Twenty wards were contested, with the ANC losing two to retain 15.
In Rustenburg’s Ward 19, which has over 8 500 registered voters and is close to three of the platinum belt’s major mining operations (Impala, Lonmin and Amplats), the ANC won by a wide margin of over 85%, trouncing an Economic Freedom Fighters-backed independent candidate, the United Christian Democratic Party and the African People’s Convention.
The result was a 2% decrease from 2011, despite the ward being home to large numbers of mineworkers and the site of a spirited campaign from the Economic Freedom Fighters and a publicised stand-off with the ANC over a rally venue last weekend.
The EFF-backed candidate Thembi Thekiso was a distant runner-up, winning close to 11% of the 1 522 valid votes. Municipal IQ’s Karen Heese said serious disaffection doesn’t really translate in local government elections.
"By elections are not really representative. We had 20 by-elections being contested. A national election across the board is different to a by-election," said Heese.
In Mafikeng, there is a ward that the ANC lost to an independent candidate. However, a number of wards where there have been violent service delivery protests but people still vote ANC. So they distinguish between loyalty for the party and their anger at a particular councillor. But that is starting to change. In Tlokwe, the ANC’s victory was narrow and it’s a victory the ANC can’t rest its laurels on.
The main issue is the lack of viable opposition but with the rising number of independent candidates, in time [at a local level], that will change. What happened in Marikana was damaging to the ANC but you can’t read that from by-elections."
North West minister for education Wendy Matsemela, who said she had been deployed by the ANC to do election work in the ward, said it was difficult to form a party and contest elections (in reference to the EFF, which backed an independent candidate as it had not yet been registered as a political party). Confident in the ANC's victory even as voting was in progress, she added that the ANC, despite its challenges was a party with a longer history and would therefore emerge stronger.
Wednesday's Ward 19 by-elections were forced by the resignation of the previously ANC-affiliated councillor, who has resigned as he could not draw two government salaries.