The ANC has fired warning shots at the DA in its electoral stronghold of the Western Cape, making inroads in two wards in by-elections. in the province this week.
The DA retained the two wards in the municipalities of Saldanha and Oudtshoorn in the by-elections on Wednesday. However, the results point to an improved performance by the ANC in a province in which it has performed dismally in the past decade.
The DA retained the wards at a lower margin than in the 2016 local government elections, while the ANC’s support grew.
The DA started governing the province with an outright majority in 2009 and has since grown that majority. However, in the past few months, it has been embroiled in its own internal problems.
An attempt by the party to remove Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille has resulted in political infighting.
This has led to key programmes such as responding to a ravaging drought, provision of housing and a water crisis taking a back seat.
Since Cyril Ramaphosa’s election as ANC president in December 2017, his party has gone on a charm offensive in the Western Cape, the only province it does not govern.
The DA retained ward 3 in Saldanha with a reduced margin of 52.82% of the votes cast, compared with 69.99% in 2016.
Its support in ward 13 in Oudtshoorn dropped from 60.19% in 2016 to 50.59% in the elections this week.
Elections analyst Dawie Scholtz said the ANC won 39% of the vote in ward 3 in Saldanha, which was a 15% increase from 2016.
The ANC received 44% of the vote in ward 13 in Oudtshoorn, a 17% increase from the 2016 results, he said.
These results were bad for the DA and good for the ANC, Scholtz said. He suggested it could be derived that in the rural areas of the Western Cape there was a trend of coloured voters moving their votes from the DA to the ANC.
It was unclear whether the DA’s majority in the Western Cape was at risk, but it appeared likely the DA would underperform its 2016 result in the Western Cape, he said.
The party won 63.56% of the Western Cape vote in 2016.
Western Cape ANC secretary Faiez Jacobs said the by-election results were significant to his party. "Ramaphoria is coming into effect," he said, adding the wards were in areas that were traditionally hostile towards the ANC and were predominantly rural, coloured wards.
The DA leader in the Western Cape, Bonginkosi Madikizela, said the DA was happy that it had retained the wards.
"Despite many prophets of doom who had written the DA off, we are still winning elections," Madikizela said.
"Of course I am concerned that we decreased from 2016, but I was not surprised given the challenges we are facing."