These are the places to watch in the 2016 elections in SA

As focus turns to the Local Government Elections in South Africa, BusinessTech looks back at the closest calls from the 2014 National Elections, to determine where to watch in the 2016.

Local government elections votes are cast for governing representatives on a metropolitan, local and district level as opposed to the large-scale, party level of the National elections.

The DA has revealed that it plans to focus on the “big five” municipalities in South Africa in 2016, with strategies in place to target the municipalities of Tshwane, Johannesburg, Tlokwe, Nelson Mandela Bay and Cape Town.

However, the ANC has also made its own strategic moves, shifting the municipal boundaries of a few municipalities ahead of the elections.

Read: SA municipal boundaries changed ahead of 2016 elections

In 2014 the ANC won comfortably on a national and provincial level, scoring a 62.15% majority with only the Western Cape electing a Democratic Alliance rule.

However, the race to govern did feature a few close calls on a municipal level, with the ANC experiencing a decline in a number of key municipalities from previous elections.

While different in structure, data from the National Elections does provide a good gauge for the political sway of the populace, specifically the results from wards and municipalities on the provincial cards.

Gauteng - Tshwane
Gauteng – Tshwane

Gauteng

The race to win Gauteng is arguably the biggest prize given the province’s economic importance, accounting for more than 30% of the country’s entire GDP.

The City of Joburg municipality is expected to be hotly contested due in large part to the implementation of e-tolls and a lack of service delivery which has hurt the ANC.

The ruling party’s popularity in the City of Joburg waned substantially in the 2014 elections, down over 10% from 2009, to 52.3%, from 62.35% in 2009.

In the 2011 local elections it won 58.56%.

However, while Joburg grabs headlines, the gap between ANC and the next biggest party in the municipality (the DA) is 19.9%; in two other municipalities the race is a lot closer.

The DA achieved 29.76% of the votes in Johannesburg in 2014, and 30.78% of the Gauteng vote, up from 20.84% and 21.27% respectively in 2009.

Tshwane municipality saw its area coverage grow between 2009 and 2014, which led to the ANC losing over 10% in votes.

The ANC saw its rule slide below 50%, to 49.31%, in 2014, from 59.95% in 2009 and 55.32% in the 2011 local government election.

The DA attained 38.7% in the local municipal elections in 2011 however, and still has a fair gap to make up after the 2014 elections – 15.6% – after it received 354,403 votes, or 33.8%, while the newcomers, EFF attained 11.2%.

The gap is narrower in the Midvaal municipality, where the DA has a 13.3% lead over the ANC, but the trend between 2009 and 2014 saw the DA’s lead grow.

Western Cape - Witzenberg
Western Cape – Witzenberg

Western Cape

The Western Cape is set apart from other provinces in South Africa by being the only province that is not majority-run by the ruling ANC.

In the Western Cape, The DA took 1.26 million votes (59.38%) in 2014, versus 698,000 votes for the ANC, or 32.89%.

Following the local elections in 2011, the DA commanded 61.1% of the council seats in the Cape Town City Council, against 33% for the ANC.

In the municipality of Witzenberg, in the Cape Winelands where Ceres is the most prominent town, the DA’s winning margin in 2014 was a mere 0.96%.

Other close calls include Bitou municipality – formerly Plettenberg Bay Municipality – the ANC has a 2.52% advantage, while in Swellendam municipality it has a 2.69% advantage.

There is also a close race between the DA and the Independent Civic Organisation of South Africa (ICOSA) in the Kannaland municipality (4.46% lead in favour of ICOSA), after the former lost to the latter between 2009 and 2014.

Kannaland covers Ladismith and Calitzdorp.

Eastern Cape - Nelson Mandela Bay
Eastern Cape – Nelson Mandela Bay

Eastern Cape

Analysts peg the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality as a hot property in the 2016 elections. In 2014, the ANC won a majority in the region with 48.81% – only 8% ahead of the DA.

The ruling party secured a 52.1% majority in the 2011 local government elections , while the DA stood at 40.2% (146,559).

The ANC recently moved to appoint a new mayor for the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan, Danny Jordaan.

The South African Football Association (Safa) president, was sworn in as the Port Elizabeth Council’s mayor late last month just as US federal authorities stated that bribes were paid to secure the hosting of the 2010 World Cup.

The Baviaans municipality is an even closer race, where the ANC led with 49.83% of the vote – 2.32% ahead of the DA, which lost the region between 2009 and 2014.

It lies within the Cacadu District and is named after the Baviaanskloof.

Mpumalanga - Steve Tshwete
Mpumalanga – Steve Tshwete

Mpumalanga

The ANC controls Mpumalanga with a comfortable 78.22% majority. There isn’t a single municipality where the party doesn’t control a majority of less than 65%.

The closest municipal battle in 2014 was in Steve Tshewete municipality, where the ANC’s 66.28% majority lead the DA by 44.4%.

Limpopo - Thabazimbi
Limpopo – Thabazimbi

Limpopo Province

The ANC comfortably leads Limpopo province with a 78.6% majority. The closest run on a municipal level in 2014 was in the Thabazimbi municipality where the ANC secured 55.7% of the vote, 36.47% ahead of the DA.

The gap did however narrow from 63.41% in 2009.

North West - Tlokwe
North West – Tlokwe

North West Province

The ANC leads the North West Province with a clear majority (67.39%) with no out-standing provincial opposition, according to 2014’s results.

Tlokwe municipality – formerly Potchefstroom Local Municipality – has played host to a number of well-publicized ward battles between the ANC and the DA.

The ANC however, still dominates by a gap of 19.51%, snatching 51.83% of the vote in 2014.

Free State - Metsimaholo
Free State – Metsimaholo

Free State

The Free State is also comfortably dominated by the ANC, where it enjoys almost 70% of the vote, based on 2014’s data.

Metsimaholo municipality, which borders Gauteng, has the narrowest gap between the ANC and its closest competitor – the DA.

Here, the former leads 33.2% ahead of the latter with 58.8% of the vote.

Northern Cape - Karoo Highland
Northern Cape – Karoo Highland

Northern Cape

The sparsely populated Northern Cape Province doesn’t have a ‘close’ race, looking at 2014 data. The closest would be the Karoo Highlands, which saw all but three wards won by the DA – yet the ANC scored a majority with 48.6% of the vote – 19% ahead of the DA.

In 2009, the region was a close call between the ANC and the then-upstart, COPE, where the margin was just over 1% in favour of the ANC.

KwaZulu Natal - Hlabisa
KwaZulu Natal – Hlabisa

KwaZulu Natal

KwaZulu Natal, historically an IFP stronghold, was set apart from the rest of the country as the only province in which the DA was not the biggest opposition. In 2014, however, it lost that title as the DA gained votes to become the second largest party in the province.

However, the closest municipal battle for control in 2014 was still between the ANC and the IFP.

Hlabisa municipality is run by the ANC with a 0.68% lead over the IFP. The IFP lost the region between 2009 and 2014, after municipal borders were shifted.

Hlabisa, a very rural district, has a population at just more than 71,000 and the largest town being Mtubatuba in the south, and Hluhluwe,which is known for its game reserves.

In the Nongoma municipality, the ANC is not a factor, with the battle for leadership between the IFP and the NFP, which is just under 10% ahead of the IFP.

Located in the northeastern part of Zululand, Nongoma is the home of King Goodwill Zwelethini, the hereditary traditional leader of the Zulu nation, and his royal palaces are among the main tourist attractions in the region.

Data and maps sourced from News24’s extensive Elections 2014 coverage.

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These are the places to watch in the 2016 elections in SA