DA faces defection crisis

A single defection to a rival party could cost the Democratic Alliance control in eight municipalities, while another five hung councils could shift to its opponents, an analysis by the Institute for Democracy in South Africa has shown.

The floor-crossing legislation creates a 15-day window, which would allow public representatives at all levels to defect to other parties and is likely to take effect by the end of this month or July at the latest.

The largest prize for the African National Congress and the New National Party, which have a cooperation pact, would be the Cape Town unicity—where the DA holds the majority with 107 of 200 seats, the ANC holding 77 and the balance split between the Africa Muslim Party, the African Christian Democratic Party, the Pan Africanist Congress and the United Democratic Movement.

This means that the defection of 24 councillors from the DA to the NNP will throw the balance of power fully into the ANC coalition’s grasp. A tight run is expected nevertheless.

Any former NNP councillor wanting to make use of the defection period is most likely to return to the party fold. But certain former NNP councillors, such as mayor Gerald Morkel, his son Kent Morkel and Danny de la Cruz, are expected to remain in the DA.

Most of the 36 councillors who are members of the old Democratic Party will stay loyal to the DA.
However, due to the gatvol factor over the ongoing messy political allegations and counter-allegations, several of these members may just decide to become independents.

The DA holds sway by a single seat in four other Western Cape councils (Langeberg, Stellenbosch, Bergrivier and Knysna), three councils in the Northern Cape (Renosterberg, Kareeburg and Fraserburg) and one council in the Eastern Cape (Willowmore).

A further five municipalities are hung, with the DA sharing control with the ANC. They are Caledon, Swellendam, Oudtshoorn and Kannaland in the Western Cape and Central Karoo in the Northern Cape.

The alliance is also vulnerable in Drakenstein (27 DA seats to the ANC’s 25), Meyerton in Gauteng (nine DA seats to six for the ANC), George (12 DA seats to eight for the ANC), Mossel Bay (12 DA seats to eight for the ANC) and Swartland (11 DA seats to six for the ANC).

In the rural Cape most of the DA representatives were NNP members before the formation of the DA alliance. How former NNP councillors jump will depend on how they see their political future. Even if the NNP is on the skids, they may calculate that the future lies with its ANC partner.

The floor-crossing provisions have been considerably tightened, with the frequency of the 15-day window periods reduced from six to two in the five-year term of a council.

Except for independents, councillors will not be able to defect unless they make up 10% of their party’s total representation. However, the first window period after the Act is promulgated will allow defections without the 10% threshold, rendering all parties vulnerable.

The ANC is most at risk in the Eastern Cape, where some of its councillors may cross to the UDM.

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