People stream in to vote in Tlokwe by-elections

Mmanaledi Mataboge

Residents of Tlokwe are voting in by-elections to decide whether the ANC regains control of the municipality.

The ANC in the North West invoked the spirit of the late Nelson Mandela by calling on Tlokwe residents to vote for the party of ousted mayor Maphetle Maphetle. (Oupa Nkosi, M&G)

Residents of Tlokwe local municipality in Potchefstroom are on Wednesday voting in by-elections that will decide if the ANC regains control of the municipality or the DA-led coalition continues to be in charge. People have been streaming in at different polling stations, although the atmosphere is not as vibrant as it was in the previous by-election in September.

Tlokwe is currently governed by a hung council after the previous by-election held in October gave the two sides equal numbers of councillors.

The by-elections were to have been held on October 23, a date set after the Electoral Court in Bloemfontein heard an application by five independent candidates who were disqualified by the IEC from taking part in previous by-elections. However, Wednesday was proposed as the new date after candidates asked for more time to campaign.

The council is led by Democratic Alliance mayor Annette Combrink, who was put in the driving seat following a motion of no confidence passed on ANC mayor Maphetle Maphetle in June. It was the second time that the ANC's own councillors worked with the opposition to vote Maphetle out. He has since been appointed a manager in the provincial legislature.

The ANC in the North West invoked the spirit of the late Nelson Mandela by calling on Tlokwe residents to vote for the ruling party "to ensure that Madiba's legacy continues".

"As the ANC in the province, we dedicated this by-election in honour of president Nelson Mandela, our icon, our leader and the father of a democratic nation. Having been a beacon of hope to our country and the world, we see it befitting that we dedicate these by-elections in his honour."

Special voting took place on Tuesday and the ANC said voters braved the drizzling weather to make their choice because they want to see change in their lives.

The six wards will be contested by 21 candidates, representing four political parties and six independent candidates. The independents were ANC members who led these wards before, but became part of the 14 that the party expelled for working with the opposition to disadvantage the ANC in the Tlokwe council.

The most contested is ward 13 in Promosa, an area predominantly inhabited by coloured people and one that the ANC fears it might not win.  It is contested by the ANC, an independent candidate, and contenders from the DA and the United Christian Democratic Party (UCDP). The DA is contesting only two wards, four and 13, while the ANC is contesting all of them.

At ward 13, DA volunteer Lee-Ann Robinson expressed hope that her party would win the two by-elections it is contesting and that the municipality would still be led by the party. 

"I hope people will open their eyes and see where the DA wants to take them and where the ANC is currently taking them."

She said the DA has been working well with other opposition parties and Stone Mahlabe, an independent who won ward 26 in Sarafina from the ANC in September.

The last by-election in September increased seats for both the DA-led coalition and the ANC to 23 each, leaving an opportunity for any of them to win the council after Wednesday's election.

A total of 18 659 voters are registered in the six wards.

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