Cope loses ground in its stronghold

The Congress of the People’s status as official opposition in the Northern Cape did little to boost it in the municipal elections — it appears that it will not be able to rule a single municipality in the province except in a coalition.

The same applies to the Democratic Alliance, which, by early afternoon on Thursday, had not won a Northern Cape municipality outright, despite increasing its share of the vote. The ANC won 16 of the province’s 27 municipalities.

As results of the local government elections streamed in it became increasingly obvious that this election was becoming a war between the African National Congress and the Democratic Alliance. The Mail & Guardian asked smaller parties what they thought about the possibility of coalitions and if they thought South Africa was becoming a two-party state.

Cope won 16.67% of the provincial vote in the 2009 national election, posing a serious threat to the ruling ANC and overtaking the DA as the official opposition. Cope’s strength was based mainly in the western part of the province, although the ANC had a firm grip on the eastern region, including Upington (where Cope appeared to have majority support in 2009) and De Aar.

Despite infighting in Cope’s leadership it seemed to remain stable and united in the Northern Cape, with many of its leaders being staunch Mosiuoa Lekota supporters.

The ANC’s Jackson Mthembu admitted that in the Northern Cape the “only people we were worried about were Cope”. But the defection of former Cope leader Neville Mompati, a supporter of Mbhazima Shilowa, back to the ANC had weakened Cope, Mthembu said.

“Our structures in the Northern Cape were so cohesive they worked like a machine. That translated into a runaway victory,” Mthembu said.

Jonathan Moakes, DA chief executive officer, said the party had increased its share of the vote since 2006 and the ANC’s support had definitely been pushed below 50% in some municipalities, including Karoo Hoogland (Fraserburg), Hantam and Nama Khoi, where coalition governments were on the cards. “We’re looking good at the moment,” said Moakes. “We’re proud of our performance. The Northern Cape is a province to watch for in 2014.”

Fezile Kies, Cope’s provincial secretary, said coalitions in several councils were “unavoidable”.

For exclusively M&G articles and multimedia on the local government elections 2011 click here:

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Mmanaledi Mataboge
Guest Author

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