In the first test of party support after the May General election, three by-elections were held on Tuesday last week.

The ANC managed to retain the two Mpumalanga wards it won in the Local Government Elections (LGE) of 2016.

In Nkomazi ward 32, despite the turnout dropping from 59% in 2016 to 35%, the ANC increased its winning margin to 90% of votes cast.

In Govan Mbeki’s ward 31, the ANC won with 53% of the vote. In the 2016 LGE  the ANC won 68% of the vote. Less than one-third (31%) of registered voters participated in the elections compared to the 42% of 2016.

The loss of ANC support was largely due to a swing to the EFF.

The EFF obtained only 82 votes fewer than the 611 received by the ANC. The EFF thus obtained  45% of the votes cast.

Despite the improvement in vote share support for the EFF, it was highly localised with the vast majority (83%) of votes coming from one of the two voting districts in the ward.

The third by-election was held in ward 30 of Matlosana municipality. In that elections the DA’s decline of fortune seen in the General Election accelerated and they lost the seat to the Freedom Front Plus (FF+).

Although voter turnout declined from the 53% of 2016 to 34% on Tuesday, the FF+ increased its number of votes from 662 to 946 – a rise of almost 50%.

The DA’s share of votes thus halved from the 62% it obtained in 2016 to 29% on Tuesday. In the May General election voters in the ward gave the DA a slim majority (51%) compared to 38% for the FF+. Thus indicates that their decline in support may be accelerating with 13% drop in vote share over two months.

The results come hot on the heels of the release of a survey into South African attitudes by Citizen Surveys. That survey shows widespread mistrust of political parties and politicians.

Almost 80% of respondents agreed with the statement that ” political parties just wanted their vote and that, afterwards, they will do whatever they want”.

It is perhaps this belief that accounts for both the poor turnout in the three elections and the rapid increase in support for less moderate alternatives like the EFF and FF+.