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W Cape voters ‘not predictable’

The local government elections will take place on May 18. Photo: Sam Clark

The local government elections will take place on May 18. Photo: Sam Clark

Published May 18, 2011


The Mother City finally has to make up its mind - bring back the ANC from the dead or give the DA sole control.

As the two parties engaged in frantic last-minute campaigning from early in the morning until late on Tuesday night, they agreed on only one thing: the local government election in Cape Town is too close to call.

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Swing voters could turn the elections either conclusively for the DA or the ANC.

Control of South Africa’s first city has swung from the NP to the ANC and the incumbents, the DA.

But none has ruled with an absolute majority from its 1.9 million registered voters.

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In a watershed night in South African politics, the DA won the Gugulethu ward from the ANC on May 26 last year - the first time the formerly all-white party had won in a ward where there were no white voters. At the time, the ANC was in disarray. But it has made a remarkable recovery, with even the DA saying it is in with a chance today.

Two Cape Town wards, Ward 24 in Bishop Lavis and Ward 79 in Beacon Valley, Mitchell’s Plain, are the most hotly contested in South Africa, with 24 candidates in each vying to become councillors.

Two other Mitchell’s Plain wards have over 20 candidates.

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A total of 32 political parties are battling it out for Cape Town’s mayoral chain.

But whoever comes out victorious will have to ensure their voters get to the polls and win either Mitchell's Plain or Khayelitsha - two areas containing most of the city’s voters. The DA-ID coalition has held Mitchell's Plain comfortably, but on Wednesday a breakaway party, the Community Coalition (Comco), could hold the key.

It is led by Charlotte Williams, who is standing in Ward 99. One-time deputy mayor when she was a leading light in the ID, she has rejected the DA-ID marriage, saying the DA has neglected poorer people in the city, especially in Mitchell's Plain. Williams predicts Comco will be the kingmaker in the city.

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“Obviously the ANC and the DA will be a big challenge. But I’ve been working here in Mitchell's Plain for the past 20 years,” said Williams.

The turnout will be key. At the 2006 local polls it was just under half. DA Cape Town metro chairman Grant Pascoe, who is the outgoing Ward 78 councillor in Mitchell’s Plain, said his party would be “everywhere” in Mitchell's Plain today. His ward would be a key one to look out for.

UCT politics lecturer Zwelethu Jolobe said a DA victory in Cape Town was not a clear-cut affair and that voters had before shown a tendency to switch sides: “In the Western Cape we’ve got a competitive multiparty system. Voters here are not predictable and there is no guarantee that a party in power will get re-elected.”

Jolobe predicted that smaller parties formed on the eve of the elections could be disappointed when the provisional results are announced.

“The bigger parties come into elections with an advantage, said Jolobe.

At the weekend, ANC provincial secretary Songezo Mjongile also said the party had set its sight on Mitchell's Plain. “Mitchell's Plain is going to be exciting,” he said.

Stellenbosch University politics professor Amanda Gouws said: “There’s a swing vote and we’re never sure where that vote will be going.” She added that the marriage between the DA and the ID was an attempt to consolidate the “coloured vote”, which had been prone to swings in the past.

Cherrel Africa, a senior political analyst at UWC, said Cosatu provincial secretary Tony Ehrenreich’s entry into the race as ANC mayoral candidate to take on the DA’s Patricia de Lille, had made the contest quite tight. She said although many people supported Ehrenreich there was general disillusionment with the ANC.

“The question is: Does he have enough pull to counterbalance the negatives of the ANC?” said Africa.

The ANC has traditionally enjoyed unchallenged support in Khayelitsha, but today it faces not only an upbeat DA, but a number of independent candidates, break-aways from its own ranks.

There has also been a call from shack-dwellers movement Abahlali baseMjondolo for a stay-away, declaring “no, land, no house, no vote”. - Cape Times

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