On November 29 elections were held across all the wards in Metsimaholo local municipality. The election followed the dissolution of the local council after it failed to pass a municipal budget. In the 2016 Local Government Elections no single party obtain a majority of votes or control of the local council. At that stage the ANC emerged as the single largest party with 45% of votes cast. Despite being the largest party the ANC was not able to form a majority coalition. ‘Control’ and the council fell to a coalition of the Democratic Alliance, Economic Freedom Fighters and the Metsimaholo Community Association (MCA).  Under the coalition the MCA candidate was appointed Executive Mayor.

However the MCA mayor proceeded to appoint only ANC members to the mayoral committee effectively breaking the coalition and giving ‘control’ to a MCA/ANC coalition. In essence the realignment resulted in a political stalemate with neither of the coalitions being able to wrest control of the council. With the resulting impasse the MCA/ANC coalition was unable to pass a budget. This, in turn, led to the dissolution of the council and the appointment of an administrator to run the municipality. The election of the 29th was meant to give the electorate a second chance to appoint a functioning council.

While several small parties that fared poorly in 2016 failed to contest the election the election heralded the entry of the SA Communist Party (SACP) into electoral politics. The SACP has been in a political alliance with the ANC and SACP for decades and has never contested elections outside the umbrella of that alliance.  Tensions within the ANC alliance have spurred the SACP to test its electoral support independently of the ANC. In Metsimaholo the SACP managed to secure slightly less than nine percent of votes cast. This leaves the SACP the fourth largest party in the municipality after, in order, the ANC, DA and EFF.

The biggest losers in the election were the ANC and the MCA. The ANC’s vote share dropped from 45 to 35 percent of votes cast. By contrast the vote shares of both the DA and EFF remained virtually unchanged. The DA share of votes dropped from 29% to 28%. The EFF, on the other hand, increased its vote share from 18% to 19%.

The biggest loser in the election is ultimately the MCA who’s 5% of votes in 2016 fell to less than 2%. This decline makes the MCA the seventh largest party in the municipality – smaller even than the FF Plus.

It would this seem that, with the exception of support for the MCA, the political affiliations of Metsimaholo voters has barely budged since the last election. If the votes of the traditional allies of the ANC and SACP are combined then their joint share remains virtually unchanged.

The dissolution of councils is followed by the holding of elections in the hope that a functioning council emerges. Metsimaholo indicates that changes in the political allegiance of voters may be very small but would, at least in this instance, have been sufficient to break the impasse even if the SACP not entered the contest.