Premier Helen Zille gives her speech in response to the debate on her State of the Province Address to nearly empty opposition benches following a walkout.

Cape Town - Since the dawn of democracy in 1994, the Western Cape has remained one of the most hotly contested provinces.

For years, it was an intense two-way race between the then New National Party (NNP) – later the DA – and the ANC. But it was the NNP that surprised friend and foe alike at the first democratic elections, held on April 27,1994, by winning a clear majority.

The late Hernus Kriel was the first NNP premier of the Western Cape from May 11, 1994 to May 11, 1998.

In 1999, the NNP only got 39% of the vote but after forming an alliance with the Democratic Party, it kept the ANC out of power in the province.

After his departure, the hot seat was filled by Gerald Morkel. In 2001, the NNP alliance with the DA collapsed and it sought a partnership with the ANC. 

Allegations against Morkel of improper conduct with convicted fraudster Jurgen Harksen led to his political demise. He served on the City of Cape Town Council for the DA until his retirement in 2011. 

Peter Marais became the third premier from 2000 until 2002. His stint ended on June 3, 2002, after allegations of sexual harassment of which he was ultimately exonerated. 

The party was in turmoil and NNP leader Marthinus van Schalkwyk was sworn in as the third premier in seven months. He served as premier from June 21, 2002 to April 28, 2004. After the collapse of the NNP on April 9, 2005, he was appointed minister of environmental affairs and tourism in the Thabo Mbeki administration after the party was absorbed into the ANC.

The tide turned in 2004, when the ANC romped home with a 45.25% of the provincial vote, while their coalition partner, the NNP, recorded 10.8%. The DA then became the official opposition.

Ebrahim Rasool stepped in as the ANC premier and served from 2002 to 2008 when he was axed after a factional battle alongside those who had been identified as pro-Mbeki supporters after the Polokwane elective conference which saw Jacob Zuma elected as party president.

In 2009, after the ANC had already lost control of the City of Cape Town in 2006, the DA took over, with Helen Zille at the helm. She has been the longest-serving premier.

The ANC is hopeful the popularity of President Cyril Ramaphosa can propel it to victory in the Western Cape where the DA has dominated for close to a decade.

Former Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille, nine years after she dissolved her previous party, the Independent Democrats, will hope to have a say in who runs the Western Cape as her new party, Good, tries to carve away support from the ANC and DA.

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Cape Argus