Despite heavy campaigning from the DA, including from the leader of the party Mmusi Maimane, over the weekend in by-elections in 15 Maluti-a-Phofung municipality wards, they came away with nothing to show for it.
The area is known for the towns of QwaQwa and Harrismith.
However, it was hardly plain sailing for the formerly dominant ANC either, with 10 of the 15 wards being won by independent candidates and the ANC only retaining five in this area of the Free State. They had formerly run them all.
Some reports on social media suggest that the EFF also won a ward, but the results on the Independent Electoral Commission of SA’s website did not confirm this (see PDF below).
The independent candidates were formerly members who were part of a group of 16 councillors who were expelled by the ANC for voting with the opposition in the removal of former executive mayor Vusi Tshabalala, according to a report by Town Press.
They also report that a party called the Heavenly Economic and Political Freedom Programme (HEPFP) threatened to apply for an urgent court interdict to stop the elections from going ahead due to alleged electoral fraud.
The contest for the 15 wards involved 89 candidates from six political parties, and 16 independent candidates.
You can see all the results in the document, according to the IEC, below.
On Saturday, while campaigning in the area, Maimane was stinging in his criticism of what he characterised as failed economic initiatives in the municipality.
He said that it was clear that unemployment was harming the area’s 400,000 residents, who had been failed by unrealised plans in a “special economic zone”.
He said that the Tshiame Special Economic Zone was not far from where they were, “where various ANC ‘launches’ have made more empty promises about jobs”.
“But because the municipality cannot sustainably supply water and electricity, nothing has come of this project.
“Sixteen factories in the Harrismith area turned to the courts to stop Eskom cutting the electricity supply, which put as many as 10,000 jobs providing for 50,000 people at risk. The situation is so dire that the community has been managing the water supply to the Greater Harrrismith Area since November last year.”
He said there was no evidence on the ground of President Cyril Ramaphosa announcing in his state of the nation address this year that the industrial area had been “revived”.
“The ANC government have been at the centre of this jobs crisis in a municipality that has only ever received a disclaimer from the Auditor-General. That means that in almost 20 years since 2001, no opinion has been given regarding the financial statements of the municipality.
“Under the reign of Mayor Vusi Tshabalala, the administration was reduced to a conduit for theft, misappropriation and fraud. This looting was so severe that by the time the municipality was placed under provincial administration in February last year, the administration was bankrupt with not much left to salvage.
“This grand heist of the municipality continues to be fuelled by a factional war over services meant for the people. It is like a pack of hyenas fighting over the scraps of a carcass and is a symbol for the looting that continues to plague the rest of the country.
Maluti-a-Phofung had since been placed under national administration. The situation had deteriorated, with the municipality now owing Eskom R4.5 billion.