Makhura told a gathering ahead of the polls: “If you have an issue with the president of the ANC … my appeal to you is: just appreciate the level of complexity in the ANC. The ANC has had its ups and downs, but it has always been more enduring than its individual leaders. Local elections are always about voting for the municipality.”

The ANC in the province has long been openly opposed to Zuma, and did not support his re-election in 2012 in Mangaung. They have also been opposed to nationally imposed projects such as as e-tolls, which have made the party less popular among provincial voters. The ANC saw support slide during the 2014 national elections, and the downward trend has now continued.