A small party that was formed over a municipal demarcation dispute in a town that few South Africans visit once in their lives, if ever, has been a surprise winner in the 2016 local government elections with almost 220 000 votes.
The African Independent Congress (AIC) had by 9pm on Friday, according to the Electoral Commission of South Africa’s (IEC) website picked up 218 642 votes nationally as well as 41 seats. By Saturday morning, the party had 47 seats in total, according to the IEC’s website.
That means the party has improved its showing dramatically over the previous election in 2011, when it picked up a mere 30 372 votes; it almost trebled its seat allocation nationally with 15 seats.
Members of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) have repeatedly claimed that voters have managed to confuse themselves over whether they are voting for the ANC or the AIC, both of which sport the same black, green and gold colours.
The AIC was formed in December 2005 by former ANC members with the express aim of contesting the 2006 local government elections in a bid to have the town of Matatiele reincorporated into KwaZulu-Natal from the Eastern Cape.
While the party failed to get Matatiele reincorporated, the party has had staying power. In that initial 2006 local government election, it picked up 10 seats and 19 856 votes – all of which were in Matatiele.
Apart from its success in municipal elections, it has managed to get three members elected to parliament as well as a member elected to the Eastern Cape legislature.
And in the two previous local government elections it has contested, the seats it won were in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape – depending, of course, on where the border was at the time.
While the party grew its footprint nationally, in the little town of Matatiele where it all started, the party lost three seats and almost 6 000 votes, leaving it with only four councilors in the Matatiele Local Municipality.
Party leader Mandla Galo dismissed accusations that the party had benefited from the confusion over colours and names.
“I want to say that this is psychological warfare. They are undermining the intelligence of the people of South Africa,” he said, when asked whether the party had benefited from the alleged confusion.
He pointed out that the party had grown even in developed areas where people were educated.
“I am sure you have seen that we have also got a foot in George. That shows you very clearly that the African Independent Congress is growing. Come 2019 we are going to increase the seats in the National Assembly,” he said.
Apart from Matatiele, the party picked up a further 13 seats in various municipalities in the Eastern Cape, including four in the Buffalo City metro and one in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality.
In the Free State it grabbed two seats in the Mangaung metro in the Free State and a seat in Maluti a Phofung (Harrismith) local municipality.
While its showing in Gauteng was limited to a single seat in Merafong City (Carletonville), it amazingly picked up 64 374 votes across the province. But results were still outstanding at 9pm and so its tally could still yet climb, especially in Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality where only 92% of the results had been verified.
In KwaZulu-Natal the party won 12 seats, including three in eThekwini. It also won two seats in Mpumalanga, a seat in the Northern Cape municipality of Phokwane (Hartswater) and a seat in George in the Western Cape as well as four seats in the North West province.
Limpopo was the only province where it failed to get a seat. In fact, in the province that saw the ANC win with 68% of the vote, it appears there was little confusion as, according to the IEC, no one in Limpopo had cast a vote for the AIC. And that was highly unlikely to change since all the results in the province had been verified by 9pm.
– African News Agency (ANA)