EFF strips ANC of majority in Northern Cape by-election win

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) have secured a significant victory in the recent round of by-elections, taking control of ward three in the troubled Phokwane local municipality in the Northern Cape.

The win in Pampierstad East, which makes up most of Phokwane’s ward three, alters the balance of forces in the municipality by ending the ANC’s outright majority, which it took in the November 2021 local government elections.

Former mayor Olebogeng Tumodi, who was fired from the ANC late last year, won the ward with 56% of the vote, ahead of the governing party’s 43%, with the Patriotic Alliance (PA) taking the remaining 1% of votes.

The EFF now has five of 19 council seats, with the ANC’s total now cut from 10 to nine, breaking its outright majority and placing it at the mercy of smaller parties in the council.

The ANC will have to work with the Forum 4 Service Delivery (F4SD), which took two seats last November, if it is to stay in control of the municipality.

The EFF in turn will be reaching out to the opposition parties — the Democratic Alliance holds two seats, the Phokwane Service Delivery Forum (PSDF) two and the Freedom Front Plus (FF+) one — to try to form an alternative coalition government to the ANC.

The vote will also have implications for the Frances Baard district municipality under which Phokwane, Kimberly, Barkly West and Warrenton fall.

EFF national spokesperson Sinawo Thambo said the outcome was significant because it showed the party’s approach of working with communities on concrete issues was paying off.

Thambo said the high voter turnout of 60% in the ward was a result of the party’s mobilisation in the community ahead of the by-election.

The turnout in November was 43%.

“Our most important lesson from this by-election is that we need to ensure a high voter turnout on the day of the by-election. We did this by engaging with the community, through setting up community programmes, sports tournaments, [and] interventions in sewage and rubbish issues, which was appreciated by the community,” he said.

“We need to appreciate that by-elections are not won on the day, but through consistent engagement with the people in the ward,” Thambo said.

He said the lack of publicity around by-elections — and the fact that they were not taken seriously by voters —  were factors that had historically favoured the governing party.

“By-elections are not publicised enough. They are not taken seriously. The ANC has been thriving on this lack of political appetite. The victory in Phokwane was primarily a result of our energising of voters and ensuring that they were aware of this opportunity to vote,” Thambo said.

The EFF would now be engaging with the other opposition parties on the council to remove the ANC from power and onto the opposition benches. 

“The EFF has tipped the balance of forces in favour of the opposition parties in the municipality. The ANC has lost its absolute majority and will, ultimately, lose the municipality as the opposition parties will work together to ensure that we remove them from power,” Thambo said. “It is our duty as the party that offers an alternative to the ANC to do so.”

The win also boosts the EFF going into the next round of by-elections in May and June, which take place in Tshwane and Mafikeng.

“We will be going full out,” Thambo said.

The Phokwane victory for the EFF also showed that the party’s stance in opposition to poupulist, anti-migrant mobilisation that was currently taking place in various cities around South Africa was understood and accepted by voters.

“We have taken a principled stance of defending African people, whether they are defined as foreigners or anything else, when they are in need. People have been saying that we are going to lose votes, that we are going to suffer … for our stance,” Thambo said.

“This win reaffirms that our stance is understood by our people, when we say that the unity of African people is paramount. This reaffirms that we are on the right track. It might not be the popular narrative today in South Africa, where it is easier to blame fellow Africans than acknowledging the failures of government, but the result shows that our narrative is gaining traction,” Thambo said.

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Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper

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