In 2020, Julius Malema vowed that the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) would win a ‘significant amount of votes’ and become a governing party in municipalities across South Africa after the 2021 Local Government Elections. We look at the country’s third-largest party’s prospects in the eight metropolitan municipalities ahead of Election Day on 1 November.
EFF PERFORMANCE IN MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS
The EFF was a kingmaker in 13 hung councils, including three metros: Nelson Mandela Bay, Tshwane and Johannesburg, in the 2016 elections, which is a remarkable showing for a political party that was participating in its first municipal election.
“Next year is going to be the beginning of ushering in the government of the EFF, which will benefit our people, both black and white, but [with] more emphasis on the previously disadvantaged black people. So that is who we are and that is what we are going to do,” said Malema in October 2020.
Before looking forward, let’s look at how the Red Berets faired in South Africa’s biggest cities during the last local government elections.
City of Cape Town (Western Cape)
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the EFF’s worst performance (tied with eThekwini) in a metropolitan municipality was in the City of Cape Town, the Democratic Alliance’s crown jewel.
The red party scored just 3 percent of the votes, which won them 3 out of 231 seats on the municipal council.
The DA runs the City of Cape with 154 seats, a two-thirds majority.
The eThekwini Metro is the only municipality where the EFF did not finish in the top 3 in terms of votes received. The party was pipped to third place by Independent Candidates and a resurgent IFP, who received 4 percent of the vote each.
The EFF received 3 percent of the vote and won 8 seats on the council.
The eThekwini Metro is run by the ANC who won 126 out of 219 seats.
Nelson Mandela Bay (Eastern Cape)
The EFF won 5 percent of the vote in Nelson Mandela bay, which earned it 6 seats on the council.
The DA and ANC ran a close race. The DA picked up 57 seats from 47 percent of the vote and the ANC received 41 percent of the vote and 50 seats.
The DA partnered with the UDM (1 seat), ACDP and COPE (1 seat each) to form what would turn out to be an unstable coalition government. Since the 2016 elections, the metro has had four mayors – two from the DA and one each from the UDM and AIC.
Buffalo City (Eastern Cape)
The EFF won 8 percent of the vote in Buffalo City, earning 8 seats.
The ANC won the metro comfortably (59%) and earned 60 of the 100 seats of the council.
Mangaung (Free State)
The ANC was the dominant party in Magashule country winning 57 percent of the vote and 58 out of 100 seats on the council.
The EFF finished third with 9 percent of the vote and 9 seats.
City of Johannesburg (Gauteng)
Gauteng was the only province where the EFF share of the vote stretched into double figures and since a waning ANC was unable to secure more than 50 percent of votes in any of the province’s metros everything was up for grabs in the country’s economic hub.
In the City of Johannesburg, the EFF scored 11 percent of the vote and won 30 of the 270 seats.
The ANC received the largest percentage of the vote (45%) and the most seats (121) but the DA outmanoeuvred the former ruling party in the metro by partnering with the IFP (5 seats), UDM and COPE (1 seat each). The EFF also assisted with “loose support” for the coalition (they voted with the coalition on a case-by-case basis).
Herman Mashaba was the DA coalition’s first mayor of Joburg. He eventually left the party and formed ActionSA.
After the late Geoff Makhubo was elected as Joburg mayor in 2019, Mashaba said it was proof that the DA wanted to squeeze him out of government. The DA mayoral candidate Funzela Ngobeni only received 101 votes in 2019 – his party had 103 seats.
The current mayor of Johannesburg is the ANC’s Mphoe Moerane.
City of Ekurhuleni (Gauteng)
In Ekurhuleni, the ANC fell just short of the 50 percent mark with 49 percent of the vote and 109 out of 224 seats. It formed a coalition with several smaller parties to take control of the metro, including AIC (4 seats), the PAC, Patriotic Alliance and Independent Ratepayers Association of South Africa (1 seat each).
The EFF finished in third, behind the DA, with 11 percent of the vote and 25 seats.
City of Tshwane (Gauteng)
The DA edged the ANC to pole position in the capital in 2016 with 43 percent of the vote and 93 seats (ANC 41%, 89 seats). The blue party formed a coalition with smaller parties and the EFF offered outside support with the 25 seats it won in 2016 – this relationship eventually soured and the Red Berets withdrew their support for the coalition.
WHAT THE POLLS SAY
A recent IPSOS poll in September 2021, predicted that the ANC’s support with voters across South Africa would dip below 50 percent for the first time in our democracy.
The DA is predicted to fall below 20 percent while the EFF is expected to close the gap and breathe down the necks of the opposition party with their best ever performance in an election.
IPSOS said its poll is not a prediction of the election because 7.4 percent of the voters they spoke to indicated that they will vote on 1 November have not yet decided who to vote for. The IPSOS poll also expects a voter turnout of 71 percent – which is highly unlikely because 65, 99 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots in the last National Election in 2019 and historically Local Government Elections have an even poorer rate.
PartyTotal percentage of votes 2016 LGE2019 National General ElectionsIPSOS POLL 2021 LGEANC55,65%57,50%49,3%DA24,57%20,77%17,9%EFF8,31%10,80%14,5%
ActionSA is expected to finish in fourth place nationally with 1,5 percent, followed by the ACDP, IFP and FF+ who all end up between 1,2 and 1,5 percent.
If the IPSOS prediction is anything to go by and the EFF gains ground on the DA its role as “kingmaker” gains renewed importance, especially in Tshwane where both the ANC and DA look likely to score less than 50 percent. In an early prediction, political analyst Wayne Sussman said the EFF would very likely sit in a coalition this time around, instead of offering loose support.
The party said it would no longer support the DA or ANC in minority councils in Johannesburg and Tshwane municipalities after the DA rejected its offer for co-governance in Tshwane in 2019.
Gauteng was the province where the EFF was most popular with voters in the 2016 Municipal Election and it appears that this is likely to be the case again.