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Battle lines drawn as parties eye Western Cape’s hotly contested municipalities

Stellenbosch mayor Gesie van Deventer joined by the DA’s leader John Steenhuisen on a campaign to retain power in the municipality. Picture: Tracey Adams - African News Agency.

Stellenbosch mayor Gesie van Deventer joined by the DA’s leader John Steenhuisen on a campaign to retain power in the municipality. Picture: Tracey Adams - African News Agency.

Published Sep 19, 2021


Cape Town - The Cape Town metro is among at least 12 hotly contested municipalities in the Western Cape as political parties have drawn battle lines.

With six weeks to go before voters head to the polls for the local government elections, political parties are trying to garner support from the electorate to either secure their hold or take over municipalities.

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This week DA leader John Steenhuisen was on the campaign trail with the party’s mayoral candidate for the City of Cape Town Geordin Hill-Lewis as well as the party’s Gesie van Deventer in the party’s other crown jewel, Stellenbosch municipality.

DA Leader, John Steenhuisen along with Stellenbosch mayor Gesie van Deventer, and Leon Schreiber campaigned in the town ealier this week. Picture - Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)

The ANC’s deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte also spent two days in the metro criss-crossing Mitchells Plain, Khayelitsha and the nBo-Kaap in a bid to encourage supporters to vote and smooth things over with councillors still aggrieved by the party’s candidate-list process.

ANC Deputy Secretary General Jesse Duarte on a two-day visit to Cape Town to campaign and engage with voters and party members. Picture: Leon Lestrade - African News Agency.

The Good Party’s Patricia de Lille has been busy putting up posters in Cape Town while the Patriotic Alliance deployed elf-proclaimed “Sushi King” Kenny Kunene to woo residents of Mfuleni.

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Good Party leader Patricia de Lille in Cape Town this week to hang election posters. Picture: Supplied.

In the Western Cape parties are hoping to swing the vote in their favour where the outright majority vote in targeted councils has been flimsy. Some municipalities have changed control multiple times since the last local government elections in 2016.

These municipalities include Bitou in Plettenberg, Beaufort West, Laingsburg and Prince Albert in the Karoo. Oudtshoorn, Kannaland and Knysna in the Garden Route. And then Cederberg and Matzikama on the West Coast.

The ANC’s interim leader Lerumo Kalako said the party was working towards retaining the nine municipalities it currently controls as well as move in on DA territory.

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“We are targeting municipalities like George, Oudtshoorn, Hessequa and Witzenberg where the DA’s control is flimsy,” he said.

“It is important that we take municipalities with an outright majority because we have learnt some hard lessons from past coalitions where it became apparent that an individual from one party would demand things out of self-interest that don’t necessarily follow the prescripts of the law.

“People have demanded people be hired only to find that those people don’t even have the necessary skills or qualifications.”

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Good Party’s Brett Herron said they would be targeting all councils as instability exists in every municipality.

“The whole province is destabilised, be it DA or ANC-run municipalities, where those in power are consumed by it and voters can feel that they are not a priority,” he said.

“We are seeing a lot of fluidity in voter patterns and there are a lot of opportunities for Good to make inroads.

“We have seen in past by-elections how we managed to take a DA ward in George last year and in other outcomes we have come in second to either the DA or ANC in different wards, so that signals change. We are in it to win it.”

The EFF’s Melikhaya Xego said their focus is targeting smaller municipalities and ensuring the DA loses its outright majority in the metro.

“We are targeting a number of municipalities, Bitou for instance has changed hands between the DA and ANC and the EFF has grown its support in the area so much so that we could be the new king-makers in the space given the state of the AUF,” he said.

“In Knysna we lost a seat by just one vote in 2016 and we have since grown. And in Matzikama we were instrumental in removing the DA only for the ANC to spit us out after they gained power through a by-election

“There are at least four other municipalities we are targeting but our key focus is the Metro where we want to have it hung, once the DA loses its outright majority we will have done our job.

Steenhuisen said they were looking to make a clean sweep in the province to eliminate insatiable coalitions that has lost the party key councils.

“Unfortunately in the last elections a lot of the smaller parties were given votes and it led to this instability where you have had to put forward a lot of unstable coalitions and it affects delivery,” he said.

“The message is that if you want your town to be stable, working for you and providing services, you have to give the DA a majority and not waste votes on smaller parties.

“We are open to coalitions but we can’t go into government with parties that don’t share our core values, it's been difficult to work with a party like the EFF. We have learnt some tough lessons in Joburg and it led us down some rabbit holes.”

Political analyst Zweli Ndevu said both the DA and ANC would face challenges in garnering support.

“I think due to unhappiness with candidate nominations the ANC will find it difficult to convince its members to support a candidate imposed on them from top down,” he said.

“This will not mean that the DA will be the obvious beneficiary. On the contrary independent candidates will be the alternative in such situations.”

Weekend Argus