South Africa prepares for municipal elections

SANF 21 no4 7 – by Clarkson Mambo
South Africa will hold its local government elections on 1 November to choose council representatives in each of the country’s nine provinces.

The municipal election, which will be the sixth since the end of apartheid in 1994, will once again provide a strong indication of how contesting parties will perform at the general polls scheduled for 2024.

While the timeframe between now and 2024 is still substantial, the results will have an impact on how political parties eventually prepare and fare in the next general election.

According to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), a record 325 parties have registered to contest for the 10,478 seats in the 257 municipalities, but only two will field candidates in all the areas to be contested.

The two are the African National Congress (ANC) and the main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA).

The IEC said a total of 26,2 million people registered to vote in the local government elections.

Local government in South Africa consists of municipalities of various types – eight metropolitan municipalities, 44 district municipalities, each of which consists of 205 local municipalities.

In this regard, the councils of metropolitan and local municipalities are elected through a system of mixed-member proportional representation, in which half of the seats in each municipality are elected on the first-past-the-post system in single-member wards.

The other half of the seats are allocated according to the proportional representation (PR) system.

In the last municipal elections held in 2016, the governing ANC garnered 54 percent of the total vote against 26.9 percent by the Democratic Alliance (DA) and 10 percent won by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).

The 2016 elections saw the ANC record its worst electoral setback in the history, losing its dominance in five out of the six largest cities, including Johannesburg and Pretoria.

This setback was clearly evident in the general elections held in 2019 when the ANC got 58 percent of the national vote compared to 62.1 percent in 2014, prompting the ANC leader, President Cyril Ramaphosa to say “we have learnt our lesson,” in reference to a reduced margin, the lowest winning margin recorded by the ruling party since the end of the apartheid system in 1994.

Election campaigning for the municipal polls ends on 31 October, with the main political parties aiming to outdo one another in the race for voters.

At the core of the campaigns are promises on how they intended to tackle the challenges of corruption, service delivery and inequality.

“We pledge to you, the people of South Africa, that we will do better, much better than we have done in the past,” President Ramaphosa, who is also leader of the ANC said.

“This is a pledge, and this is what we dedicate ourselves to you all. We have not always done the best that we were meant to do.”

Leader of the main opposition, the DA, John Steenhuisen echoed the same sentiments, saying “in every community, a DA government will focus first on getting the basics right, as the foundation to bringing in investment and jobs for all.”

Julius Malema of the EFF also said his party would deliver on its election promises if elected to govern.

“We are here to remind the people of the pains that they have been through and that they can stop it come the first of November,” he said.

The local government elections in South Africa are going as planned this November following a Court ruling which dismissed a petition by the IEC to postpone the polls to 2022.

The IEC had in August sought a delay of the polls to next year, arguing that the elections would not be free and fair owing to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that has resulted in various restrictions.

In fact, South Africa has been the hardest hit country in Africa by COVID-19, hence the IEC sought a delay to allow for more time for voters to be vaccinated.

However, on 3 September, the Constitutional Court dismissed the petition by the IEC and directed the Commission to ensure an electoral process that is free and fair, striving for safety within the constraints occasioned by the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic to take place.

“The Commission calls on all role-players, especially political parties, to co-operate to ensure that the election proceeds within a calm environment where voters can exercise their right to vote and make their choices without undue impediments,” reads part of the ruling by the Constitutional Court.

As part of the campaigns most parties also held holding door-to-door campaigns as large gatherings are restricted due to COVID-19.

The campaigns has been generally peaceful in the local municipalities.

Southern African News Features offers a reliable source of regional information and analysis on the Southern African Development Community, and is provided as a service to the SADC region. 

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