Despite vigorous 11th-hour campaigning by ANC heavyweight – party secretary-general Ace Magashule – in the past few weeks, the ANC had a dismal showing in the by-elections held on Wednesday in the Maluti-a-Phofung municipality.
The ruling party retained control of the municipality but suffered a massive blow that saw it losing support in 10 wards. Nine former ANC councillors who were expelled from the party contested as independent candidates and secured nine wards. One ward went to the Economic Freedom Fighters.
The governing party went into the elections with confidence galvanised by former Free State premier Magashule’s unrelenting campaigning on the ground but could only retain wards one, eight, 15, 16 and 18.
ANC Free State spokesperson Thabo Meeko told City Press that “internal political fights” were the root of the party’s setback.
“The ANC accepts the results and received the message quite well from our people. The ANC understands and knows there is a problem and will continue to correct it, however will go deeper and make decisive decisions,” Meeko said.
ANC Free State spokesperson Thabo Meeko. Picture: Dumelang News
The independent candidates, who were expelled by the party last year, were able to garner support in wards 10, 11, 20, 23, 24, 26, 29, 31 and 34.
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The Red Berets were able to use the ANC factions to their advantage and won the majority of the votes in ward seven.
Despite the poor results from the governing party, they will still lead the municipality. With a total of 69 wards, the ANC still has an outright majority of support in 37 wards.
“We happy we retained the leadership of the municipality. We still in charge and we commit to continue to serve the people of Qwaqwa. We are very thankful for the votes and will not take it for granted,” Meeko said.
The ANC previously governed in all 15 wards that were contested in the by-elections, until they expelled the councillors whom they believed were ill-disciplined.
The councillors voted with the opposition for Gilbert Mokotso to be mayor, instead of the ANC’s preferred candidate.
Mokotso was meant to replace Vusi Tshabalala who, at the time, was recalled.
He was among the councillors who broke away from the party and enjoyed his victory in ward 31.