The run-up to elections tends to be drawn out. It has been different this time. Good announced Brett Herron as its mayoral candidate for Cape Town the day before the Democratic Alliance (DA) unveiled its Metro mayoral candidates in late August. The DA put up its posters in early September to win the first salvo in the battle for street-pole prime property.
It has been such a tumultuous, albeit shorter, campaign that one forgets that the ANC bungled its list application process, and was given a second chance to fix its mess. The Freedom Front Plus (FF+) was also out of the starting blocks quickly.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has been the anchor of the ANC campaign and has rolled up his sleeves and traversed the population-rich centres of SA to drum up support for the party. Load shedding, truck driver highway blockades and water shortages have blemished the final lap for the ANC.
The DA gets best marks for campaign readiness, but one of the problems with being first to put up posters is that they are likely not to stay in place – or in shape – for the duration of the campaign.
More worryingly for the DA was the poster blunder in Phoenix, not to mention leader John Steenhuisen’s controversial and much-debated facial expression during an infamous rant by Gareth Cliff during a podcast debate.
The EFF’s Julius Malema is the fittest and most energetic of the three main leaders. He has covered the length and breadth of this country, drawing impressive crowds. On some days, he held events in four municipalities. He also rolled out King Dalindyebo at a rally in Mthatha. Dalindyebo was grateful for Malema’s gift to him – a Mercedes SUV.
The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and the FF+ have concentrated on their core supporters and the parts of the country where they are likely to do best. There have been precious few missteps. Do not be surprised if they outperform expectations on Monday.
ActionSA has run a good campaign. It has focused on only six municipalities. It also got a lot of publicity with the ward ballot saga, where its abbreviated name did not appear on the final ballot paper.
This is a unique election, in which the two largest parties are vulnerable. Other relatively established parties such as the Congress of the People (Cope), the United Democratic Movement (UDM) and the African Independent Congress (AIC) seem to be walking into this election with their guards down.
ANC Wish List
The ANC will believe that Buffalo City will replace Cape Town as the least competitive metro in the country. It will be very concerned if it cannot win an outright majority in Mangaung and eThekwini, and will hope that, even if it falls below 50% in the three Gauteng metros, there will be significant daylight compared with it and the chasing pack and that it will be in the best position to form a new government that will let it hold Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni and crucially take over the capital metro (with the support of the EFF in the latter).
In Nelson Mandela Bay, it will hope that new parties like Khusta Jack’s Abantu Integrity Movement (AIM) and The Northern Alliance hurt the DA and that a party like the Patriotic Alliance replicates what it did to the DA in the north of the country in the northern part of the metro and that it finishes ahead of the DA and takes back the metro.
Gauteng: The party will be desperate to receive more than 50% of the vote in Emfuleni (Vanderbijlpark) and also retain control of Mogale City (Krugersdorp), this time without coalition partners.
Limpopo: This was the most solid province for the ANC in 2019. The ANC will not be concerned about losing municipalities here and will believe it can regain control of Modimolle-Mookgophong and Thabazimbi.
North West: The party believes its support in Ikageng township in Potchefstroom and in JB Marks and Mahikeng will be resolute enough to withstand the current turbulent storms. In Rustenburg it will face off against an emboldened EFF and a variety of local parties. If it gets below 50% again, it will be able to find coalition partners to dance with to some platinum vinyl.
Mpumalanga: In Steve Tshwete (Middelburg) the party will hope that the insurgent local party, the DA’s and the EFF’s efforts are blunted and it ekes out a majority win again. Bushbuckridge is one place where a wounded ANC will be sure that it will grow, rather than decline, as the official opposition in that municipality.
Free State: The ANC will believe that another key municipality is in Metsimaholo (Sasolburg) as the South African Communist Party (SACP) kissed and made up. The party is still likely to fall short of a majority and will hope enough allies get in to avoid it having to go cap in hand to the EFF. The ANC will hope that it can fend off the Maluti-A-Phofung 16 Civic Movement (MAP16) in Phuthaditjhaba and hold the municipality.
Eastern Cape: This province was very good to the ANC in 2019. The ANC will hope that that love extends to the western party of the Eastern Cape and that it holds on to Beyers Naudé (Graaff-Reinet) and Kou-Kamma (Kareedouw) and brings the DA under 50% in Kouga (Jeffreys Bay).
Western Cape: It will hope for outright wins in Oudtshoorn and Matzikama (Vredendal) and continue to hold power in the Central Karoo District (Beaufort West, Prince Albert and Laingsburg).
Northern Cape: In the last election the ANC lost power in two municipalities and fell below 50% in a third. It goes into this election in control of every municipality and Premier Zamani Saul will be desperate to keep it that way.
