“No, definitely not. By-elections at local level is different to the general election turnout,” said IEC spokeswoman Kate Bapela said on Thursday. “The by-election has never been a reflection on the general election…In some by-elections the turnout is even less than 20 percent.”
She said it would be in the IEC’s interests and those of political parties to intensify campaigning in coming months. Ballots were cast by 19,274 of the 56,804 people registered to vote in 11 municipal by-elections around the country on Wednesday a percentage poll of 36.59 on average.
Bapela said there could be a number of reasons for this. “The reasons could be numerous, people being at work… but one cannot pinpoint.” The IEC said 194 voters spoilt their ballots.
This was probably because they did not put their mark on the right category box, or wrote other things on the ballot, said Bapela. There were no reported incidents during the by-election and the IEC was satisfied that it was carried out freely and fairly.
“From the reports we are getting, we have had no complaints about fairness,” she said. “We are satisfied with the way the by-elections were carried out yesterday.”
The African National Congress extended its gratitude to those who voted on Wednesday, and to the candidates who won.
“These by-elections, like many that have come before them, are a testament to the unshaken confidence our people continue to have in the ANC to create a better life for all,” spokesman Jackson Mthembu said in a statement.
“As our country prepares to mark… 20 years of democracy, the ANC shall take full advantage of this renewed and decisive mandate from our people to build on the significant strides made since the advent of democracy.”
Mthembu said the “unwavering support” the ANC enjoyed from the majority of the population consistently inspired it to work harder.
The ANC won seven of the 11 by-elections around the country. However, it lost ground in five of them, and one ward in the Tlokwe area, which was previously held by the ANC, was snatched by an independent candidate.
The DA retained three wards Heidelberg, eThekwini, and Mossel Bay but lost support in one of them. DA spokesman Mmusi Maimane said the results showed it was winning new support from South Africans who had previously voted for other parties.
“The DA… grew our support in Drakenstein, Merafong and Tlokwe. The results in Merafong and Tlokwe are particularly noteworthy,” he said in a statement.
“In Merafong, the DA received 24.37 percent of the vote, up from 10.63 percent in 2011. This growth is good news for the DA’s campaign…” Maimane said the results “bode well” for the DA in the upcoming general election.
“We will continue to work hard to win new votes by offering a real alternative for the citizens of South Africa.”