John Moodey. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
John Moodey. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

The DA, which lost considerable support in the 2019 general election, was on Thursday given a reminder of the challenges it faces ahead of the 2021 local government elections.

Of the four by-elections held in the country’s biggest metro, Johannesburg, the DA retained three and lost one to the ANC. The party also continued losing voters to the Freedom Front Plus (FF+). The party still hopes to win the metro outright in 2021 but did not break significantly from the trends seen in the general elections, in which the party lost support in Gauteng. 

DA Gauteng leader John Moodey labelled the loss of ward 109, which includes Wendywood, Marlboro Gardens and parts of Alexandra, as “regrettable”. 

“We fought a tough campaign but recognise that we have much work ahead of us to turn things around in the metro and the ward. However, we are encouraged that we retained three wards despite challenging circumstances, which we work to address in all that we do,” Moodey said. 

Tangible loss

Losing the ward to the ANC, which is already the biggest party in the Johannesburg metro, is the most tangible loss the DA suffered because it takes it down a seat in the council. 

The Johannesburg council, which has 270 seats in total, is a hung council in which no party succeeded in getting enough votes to govern the municipality outright in the 2016 local government elections. A party needs 136 seats to win outright.

The DA formed a coalition with the FF+, the UDM, Cope and the IFP and elected Herman Mashaba as mayor with additional votes from the EFF. The EFF has since said it would no longer vote with the DA. 

After the by-election the DA has 103 seats, down from 104, while the ANC has crept up from 121 seats to 122 after it won back the ward it had lost to the DA in 2016.

The ANC’s Jolidee Matongo said the party’s big plan is to win back the metro in its totality in 2021. He said the ANC will continue contesting by-elections in the interim to increase its total seats in council. 

The ANC, however, failed to maintain the momentum it created in ward 112 in Midrand in the 2019 general elections in May — in which it received the most votes. The DA retained the ward with a marginally higher level of support than in 2016, which is a welcome reprieve for the party ahead of 2021.   

It retained ward 54, as expected. In ward 83, which opened up as a result of the death of councillor Suzanne Clarke, the DA won overwhelmingly but still lost support. It received 87.56% of the support in 2016, while new councillor Florence Roberts received only 71.07% of the vote. 

The FF+ continued the trend seen in by-elections before the May poll, in the general elections and in a recent by-election in Stilfontein in the North West, in which the party took  a ward from the DA. 

Jaco Mulder from the FF+ said the party’s support increased in ward 83 from 3.78% in 2016 to 23.27% in the by-elections on Wednesday. Mulder said the results confirmed a further exodus of voters who are leaving the DA to join the FF+. “It is becoming increasingly clear that after the 2021 local government elections, the FF+ will play a significant role in local government as well,” he said.

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