KwaZulu-Natal: The ANC knows that a lot of the more competitive municipalities in the north of the province are lost. The party will want to avoid banana peels in uMngeni (Howick) and uMhlathuze (Richards Bay).
DA Wish List
The DA will hope to get 57% of the vote in its flagship metro – Cape Town. The party’s decision to station Helen Zille in Nelson Mandela Bay for a long stretch of the campaign has been interesting. The DA will hope that it and its natural coalition partners and AIM will be able to secure a stable coalition there. The party has its own challenges in all of the Gauteng metros. A strong electoral wish will be that the troubles in Johannesburg do not cross the N3 Highway to Ekurhuleni and do not cross the Jukskei River to Tshwane. If the blue stars are aligned on Monday, Tshwane is the most likely of the three Gauteng metros to have a DA mayor return.
Gauteng: An outright win in Midvaal and to keep the ANC below 50% in Mogale City and bring the ANC below 50% in Emfuleni.
Limpopo: Keep the ANC below 50% in Thabazimbi and Modimolle-Mookgophong.
North West: The DA’s Johannesburg jitters pale into comparison with the uphill battle it has here. The party’s wish would be to minimise ward losses to the FF+ and bring the ANC below 50% in JB Marks.
Mpumalanga: Steve Tshwete will be the party’s main target to bring the ANC below 50%.
Free State: The DA will want to weaken the ANC even more in Metsimaholo and see if Jeff Zwane can become its mayor there, and also try to bring the ANC under 50% in Moqhaka (Kroonstad).
Eastern Cape: The party will hope that its localised campaign here will let it keep Kouga and win Dr Beyers Naudé and Kou-Kamma.
Western Cape: The further one goes from Cape Town, the choppier the electoral waters. The DA’s big concern will be George. The party will hope it can return to power there, as well as win Bitou (Plettenberg Bay) outright.
Northern Cape: The abbreviated campaign saw John Steenhuisen limit his movements in SA’s largest province. He did not go to Nama Khoi (Springbok) and Richtersveld (Port Nolloth), two municipalities where the DA should stand the best chance.
KwaZulu-Natal: Steenhuisen would love nothing more than a DA mayor in his home province. The party needs a shift of two seats in uMngeni for a historic win.
EFF Wish List
The party will want to finish third or higher in the City of Johannesburg. Polls suggest that ActionSA has much momentum right now. The EFF will want to be the kingmaker in all three Gauteng metros, and in eThekwini, Mangaung and Nelson Mandela Bay.
Gauteng: The party will hope to become the official opposition in Merafong (Carletonville), and help bring the ANC below 50% in Emfuleni.
Limpopo: The EFF would have wanted more growth in Limpopo in 2019. It will want more councillors elected and will want to continue to bring the ANC below 50% in Thabazimbi and Modimolle-Mookgophong.
North West: In this province, the party will want a mayor with a red beret in Mahikeng and Rustenburg.
Mpumalanga: The EFF became the official opposition here in 2019. The wish list for this election is that the EFF become kingmakers in Steve Tshwete and Govan Mbeki (Secunda).
Eastern Cape: A core focus of the campaign has been the OR Tambo District, which includes the former Transkei. It will want a lot more councillors across the province with many breakthroughs in this impenetrable ANC stronghold.
Western Cape: Good inroads were made in Cape Town in 2019. It will want to continue that and also grow in places such as Stellenbosch.
Northern Cape: The EFF does best in the part of the province closest to the North West. Frances Baard (Kimberley area) and John Taolo Gaetsewe (Kuruman area) are the districts where it is primed to do best.
If it is an exceedingly good night for the EFF, we might wake up on Tuesday morning with an EFF mayor in Dikgatlong (Barkly West).
KwaZulu-Natal: Big strides were made here in 2019. The party will hope to eat into the massive ANC majorities in the south of the province and take many seats from the ANC in uMhlathuze.
The IFP’s and FF+’s low-key, focused campaigns are expected to pay big dividends in this election. There are likely to be many more IFP mayors come 2 November. Could the FF+ have a possible mayor in Kgetleng-rivier (Koster) in the North West?
If it is an uncharacteristically good, wild night for Pieter Groenewald, you just never know. The party beat the DA here in 2019 and the ANC is vulnerable.
ActionSA and Good both come from the DA. At this stage it seems likely that the newer breakaway will be more impactful than the latter.
Will Herman Mashaba find himself in a position on Tuesday to be the more likely alternative to lead the City of Johannesburg?
Buckle up. It is going to be one tumultuous election night. DM168
Wayne Sussman is an elections analyst for Daily Maverick.
This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for R25 at Pick n Pay, Exclusive Books and airport bookstores. For your nearest stockist, please click here.