Cape Town – Analysts are slightly divided about who will take control of the Western Cape provincial government following the May 8 polls, with some saying the Democratic Alliance (DA) will retain the province with a lower majority, while others insist this might not be a foregone conclusion.
The DA won the Western Cape, the only province in South Africa not controlled by the ruling African National Congress (ANC), in the last provincial elections in 2014 quite comfortably with a highly improved showing, garnering 59 percent of the vote, up from the 51 percent five years before – the first time a party had won an outright majority since 1999.
Alliances forged with other parties over the years have seen the DA increase its footprint across the province. While these relationships with other parties have soured dramatically and have subsequently fallen apart, the party managed to hold on to voters and even attract more voters over the years.
This time around, it might not be that easy. University of Stellenbosch political analyst, Professor Amanda Gouws, told the African News Agency (ANA), believes the DA will hold on to the province, but by a smaller margin.
She said the internal battles in the DA which played itself out over the past year or so had hurt the party, singling out the axing of popular Patricia De Lille as mayor of Cape Town.
"I think through their own internal politics, they really shot themselves in the foot," Gouws said.
"The issue around Helen Zille and her tweets and just the issue around De Lille was so appalling in the sense that we still don’t know what she did that made the DA treat her in the way they did. A lot of people feel the internal factions of the DA are becoming similar to that of the ANC."
De Lille has not taking her sacking as mayor lying down. She started a new political party, GOOD, and is fighting back. Gouws indicated she might be a thorn in the side of the DA come May 8.
"I think also maybe the Coloured voters who voted for the DA felt really unhappy with the way she (De Lille) was treated. It’s those votes the DA will lose."
University of the Western Cape Professor Cherrel Africa agreed the "fractious public battle" with De Lille will change the dynamics and hurt the DA at polling stations.
"Patricia de Lille is a nationally recognisable leader, having played a prominent role in South African politics since 1994," said Africa.
"While Patricia de Lille could face questions about her changing allegiances, and the party will most likely face questions about its track record and depth of organisational structures, she does have a support base in the Western Cape."
While the ANC has dominated at the national polls, the Western Cape was unique, said Africa, in that electoral trends shifted drastically since 1994.
"Outcomes in the Western Cape have been far less predictable than at national level. This has resulted in three different political parties assuming power in the province," she said, adding the DA was not guaranteed an outright majority despite its past growing popularity among voters, especially in the metropole.
"While not comparable to that of the ANC, the party [DA] has faced a number of problems. On a governance level, the DA has been severely criticised for its management of the drought.
"The party has also been facing various leadership challenges. These challenges are exacerbated by its negative campaign approach, evident in its campaign against small parties and appeals to block an EFF/ANC coalition which ring hollow given its own alliance with the EFF."
The DA currently has 26 seats in the Western Cape legislature while the ANC has 14. Only two other parties managed to get seats – the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) – with one each.
While analysts don’t believe the EFF will make a major impact in its second contestation at provincial polls, EFF leader Julius Malema was in Cape Town at the end of March, rallying the youth to knock on doors and get votes.
The party believes it will do well, given its student command taking control of two universities’ student representative councils last year.
However, the 47 percent drop in voters between the ages of 18 and 19 registering for these elections compared to the previous elections could also impact the EFF.
It is also targetting African and Coloured townships after the internal DA battles left some in those areas disgruntled, according to the EFF provincial leadership.
The ACDP garnered just over 21,696 votes in 2014. Its support in the province has seen a continued decline at the polling stations since 2004.
There will 34 parties on the provincial ballot paper come May 8. While many of them are new and promise much, analysts don’t believe they are likely to have a significant impact.
African News Agency (ANA)