Independent candidates in municipal elections gain momentum with 0.61% growth

South Africans have signalled they are ready for a new political alternative, after independent candidates and groupings gained momentum in this week’s local government elections with a 0.61% growth in support.

According to the Electoral Commission of South Africa’s (IEC) latest updated results, this year independents received 1.75% of the total vote, translating to 51 seats in municipalities nationwide, compared with 2016 where only 27 seats were won by independents.

Smaller parties also saw an expansion in support, growing by 5.48%, with the number of seats they won increasing from 195 in 2016 to 619 in this year’s municipal election. 

“The political sands are shifting across the world as citizens are losing faith in big political parties and seeking a new alternative, and South Africa is no outlier,” said Mmusi Maimane, chief activist at One South Africa Movement (OSA), an umbrella body for independent candidates and groupings.

Maimane, who led the main opposition Democratic Alliance before being ousted after the party’s poor showing in 2019 general elections, believes the support for independent candidates proved that voters had become more pragmatic. With the ruling ANC losing support and voter loyalty based on its liberation movement credentials in the 2021 local government elections, he said the country is entering the era of post-liberation politics.

“Over the past few years, there’s been a large consensus that the single party, hegemonic view over South Africa is fast coming to an end. We’ve been captured by the liberation movement, and now we are truly entering into a space of a post-liberation era,” said Maimane.

Despite garnering the most support, the ANC saw its national share of the votes fall to less than 50% for the first time in a democratic South Africa.

At a media briefing earlier this week, Maimane said he was delighted that votes for independent candidates, even if they did not win, still outstripped the number of votes won by their opponents from the established small parties such as the Congress of the People (Cope) and the African Christian Democratic Party, and even in some cases Patricia de Lille’s GOOD Party.

Responding to the election results on Thursday, President Cyril Ramaphosa also noted “the manner in which our people spoke” through the “flourishing” multi-party politics in the country’s electoral landscape. 

In KwaZulu-Natal, just under 100 000 people voted for independents, followed by Limpopo with 75 688 and the Eastern Cape with 73 263 votes. 

The Western Cape, where the DA won a majority of 54.19%, independents received just above 15 400 votes. In the Northern Cape independents got 12 918 votes.

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Eyaaz Matwadia
Eyaaz Matwadia
Eyaaz Matwadia is a member of the Mail & Guardian's online team.

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