FIVE months after its voter registration campaign was disrupted by Vuwani protesters – who later boycotted the polls – the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) is heading back to the troubled Limpopo area to conduct by-elections.
This comes after the death of the victorious Malamulele Municipality Ward 3 candidate who passed away while the August 3 ballots had already been certified, Provincial Electoral Officer Nkaro Mateta said. Earlier this year, the IEC had to be escorted out of Vuwani by the police after angry residents blocked the roads and shut down the area.
They demanded that no voter registration take place in Vuwani until the incorporation of their area into Malamulele Municipality was reversed. Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe were forced to cancel their scheduled visits to Vuwani earlier this year due to the on-going tension.
During the local government elections a fortnight ago, President Jacob Zuma had to deploy the army to protect the IEC and voters who had been threatened with violence by supporters of the pro-Makhado group.
Apart from escorting ballot boxes, law enforcement agencies were forced to clear roads of burning tyres and stones used to block IEC officials from accessing Vuwani. “We already have by-election scheduled for the new municipality because of the ANC candidate who passed away, and unfortunately that person passed on when the candidate nomination process was confirmed,” Mateta said.
According to the IEC and Municipal Electoral laws, a councillor must be replaced within 90 days through a by-election after death. Mateta said they would again seek the intervention of state security agencies when the return to Vuwani outside Thohoyandou in northern Limpopo.
“We hope that people of Vuwani have learned lessons because they have been committing electoral offences without noticing and we are happy that police have acted,” she said.
Mateta also expressed concern that almost half of the registered voters in Limpopo did not vote. There were more than 40 000 spoiled votes. However, it wasn’t clear if this was deliberate or influenced by illiteracy.
According to the election results, ANC support in Limpopo declined by 14% from 80, 3 % in 2011 to 66, 3%. The ruling party secured 854 seats in the province, followed by the EFF with 209 seats and DA with 103.
“We are really disappointed because in 2011 when we ran municipal elections Limpopo was standing at just over 50 %. As of now we can see that we are just over 50 %,” added Mateta.
“We were targeting around 60 % because we were encouraged by the 2014 general election turnout, national and provincial elections.”
The ANC won almost all municipalities including the City of Polokwane, the provincial capital.
No political party won an outright majority in municipalities like Modimolle-Mookgopong and Thabazimbi in the Waterburg region.
As it proved to be the case in the four Gauteng metros, Julius Malema’s EFF emerged as king makers in the three Limpopo hung councils.
EFF provincial secretary Jossey Buthane, whose party has disputed the election outcome in Bela Bela, which saw the ANC winning by a one percent margin, said the overall results gave the red berets hope that their future was bright. “This shows that people are rejecting ANC, and it gives us hope that we are going somewhere. Our people are aware of what needs to happen,” said Buthane.
DA MP Desiree Van Der Walt, who led her party’s Limpopo election campaign, said: “We are happy that we have managed to take wards from the ANC and ensured that they lost two municipalities.”
The ANC in Limpopo said it would go back and consult people in areas where it lost support. Deputy provincial secretary and Cogta MEC Makoma Makhurupetje said the ruling party was happy with and appreciated the election outcome.
She believed that the ANC would get the support of the smaller parties to form a coalition government in the ModimolleMookgopong Municipality. “We have 46 %. We just need to engage other political parties.”