Local elections: As the portraits come down, the Comrades count the cost


The shortest local government poll in our electoral history is over and done with.

The voters have spoken: by staying at pozi or going to the beach or the pub and by generally avoiding the polling stations in their numbers.

It’s where we’re at.

The counting and capturing is completed and the haggling over who gives what to whom in return for what in the country’s hung councils is already underway, well ahead of the final announcement of results by the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) in the evening.

A month and a bit, from declaration of date to votes in the box.

Not bad at all.

The truncated campaign had its upside from a journalistic perspective: fewer days on the road; less time spent listening to more of the same; a significant drop in the number of premature siyanqoba rallies proclaiming victories that may or may not be real.

The parties must have also  been privately grateful for what turned out to be a snap election.

The change in political funding legislation compelling them to name their big funders has clearly had its effects on the ability of the major parties to fight an election.

The Comrades, the Democrats and the Fighters couldn’t have afforded to run a longer campaign than 40-odd days, now that their sugar daddies have fled.

Like many of my fellow South Africans, I’m shocked and surprised at the shock and surprise expressed by some in the governing party over both their electoral losses and the massive stayaway by their supporters when it came to voting on Monday.

All around the country, the Comrades are tearfully taking down their portraits and shedding documents as they prepare  to hand over the keys to city hall — or making nice with their enemies of four days ago to try to keep their blue lights beyond 11 November  — wondering — belatedly —  what the fuck went down on Monday.


It is — unsurprisingly —  the governing party’s worst electoral performance; a drop, but less dramatic, for the Democratic Alliance; modest growth by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and the comeback of all comebacks by the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP).

Perhaps the Elephants are better at campaigning with no money than the other parties after losing power all over the province between 2011 and 2016 — but they’ve taken back the wall-to-wall municipalities between Stanger and the Mozambique border — and a fair number in the west of the province — from the ANC in a single election.

What did the Comrades expect, given the ANC’s performance at local government level over the past two to three terms and the reality that its internal battles — and greed — have translated into potholes and overflowing sewers for a decade and a bit?

More votes?

A salary increase?

It’s a bit rude, actually, to assume that people who you’ve deprived of water and electricity for the past five years will vote for you — again — especially after your comrades got caught looting the money set aside to help those same voters to stay alive during a deadly pandemic.


More so eThekwini.

The Comrades here burned and looted the city in Jacob Zuma’s name three months before voting day; held Durban to ransom for a week; cost thousands of people their jobs and forced us to queue for bread and milk and petrol for close to a month — then expected us to come out and vote for them in numbers.

Yeah, right.

The truth is, the ANC was lucky to scrape 42% in eThekwini, where it had won with a clear majority of 56% in 2016, thanks, in no small part, to the words and actions of its leaders and members inside and outside the civil service who helped to destroy the city in July.


It’s Diwali. 

The sun’s just up.

There’s already the smell of agarbatti in the air.

It’s welcome: a bit of an antidote to the stench from the bins waiting outside the front gate for Durban Solid Waste to empty them.

If they’re working.

A free fireworks display in Prince Edward Street in the evening after — hopefully — a plate of sweetmeats and a breyani from one of the celebrants in the building for lunch — lies ahead.

Fair deal.

Diwali — along with Eid and the ocean — is among the elements that makes Durban particularly liveable; a reminder that for all of its provincial ways and unemptied rubbish bins, this city is a reflection — and the property — of all the people who live in it.

Something like the election result, I guess.

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Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper

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