Rural setbacks for DA – De Lille is queen-maker

The Democratic Alliance failed to regain most of the hinterland municipalities in the Western Cape it lost to the African National Congress through floor-crossing, despite its aggressive ”Take back your city” campaign.

Instead, Patricia de Lille’s Independent Democrats emerged as potential queenmakers in several finely balanced rural municipalities.

In Stellenbosch, the ID holds two seats to the ANC’s 16, the DA’s 15 and one for the African Christian Democratic Party. In Swellendam, it has two seats to the ANC’s four, the DA’s three and the ACDP’s one. In Theewaters-kloof (Caledon), the DA won nine seats and the ANC 10, while the ID and the ACDP hold the balance of power with two and one respectively.

Although the largest party in George, the DA forfeited its safe majority, winning 18 seats to the ANC’s 17, the ID’s two and one each for the Freedom Front Plus and the ACDP.

The ID also emerged as a key power broker in municipalities such as Matzikama (Vredendal) and Berg-river (Veldrif) on the West Coast, Oudtshoorn in the southern Cape, and Drakenstein (Paarl).

”It is clear we hold positions of influence in many other councils,” said a senior ID member. ”It is now a question of how we use this.”

The DA had hoped to win back six of the 15 Western Cape councils it lost as a result of defections, but only notched up an outright majority in one — Overstrand (Hermanus).

A major setback for the party was the loss of its former stronghold, Cape Agulhas (Bredasdorp), to the ANC. In Knysna, voters stuck with the ANC despite a determined DA push to regain the council it lost when councillor Joy Cole went independent. Now number one on the ANC’s candidate list, Cole is likely to be reinstalled as mayor. But the DA did retain Swartland (Malmesbury) with an overwhelming majority.

DA officials put on a brave face, saying the party had emerged as the biggest party in many councils.

”In 2000, there was no competition in the opposition market … this time, the ID split the vote,” said Ryan Coetzee, DA election campaign manager. ”We have done better than expected. I’m not unhappy about it.”

Rural voters seem to have largely ignored DA leader Tony Leon’s call not to split the opposition. De Lille’s relentless last-minute canvassing in dorps across the province clearly had a major impact.

But the ANC has faced its own troubles in the Western Cape hinterland. It lost its outright control of Beaufort West, where expelled ANC strongman Truman Prince threw his weight behind the Independent Civic Association of South Africa (Icosa).

The ANC and Icosa scored five seats each. In the 2000 poll, the ANC won more than 60% there, one of only four councils in the province it won outright.

And in the Central Karoo District Council the ANC’s comfortable majority has been slashed: its three councillors now face two from Icosa and one from the DA.

The party also lost control of Laingsburg, one of the four councils it won outright in December 2000 with 59% of the vote. The DA and Laingsburg Community Forum each took two seats. It lost Mossel Bay, holding only eight seats to the DA’s 10 and Icosa’s three.

The results show the impact of popular candidates: Prince was instrumental in garnering votes, even though he could not register as a candidate because he was still the municipal manager of the Karoo Central District Council.

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Marianne Merten
Guest Author

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