Annette Combrink.
The ANC's national disciplinary committee later overturned the expulsions, but Mahlabe and Kham decided not to return to the party.
Duvenhage said that, following Wednesday's by-election, the Tlokwe council was in a similar situation to a hung parliament Ä
one which does not have a majority and is in a position where it cannot make proper decisions.
“Before the by-elections, 21 councillors supported the ANC and 22 councillors supported the opposition groups and independent candidates. Now at this point we have a total of 23-23,” he said.
In this type of situation, the speaker had the final vote.
The current speaker of the Tlokwe council was an ANC member, and as a result the party was most likely going to retain control of the municipality.
After the next six Tlokwe by-elections, which were postponed by the Electoral Court earlier this week, the ANC would be in a more powerful position.
“I think we are going to have an ANC majority,” said Duvenhage.
“At the moment it's a slight majority, with the speaker's vote, but in future they will probably ensure they have had least three or four of the other seats,” said Duvenhage.
Friedman said he would not be surprised if the ANC won the other six wards, but he was sceptical of a landslide victory for the party.
“I think the ANC will win most of them, if not all. If it does win all six, it is likely to do so with vastly decreased numbers.”
Duvenhage said this was good news for the ANC, and the party would definitely take the opportunity to unseat Combrink and table a vote of no confidence.
“We are talking about a date very close to the next by-election. They will probably wait until (then).
“I believe that the ANC at that point will be in a position to get Tlokwe under ANC control,” Duvenhage said.
Friedman said there was no doubt that the ANC would unseat Combrink in the Tlokwe council. He expected the move in mid November, once the by-elections were concluded.