South African poll declared ‘free and fair’

Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe cast
his vote in Pretoria.

IEC CEO Advocate Pansy Tlakula is
confident the commission performed well
in attracting more voters.
(Images: Bua News)

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Bongani Nkosi

The concluded local government elections in South Africa have been declared free and fair, with the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) taking all credit for yet another successful poll.

Brigalia Bam, the IEC’s outgoing chairperson, has confirmed that the voting process and counting was conducted in a transparent manner. The commission released the final results from all the country’s voting stations on 21 May 2011, as planned.

South Africans took to the polls on 18 May to vote in their fourth local elections since 1994. The IEC started releasing interim results in earnest to the public by the following morning.

“For the past 17 years, our democracy has been enhanced by the holding of free and fair elections,” said Bam. “The recent local government elections are yet another milestone in the evolution of our democracy.”

President Jacob Zuma has also paid tribute to the commission, cementing its reputation as an organiser of credible elections.

“We end the elections process on a very high note because of the successful and efficient manner in which the elections were run, and the excitement they generated around the country,” Zuma said at the IEC’s official results announcement.

“We always trust the IEC to deliver an efficient, credible, free and fair election at all times and they have never failed us as the nation,” Bam said in her speech at the event.

‘Barometer of political maturity’

Various contesting political parties launched 63 objections to the results, but all objections were resolved, said the IEC’s CEO Advocate Pansy Tlakula. “Not a single party has refused to accept the outcome of these elections,” she added.

The number of objections in KwaZulu-Natal, one of the provinces highly active in politics, decreased from 60 in 2006 to eight in this election. KwaZulu-Natal recorded a voter turnout of 61.53%, which exceeded the national average by 12%.

This time, parties campaigned freely for votes throughout South Africa. The country seems to have outgrown the 1990s trend of no-go areas, which involved violent attacks on parties electioneering in certain areas which the opposition considered its stronghold.

“Free political activity is an important barometer of political maturity and political tolerance in any society,” said Zuma.

Impressive voter turnout

Local elections often battle to attract healthy voter turnout, but this time South Africans went out in numbers to make their mark. A total of 57.6% of registered voters voted, an increase from 48.4% in 2006 and 48% in 2000.

The IEC had hoped for at least 40% of the country’s 23.65-million registered voters to turn up on election day. “We have broken an international trend,” said Tlakula.

Farewell to Bam

Tlakula announced that Bam and some senior IEC board members will bid farewell to the organisation in August.

Bam has been the IEC’s chairperson since the publically funded but independent commission was founded in 1997. She’s served the permitted two terms.

“It has been a pleasure to serve this nation. South Africa’s multi-party democracy is increasingly being recognised by the international community,” said Bam.

Results overview

The ruling African National Congress (ANC) maintained much of its established support in the 2011 local government elections. Although it took 62% of the votes nationwide, it fell short of the 65.7% backing it achieved in 2006.

Support for the Democratic Alliance (DA) grew to 23.9%, with the party becoming the second most popular after the ANC. The Inkatha Freedom Party, whose fortunes have been dwindling over the years, came in third with 3.6% of the votes.

The ANC continued to enjoy outright victory in many outlying municipalities. The resounding 80.63% support in Limpopo, 78.9% in Mpumalanga, 71% in the Eastern Cape and 74% in the North West confirmed that the party’s support in rural and semi-rural municipalities remains largely intact.

It scored over 70% in the Free State, but its support base in the Northern Cape declined from 76.5% in the 2006 to 63.1% this year.

In most provinces, ANC backing dropped by an average of just under 2% compared to the 2006 results. This could be attributed to impressive gains by the DA, which could also be scoring from smaller parties’ dwindling voter base.

KwaZulu-Natal is the only province where the ANC’s support registered a percentage growth.

Although it’s failed to attract a significant number of voters, the Congress of the People (Cope) may have also contributed to the ANC’s marginal decline. Cope, a breakaway from the ANC, was formed in 2008 and took part in local elections for the first time in 2011.

The ANC won seven of the country’s eight metropolitan municipalities, with the exception of the City of Cape Town. The DA managed to hold on to this city by thumping the ANC and taking 60.9% of the votes.

The DA has become the first party to enjoy outright victory for the City of Cape Town Council, which was formed by coalitions after previous local government elections.

The DA also retained the tightly contested Midvaal Municipality in Gauteng province.

The ANC had gone all out to win both Midvaal and Cape Town from the DA, and has expressed disappointment over the results. “We have put up a great fight in Midvaal, pushing the DA back to its backyard. It is unfortunate that we could not win. We accept the results in Midvaal,” the party said.