Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

What the low voter turnout really shows

Pomfret is a town like no other in South Africa. A substantial number of Portuguese-speakers live there, descendants of soldiers who fought in the South African Defence Force’s 32 Battalion during the Border War in Angola.

The town’s residents are South Africans but they didn’t vote in the May 8 elections.

Pomfret forms part of the Molopo local municipality in the North West, where only 48.5% of residents voted — the lowest voter turnout in the country. It was followed by Ratlou, in the same province, with a 51% turnout, Nyandeni in the Eastern Cape and then Collins Chabane in Limpopo, both at under 54% turnout.

Nationally, the 65% voter turnout was the lowest since the advent of South Africa’s democracy. This, and the low percentage of registered voters, decreased the number of people voting for the two biggest parties, and the number of people giving the ANC a mandate to rule for the next five years.

Only some 30% of the population gave the party the mandate to rule. More than 30-million South Africans are eligible to vote; 74% of them registered to vote. Even fewer people actually voted, especially in small municipalities such as Molopo.

The Mail & Guardian understands that no elections were held in Pomfret: the gate to enter the town’s voting area was barricaded, so no one voted. The co-ordinator for the Forum for Service Delivery, Sylvester Tong, said there was no way to campaign in the area because the residents had boycotted the elections.

Pomfret’s residents live in limbo; talks of relocating them have persisted for years. Few, if any, services are provided and there are no employment prospects.

“Many areas in the municipality have been complaining about the roads and lack of service delivery and decided not to vote. So it’s not a surprise that our area would have the lowest voter turnout in the country,” said Tong.

But in the majority of municipalities where turnout was less than 60%, the ANC did well — getting more than 70% of the vote. The opposite was true in the majority of areas where voter turnout was highest. In areas such as uMngeni in KwaZulu-Natal, Overstrand and Hessequa in the Western Cape, and Mogale City and Ekurhuleni in Gauteng, the ANC had some of its lowest vote counts.

Lowest turnout

Ganyesa/Pomfret, North West: 48.5%

Ratlou, North West: 51%

Nyandeni, Eastern Cape: 52.19%

Collins Chabane, Limpopo: 53.09%

Okhahlamba, KwaZulu-Natal: 53.22%

Lepele-Nkumpi, Limpopo: 53.35%

Tswaing, North West: 53.7%

Mhlontlo, Eastern Cape: 53.73%

King Sabata Dalindyebo, Eastern Cape: 53.89%

Ephraim Mogale, Limpopo: 54.42%

Subscribe to the M&G

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and receive a 40% discount on our annual rate.

M&G Data Desk
The Data Desk is the centre for data journalism at Mail & Guardian

Related stories


Subscribers only

Seven years’ radio silence for taxpayer-funded Rhythm FM

Almost R50-million of taxpayers’ money has been invested but the station is yet to broadcast a single show

Q&A Sessions: Zanele Mbuyisa — For the love of people-centred...

She’s worked on one of the biggest class-action cases in South Africa and she’s taken on Uber: Zanele Mbuyisa speaks to Athandiwe Saba about advocating for the underrepresented, getting ‘old’ and transformation in the law fraternity

More top stories

Finding an HIV vaccine: Five lessons from the search for...

The Covid-19 pandemic has shown that vaccine development and testing timelines can be shrunk from decades to months, but not without shortcomings

Pandemic leaves 1.4 billion learners worldwide behind on education

Human Rights Watch warns that learners may take years to recover from the damage caused by school closures

Israel-Palestine: It’s a myth that there are two equal sides...

BDS South Africa calls for the world to listen to what Israel’s actions are saying and apply full sanctions against that apartheid state

Tekkie Town’s Steinhoff fight: ‘We will get our business back’

Bernard Mostert on the ordeal of losing a business he helped build and the fight to get it back

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…