/ 2 November 2021

ActionSA’s rise, low voter turnout likely to dominate aftermath of this year’s elections

Herman Mashaba Leads Visibility Blitz Campaign In South Africa
ActionSA is the dark horse of this year’s local government elections. (Photo by Papi Morake/Gallo Images via Getty Images)

ActionSA is the dark horse of this year’s local government elections, with projections from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) predicting that former Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba’s newly formed party will take over as the fourth biggest player in Gauteng. 

Another topic likely to dominate the aftermath of the elections will be the low voter turnout, with only 48% of the electorate estimated to have voted compared with a 57% turnout in 2016. 

Nationally, the CSIR is projecting Mashaba’s ActionSA will score 1.6% of votes. In Gauteng, where the party has directed most of its campaign machinery, it is expected to score 6.6%, a result that will place Mashaba at an advantage in coalition talks in the coming days. 

The Freedom Front Plus (FF+), which was the big winner in 2016, will see a marginal increase nationally from 0.8% then, to 2.7% this year. 

In a recent interview with the Mail & Guardian, FF+ leader Pieter Groenewald said the party was focusing on provinces such as the Western Cape, Gauteng and the Free State. 

Both ActionSA and FF+ are likely to take a chunk of the Democratic Alliance’s vote, with Mashaba also eyeing the DA’s traditional bases in Gauteng townships. 

The projections suggest that the two biggest parties — the ANC and the DA — will be eating a huge piece of humble pie as both the broad church and the blue party will see a significant drop. The ANC’s share of the votes is expected to drop from 54.5% in 2016 to 46.7% while the DA is expected to decline from 27% five years ago to 22.6% this year. 

The Economic Freedom Fighters, which many consider will reach its peak in these elections, will see a tick up in support from 8.2% in 2016 to 10.6% this year. Its leader, Julius Malema, said on Monday the party was aiming for an ambitious 65% victory. 

The projected numbers indicate that coalitions are in the pipeline. Recently the M&G reported that data from the ANC’s internal polling in the Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela Bay and Tshwane metros suggested it would receive less than 45% of the votes.

Insiders in the DA said its own polls suggested the ANC would get only 40% in the City of Johannesburg, with the DA itself likely to garner 44%. 

Much like the ANC, the DA is also expecting to rely on its coalition partners to regain control of the metros it won in 2016. But its numbers suggest this will be an uphill battle, dependent on voter turnout in its traditional bases, a DA federal executive member said.


The DA’s chances of snatching another province, especially Gauteng, after the Western Cape, was stymied with the projected 6% loss of votes in South Africa’s economic hub. The DA, which got a notable 37.2% in 2016, is projected to fall to 31.2% this year. 

Gauteng looks set for a coalition government after the 2024 national and provincial elections, with the ANC being projected to score a measly 37.4% of the votes at this year’s local elections, down from the 46.1% the ruling party received five years ago. 

In the 2019 provincial elections, the ANC squeaked through to a majority victory in Gauteng with 50.2%, but the haemorrhaging of votes at this year’s local elections shows the governing party will find it hard to rule without a coalition in 2024. 

The biggest gainer in Gauteng will probably be Action SA, which is projected to score a laudable 5.8% at its first elections, having launched as a political party led by Mashaba last year. 

The EFF, while failing to make major inroads, still managed to grow by a credible 1.2 percentage points, increasing its share of the local elections vote in Gauteng from 11.3% in 2016 to a projected 12.5% at this year’s polls in the province. 

Voter turnout was a disappointing 46%, down from 57% in 2016. 

Eastern Cape

Voters in the Eastern Cape appear to have shrugged off the recent corruption reports implicating Premier Oscar Mabuyane, with the ANC projected to lose only 1.9 percentage points of the vote share. 

Despite its well-documented poverty levels — the Eastern Cape is the third-poorest province in the country — the ANC’s support slightly dropped from 65.9% of the electorate in 2016 to a projected 64% this year. 

The biggest disappointment in the Eastern Cape looks to be the United Democratic Movement, whose leader, Bantu Holomisa, is a native of the province and sees it as the party’s home. The UDM’s support dropped from 3.9% in 2016 to 2.6% this year. 

Free State

The Free State, which used to be the ANC’s stronghold and where it was founded in 1912, looks set to deliver a nose bleed for the party this year. 

Voter support for the ANC is projected to fall from 61.9% in 2016 to 52.4% this year. The ANC has been mired in constant infighting and reports of corruption, which has seen its former premier and the ANC’s longest-serving chairperson in the province, Ace Magashule, standing trial on fraud and corruption charges related to the contentious R255-million asbestos contract. Axed Mangaung mayor Olly Mlamleli is also one of the accused in the matter. 

The Congress of the People (Cope), which launched in Mangaung to much fanfare in December 2008, has continued to bleed votes in the province. Cope is projected to score a paltry 0.4% in the Free State, significantly down from the 3.7% it received at its first local elections in 2011. Cope received 0.7% of the vote in 2016. 

In the Western Cape, the DA is leading in Bergrivier, Laingsburg and Prince Albert councils but falling short of a majority. The ANC is leading in the Cederberg but also short of an outright majority.

Overall the DA was polling at 48% in the province as a whole compared to the ANC’s 21%. Vote processing in Cape Town, the only metro the party is banking on, was lagging behind that in the municipalities and a clear picture was only expected to emerge late on Tuesday afternoon.


In KwaZulu-Natal, where there was a 52% voter turnout among the 5.4 million registered voters, the ANC was projected to take 42.8% overall, a drop from 2016’s 54.9% of the provincial vote.

The party appeared to be losing a number of key wards it had held since 1996, among them ward 13, which includes KwaNdengezi in west Durban.

The DA, which made some major campaign errors in the province in the run-up to the poll — was projected to take 14.4% of the KwaZulu-Natal vote, 1% less than the party’s slice of the vote in the province in 2016.

This is despite early successes in the eThekwini metro wards in the central business district and surrounding suburbs, including ward 33, which was taken by the DA’s Sakhile Ngema.

The biggest winner in KwaZulu-Natal thus far appears to be the Inkatha Freedom Party, which was projected to take 24.3% in the province by the end of counting. The IFP took only 18.5% of the KwaZulu-Natal vote in 2016, but grew in 2019, taking 16.3% of the vote.

The EFF also continues on its growth path in the province, with a projected 9.3%, a large increase on its 3.5% in 2016, but a slight drop on the 9.7% it took in 2019.