DA concedes painful losses in by-elections
CAPE TOWN - The Democratic Alliance on Thursday said it was closely analysing the loss of seven wards in the biggest day of by-elections yet in South Africa.
The party wrested two wards from the ANC – in Matjhabeng in the Free State and in the Walter Sisulu municipality in the Eastern Cape – but in a statement clearly acknowledged the sting of its Super Wednesday losses, including in the Western Cape.
"The DA faced a net loss of seven wards in the by-elections, and we are analysing them very carefully, ward by ward," the party deputy federal chairperson Refiloe Nt’sekhe, said.
"The DA has democratically mature voters who punish us where we have disappointed them through weak local councillors or perceived governance failures."
The official opposition retained 14 wards in the by-elections but failed to recover in the North West town of Schweizer-Reneke after a damaging controversy over alleged school segregation and ceded a ward to Patricia de Lille's fledgling Good party in the Western Cape.
"The debacle of Schweizer-Reneke continues to haunt the DA in the North West province, and the months of conflict between the DA and Patricia de Lille, which gave rise to the party known as Good, has eaten into our support base in certain Western Cape wards," Nt'sekhe said.
"The DA has learnt many lessons of its poor handling of these events, and it will take time for us to rebuild trust with the voters."
In the other 11 wards in the Western Cape that were contested on Wednesday, the DA retained 10 and the ANC two.
In the North West, where the ANC claimed Schweizer-Reneke, the DA also ceded one seat to the Freedom Front Plus.
Nt'sekhe commented that Wednesday's vote and the South African electoral landscape had not escaped the worldwide phenomenon of “identity politics”.
In KwaZulu-Natal, the ANC retained three seats and won one from the National Freedom Party. The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) retained four seats in Nkandla and stole one from the ANC.
In Gauteng, the DA lost two seats to the ANC.
In Phokwane municipality in the Northern Cape, the ANC lost two of the 12 seats it claimed in 2016 while the Economic Freedom Fighters claimed five compared to three.
In Renosterberg, another Northern Cape ANC stronghold where the local council was dissolved this year, the ANC retained its four seats.
Wednesday's polls were seen by some as a bellwether for the 2021 local government elections.
"Yesterday's by-election also brought to light challenges in the run-up to next year's election, which the DA intends to tackle head-on, based on the lessons we have learnt," the DA said.
"Recent events have once again shown that South Africa must build the moderate non-racial centre, and that the DA is the only party that can do so successfully."
The IFP said it was pleased that it showed growth in wards in eThekwini metro in Wednesday's vote despite not winning a majority.