Despite the fact that many voters stayed away from the polls, the 2021 municipal elections marked a change in the balance of forces in Soweto, where voters switched their loyalties to opposition parties, particularly ActionSA.
About 13.8 million voters who registered did not vote last week Monday. Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) chairperson Glen Mashinini last week told the public that there are 26.1 million voters who registered for the elections, but only a total of 12.3 million actually went to the polls to make their mark.
The newly-formed ActionSA won a number of voting districts from the ANC, including Orlando and Protea. It also made gains in Zandspruit near Muldersdrift.
The ANC's loss in Soweto came after voters in the area expressed their unhappiness with the governing party which enjoyed significant support in the area.
The party obtained about 33.6% of the vote in Johannesburg, compared to 44% in the last local government polls in 2016. This means the ANC will have to enter into a coalition agreement to govern the city like it did after the 2016 elections. It then remains to be seen if the ANC and the DA will enter into an agreement after their coalition collapsed in 2019.
Meanwhile, ActionSA leader Herman Mashaba has ruled out chances of getting into an agreement with the ANC, regardless of the offer they present. However, he said he is willing to form a coalition with other political parties.
Relations between Mashaba and the ANC has been sour for a while, fuelled by issues such as inner-city rejuvenation, border control and illegal immigration.
ActionSA spokesperson Lerato Ngobeni said the party’s presence in the municipalities means a challenge for the ANC to govern without coalitions.
“It means they are going to have to get used to eating humble pie because we are even more encouraged and more resolute to ensure that the people of South Africa no longer have to suffer unethical and thieving public officials any longer. The time has come for a new and fresh political formation to rise up and do the heavy lifting of fixing our country, because South Africans deserve better.”
Ngobeni also echoed Mashaba’s sentiments that ActionSA would not enter into coalition discussions with the ANC.
“ActionSA is willing to partner with any political party in South Africa that has the best interests of our citizens at heart ahead of their own political expediency. We have also communicated that we will not under any circumstances enter into coalition discussions with the ANC.
"We have set out that we will be approaching these coalition discussions that we will be negotiating on four primary principles, hence we have started a public participatory process soliciting public input regarding our approach to coalitions,” said Ngobeni.
However, DA leader John Steenhuisen said his party was prepared to speak to everybody in the coalition, but “not to act out of desperation".
“It is better to be a good opposition than part of a bad coalition. This is why our local government coalition agreement, which all coalition partners will have to sign, very clearly sets out the non-negotiable principles in its preamble.”
The DA received 26.47%, while ActionSA got 16.5%, making it the third-biggest party in the city. ActionSA also ate into the DA which got 38.44% and the EFF which won 11.11% of the vote in 2016.
The ANC, which has been in power since 1994, has been criticised for not doing enough at local government level to improve the lives of millions of poor South Africans.