VOTERS in five provinces headed to the polls on Wednesday to contest municipal by-elections amid increasing campaigning by political parties.
These are not the last by-elections before national elections on May 7, but parties can be expected to make much of the results on Thursday.
A total 58,426 voters were eligible to take part in by-elections in nine wards, contested by 21 candidates from six political parties.
Three wards — two in the Nelson Mandela Bay region and one in East London — were being contested in the Eastern Cape.
The Nelson Mandela Bay metro is of interest to both the African National Congress (ANC) and Democratic Alliance (DA), as previous governance problems contributed to the ANC retaining the metro with a mere 1.9% majority in the 2011 local government elections.
The DA and ANC were each defending a ward in the province. The ANC ward became vacant after the death of its councillor, while the DA’s Stanford Slabbert was expelled from the party last year for circulating an email that the party said contained racist and offensive remarks about President Jacob Zuma.
In the Free State, the ANC and DA also sought to retain one ward each after the death of an ANC councillor in Qwa-Qwa and the resignation of a DA councillor in Parys.
A ward in Ngwaritisi municipality in Limpopo was to be contested by the Pan Africanist Congress and the ANC after a Congress of the People councillor resigned.
Two wards were to be contested in the North West province’s Mahikeng municipality on Wednesday, both as a result of the deaths of ANC councillors.
Factional politics and service delivery in the province were under the spotlight earlier this year, amid friction between the ANC’s provincial executive and Premier Thandi Modise after she placed the Madibeng municipality under administration following violent protests over water delivery.
The ANC in the North West on Tuesday called on voters to ensure an absolute victory in Mahikeng, saying the municipality had made significant progress in the provision of water, electricity and low-cost housing.
ANC North West provincial secretary Dakota Legoete said the ANC had also reduced poverty and made communities safer.