Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

The outcomes of four by-elections held in Johannesburg on Wednesday will be critical for the DA, as the party seeks to stave off the decline in voter support in the 2019 general elections. 

All four wards were held by the DA.

The by-elections followed the resignation of three ward councillors, and the death of Suzanne Clarke, who was the ward councillor in a DA stronghold. The results are expected on Thursday.

Gauteng DA leader John Moodey said the party expects to hold on to all four wards. He is satisfied with the work the DA had put in ahead of the by-elections to retain the wards. 

Support for the DA in the general elections fell in Gauteng, both from the level in 2014 and in the 2016 local government elections, in which the ANC fell below the majority in the three metros in the province — Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni and Tshwane — as well as in the Mogale City municipality. 

Holding on to the four seats in Johannesburg is especially important to the party, as it governs the metro through a coalition in which the additional votes of the EFF helped elect Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba in 2016. 

The party has said it will no longer vote with the DA in municipalities where it needs the EFF’s votes.  

Independent elections analyst Dawie Scholtz said the DA is at risk of losing at least two of the four wards that were expected to be fiercely contested by political parties.

In ward 54 in southern Johannesburg the DA received 65% of the vote in 2016, the ANC 24% and the EFF 8%. In the 2019 national elections, DA support in the ward dropped to 50%, ANC support rose to 31%, and the EFF secured 11%.

Scholtz said the DA is likely to hold on to this ward, which has always been DA-leaning, but that it would set off alarm bells for the party if it were to lose it.

Ward 83, in Roodekrans, West Rand, has traditionally been a strong DA ward, Scholtz said. In 2016, it won 88% of votes in the ward, but sank to 70% in 2019, with the Freedom Front Plus being the beneficiary.  

Scholtz said the DA is likely to hold on to the ward in the by-election, but that it would be important in determining whether the trend in which DA voters moved to the FF Plus continued, as it did in a recent by-election in Stilfontein in North West province.   

He said the DA is at risk of losing ward 109, which includes Wendywood, Marlboro and sections of Alexandra. 

In 2016 the DA won 51% of the vote, the ANC 32% and the EFF 13%. In 2019 the ANC won 43% in the national elections, the DA dropped to 38%, and the EFF rose to 15%. 

Scholtz said that ward 112 in Midrand, will be the closest-run of the four by-elections. In 2016, the DA received 45% of the vote, the ANC 32% and the EFF 20%. In 2019 the ANC claimed 39% and the EFF 26%, while the DA dropped to 30%.