All eyes on Gauteng votes as ANC lags behind

Angry residents in Alexandra are protesting over what they believe are election irregularities. (Oupa Nkosi)

Angry residents in Alexandra are protesting over what they believe are election irregularities. (Oupa Nkosi)

All attention has turned to Gauteng during the 2014 elections, as Alexandra was tainted by protests, errant Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) material was found dumped in various places and the politically uncertain province lagged behind in vote counting, causing suspicion among the opposition.

Gauteng’s slow counting of votes was a major cause for concern for some who linked it to the ANC’s poor performance in the province as the votes were brought in.

Northern Cape’s final results were the first to drop at about 4pm on Thursday. Mpumalanga finished its tallies in the early morning on Friday.

By 4am, all provinces were racing towards the finish line with well over 90% of their votes counted.

But Gauteng, the province where the ANC faces its biggest threat to power, remained stubbornly behind.

‘Immediate’ release
It didn’t take long for someone to think they smelled a rat. The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), Julius Malema’s new party, debuting at number three, is so suspicious of the ANC’s Jacob Zuma, it  pointedly snubbed him during his visit to the IEC’s results centre on Thursday. 

Suspicion mounted, and by 12.30am the EFF had had it with the slow pace of votes in Gauteng and unleashed an angry press statement .

“The Economic Freedom Fighters demands the immediate release of Gauteng results,” it began, before going on to claim the delay in results was linked to the ANC lagging at around the 50% mark in uncharacteristic fashion for the ruling party.

“At exactly 17H59, the ANC was at 50.21% of the Gauteng vote and immediately after that, the Gauteng results started to slow down and almost came to an absolute halt because the ANC was heading towards below 50% of the Gauteng vote,” said the EFF’s spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi on behalf of the party.

Anti-Zuma Gauteng leadership
The ANC in Gauteng’s provincial executive committee is dominated by a powerful bloc opposed to Zuma’s leadership, though they claim otherwise.

In the run-up to Mangaung, the ANC in Gauteng pushed for a change in national leadership in a failed bid that has seen them grow distant from the national leadership.
The party was expected to battle in the province for these elections thanks to its own infighting, and parties such as the Democratic Alliance (DA) and EFF making a strong play for the country’s economic hub.

While there were concerns in the run-up to the elections that the ANC may lose the province, polls put them in control and early indications showed that the DA’s massive investment in Mmusi Maimane’s campaign to lead the province was not going to pay off.

By 2.38am on Friday, many voting districts in Gauteng still had to be counted, predominantly in Johannesburg city and Pretoria, large metros where the ANC may face a challenge.

Pieter de Necker, formerly with the African Christian Democratic Party and now with the Collective for Democracy, told the Mail & Guardian at about 3am that usually, urban areas such Johannesburg and Pretoria, were counted pretty fast. But he added that the sharp rise of people voting outside their registered stations may be responsible for the delay.

Suspicions
But at the same time, ANC spokesperson Khusela Sangoni said there was nothing suspicious about the delay as Gauteng was a populous province.

The EFF’s Floyd Shivambu told the M&G his party was still suspicious.

By 4.20am, just under 18% of the province had yet to be counted.

The IEC refuted the EFF’s claims that Gauteng’s poll was rigged, saying that all was going according to plan and the results were credible, reported eNCA’s Nickolaus Bauer.

At 4.15am, 71.78% of districts had been counted, with the ANC gaining 52.97 of those votes, the DA 31.30% and the EFF at 9.40%.

Alex burns
Meanwhile in Alexandra late on Thursday morning, a group of angry community members reportedly from a number of parties including the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), DA and EFF, gathered outside the local IEC office and burned tyres and protested over ballot boxes found at a person’s home. 

It was a tense day in the township in the north of Johannesburg. 

Earlier, IFP supporters held election officials and ANC members hostage when they saw ballot boxes being loaded into a strange car.  

Pictures of dumped ballot papers and discarded IEC boxes in places circulated on Twitter on Thursday too, creating panic in some quarters. 

But in Lynnwood, Pretoria, the most serious images emerged of ballots that appeared to be mislaid rather than maliciously dumped, and were unlikely to affect the voting outcome.

Verashni Pillay

Verashni Pillay

Verashni Pillay is the former editor-in-chief of the Mail & Guardian, and inaugural editor-in chief of Huffington Post South Africa. She has worked at various periods as senior reporter covering politics and general news, specialises in mediamanagement and relishes the task of putting together the right team to create compelling and principled journalism across multiple platforms.  Read more from Verashni Pillay

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