ANC candidate Previn Vedan is a 26-year-old community activist and human rights lawyer. Picture: GALLO IMAGES
ANC candidate Previn Vedan is a 26-year-old community activist and human rights lawyer. Picture: GALLO IMAGES

The ANC believes its first by-election in Chatsworth is a sign that its efforts to woo Indian voters are bearing fruit.

ANC candidate Previn Vedan, a 26-year-old community activist and human rights lawyer, beat his main opponent, the DA’s Fathima Ismail, by more than 469 votes in the predominantly Indian ward 71 of the Ethekwini municipality.

Over the past 10 years the DA had comfortably won this ward, where the by-election was prompted by a DA shake-up.

The then ward councillor, Sharon Hoosen, was moved to the provincial legislature.

Vedan swept to victory with 2,794 votes, while Ismail amassed 2,325. The ward was hotly contested, with the IFP, the EFF, the Al Jamaah Party, the African Christian Democratic Party and the Democratic Liberal Congress also taking part.

Ward 71 comprises Shallcross, Crossmoor and Moorton but also encompasses the informal settlement of Bottlebrush and Shallcross, where thousands of black migrant workers have moved in recent years.

Vedan has a long history of community activism. He spent many years as a leader of the Shallcross Youth Movement, which sought co-existence between people of different communities. He cut his legal teeth at the Legal Resources Centre and runs a legal practice in Shallcross, where he helps poor community members from informal settlements.

Ravi Pillay, ANC provincial executive member and MEC for human settlements, said Vedan’s victory was a sign that the minority are starting to believe in the ANC leadership under President Cyril Ramaphosa.

But Thabani Khumalo, a KwaZulu-Natal-based independent political analyst and market researcher, says this sentiment is premature.

"This ward is indeed regarded as an Indian area, but there are many other factors one has to look at before making a conclusion about the meaning of the by-elections outcomes.

"First of all, there are many informal settlements around this ward where black migrant workers reside. While many of these migrant workers may have not voted in the past, they now vote.

"But it is also significant that the ANC fielded an Indian candidate who is grounded in the community. This was significant," said Khumalo.

"The ANC also sent President Ramaphosa to the area to allay the fears of the minorities. This may have swayed some Indian voters to vote ANC," he said.