Cope the kingmaker in hung Cape councils

The Democratic Alliance has consolidated its hold over municipal government in the Western Cape by winning outright control of at least five more councils and increasing its share of the vote in others.

Although it did not win any council outright, the Congress of the People was set to act as kingmaker in a number of municipalities where the ANC and DA were neck and neck.

Larger councils, such as the formerly ANC-controlled Saldanha, went to the DA, with a resounding 60% of the vote, while the DA also won Knysna for the first time, with more than 50%.

A number of other councils were hung. They include Swellendam, where the DA won a marginally larger portion of the overall vote to take four seats, while the ANC also won four and the African Christian Democratic Party held the balance of power with one.

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.

The Laingsburg municipality was also hung, with three seats going to the ANC, three to the DA and one to Cope. In Cape Agulhas, incorporating Bredasdorp, the two big parties won four seats each, with the sole remaining seat going to independent candidate Dirk Jantjies.

In the Bitou municipality, which includes Plettenberg Bay, six seats went to the DA, six to the ANC and one to Cope. In Prince Albert, where the two big parties have taken turns to rule in recent years, the Karoo Gemeenskap Party squeezed in to take the lead.

James Selfe, federal chairperson of the DA, said all potential coalition partners would be carefully considered, with the focus remaining on partners with similar values. The party had, however, improved its outright hold over municipalities, going from five previously to more than 10 of a total of 30 in the Western Cape. Early results indicated a relatively high voter turn-out of 65% across the province.

Theewaterskloof, recently ranked as one of the country’s worst-performing municipalities by ratings agency Ratings Afrika on the basis of financial and operational indicators, remained in DA hands.

The Langeberg municipality, where the ANC leads the ruling coalition, remained a tight call, with 11 seats going to the DA, seven to the ANC and the balance of five seats going to Cope, the People’s Democratic Movement, the Western Cape Community and the Civic Independents.

In the coveted Drakenstein municipality, formerly under ANC rule, the DA took 56% of the votes and 35 of the 61 council seats.

Marius Fransman, the deputy minister for international affairs, who headed the ANC’s provincial campaign, told the Mail & Guardian that the results were in line with expectations, given the problems that his party had faced in the province. Hit by factionalism and infighting, the ANC was late out of the starting blocks in campaigning for the province. “We knew we started with our backs against the wall,” Fransman said.

It was clear that smaller parties and the level of independent activity in the province were here to stay, he said. And with many hung councils, there would be “a lot of debate before we forge relationships”.

Fransman said that the ANC had succeeded in its aim of holding its support base and re-energising local structures. The campaign had helped re-unify the party on the ground, and the choice of Tony Ehrenreich as ANC mayoral candidate in Cape Town had been part of this objective.

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

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Lynley Donnelly
Lynley Donnelly
Lynley is a senior business reporter at the Mail & Guardian. But she has covered everything from social justice to general news to parliament - with the occasional segue into fashion and arts. She keeps coming to work because she loves stories, especially the kind that help people make sense of their world.

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