“We wish the independent candidate well in the council,” African National Congress spokesman Jackson Mthembu told reporters in Ikageng, Potchefstroom.
Mahlabe won the ward with 1425 of the 2335 valid votes cast.
He was one of the 14 councillors expelled by the ANC in July after its provincial disciplinary committee found them guilty on four counts of misconduct for participating in a motion of no confidence against Tlokwe mayor Maphetle Maphetle.
Maphetle was replaced as mayor by Democratic Alliance councillor Annette Combrink.
However, the ANC’s national disciplinary committee overturned the expulsions.
Despite this, eight of the councillors registered as independent candidates for the by-elections.
Mthembu said the ANC were not bad losers which was why they accepted the defeat gracefully. The party won Wards six and 18 by-elections on Wednesday.
The ANC faced off with another former councillor and provincial chief whip David Kham in Ward 18.
ANC candidate Thapelo Skozana was pitted against Kham.
Mthembu said the victory gave the ANC confidence and the party was sure it would win the next six Tlokwe by-elections.
It showed that people still believed in the ANC.
“We accept we lost Ward 26 but when you win two out of three, it is still called a distinction. Come the elections for the six wards, we are confident we will do even better and restore the will of the people of Tlokwe.”
Mahlabe said he was happy with the victory as it showed the ANC that in Potchefstroom, there was no “big elephant”.
He added that the residents had showed there was no longer an ANC in the area.
Speaking to the media after his win, Mahlabe said he did not rule out a coalition with the Democratic Alliance.
“If I must do a coalition I will because the issue is to give people service delivery,” he said.
Following his victory, Mahlabe vowed to assist other independent candidates during the next by-elections.
His supporters celebrated well into the night until he appealed to them to disperse fearing for their safety. He said a day would be set aside to celebrate the victory.
Earlier on Wednesday, North West local government MEC Manketsi Tlhape said she was ready to announce a date for the next by-elections in Tlokwe following the postponements of other wards by the Electoral Court in Bloemfontein on Tuesday.
“The next by-elections will be proclaimed as soon as the requisition from the IEC has reached my office so that all the parties involved should begin to prepare for elections as soon as possible,” she said.
“The proclamation will also include Ward 13 of Tlokwe, where elections were postponed and also at Ward Five of Tswaing municipality, where a vacancy was declared following the resignation of a councillor.”