So the results are all in, and they look something like this (thanks News24):
This map reminds me of the post that I wrote on the electoral map of the United States. So in that line of thought, if you’re a DA supporter, those results look even better when you consider this (thanks to WorldPopulationAtlas.org):
Which might also answer the same question that I saw all over Twitter:
Potential answer: because 1.3 million voters take a really long time to count. And when you consider that all the voters in this election had to fill in two ballot papers: one for their ward councillor and one for popular representation, you’re talking about 2.6 million votes to count.
That said, there were about the same number of voters in the City of Cape Town, and they didn’t take nearly as long to get through their counting. And as for Tshwane with their 900,000 voters – I have no idea.
But that aside, there are two kind of lingering questions that I see in social media:
- But these are just local government elections – and this was just a protest vote – what difference does it really make?
- How could the right-leaning DA and the ultra-left-wing EFF ever be proper coalition partners?
Why Local Government Elections Matter
Some numbers for you:
- Over the 2016/2017 financial year, total government spending is planned to be about R1.46 trillion.
- The four metros of Cape Town, Nelson Mandela Bay, Johannesburg and Tshwane are allocated about R125 billion of that collectively (for the record, I got that number from a City Press article – I haven’t properly fact-checked it, sorry).
- There are 26.3 million registered voters in South Africa. Only about 60% actually voted last Wednesday (15.8 million).
- Of those, 3.8 million voted in the four metros in which the ANC no longer holds an outright majority.
- That’s almost a quarter of the electorate – in four metropolitan hubs.
Historically, only one municipal metro has ever been held outright by the opposition: the City of Cape Town. In the last three elections, this has happened:
- In the 2006 elections, the DA won 42.26% of the vote, and formed a multi-party coalition to run Cape Town.
- In the 2011 elections, the DA won an outright majority with 61.15% of the vote.
- In these 2016 elections, the DA won an outright majority of 66.75% of the vote.
Now those might just be statistics, but if I could paraphrase all of the content that I’ve consumed on this: the on-the-ground reality of politics is that local government has the greatest influence on our lives. We might get a bit irritated when we read op-eds about national changes to the laws on the tax treatment of trusts – but it’s the uncollected rubbish, raw sewerage, water leaks, potholes, obstructive metro police on the hunt for bribes, strange public transport decisions, electric faults, and problems on rates accounts that no one can resolve – that’s the stuff that drives us really crazy.
And that seems to be the key point: the DA can do a lot with a coalition partner and R125 billion. At least, their track record in Cape Town seems to show that they do. And they seem to step beyond basic services – working with local businesses and tourism authorities and so on to facilitate economic growth on a metropolitan basis. So their strategy seems to be to deliver from the ground-up, rather than rely on the historical status of the ANC to demand the vote from the top-down.
To me, that seems like a pretty powerful plan. Once they get a toe-hold, they try to consolidate their power base by generally making things more efficient and more transparent. Whether they can actually deliver on two or three extra municipalities all within the next election cycle – that, I’m more skeptical of. My guess is that their support has just spiked for the next few years. But either way, there are strong multiplier effects to be had from holding the strings of the big metro budgets.
Why a DA-EFF coalition is a no-brainer
When it comes to local governments, there are not the same concerns around national policy. Municipalities can’t appropriate land, or demand higher mining royalties, or any of those big ideological issues where the DA and the EFF are so different.
What’s important at the local government level is service delivery – and service delivery in a manner that is both more efficient and less corrupt.
If there’s one thing that the DA and the EFF seem to share in common right now, it’s (ostensibly) the protest against government corruption and inefficiency.
And frankly, the EFF clearly appears to have shifted its policy position away from nationalisation and strongly toward anti-ANC, anti-corruption rhetoric. In particular, I’d point out last year’s split in the party leadership, where some of the most ardent advocates of the black consciousness movement were expelled from the EFF. Just go and have a look at the platform of the Black First Land First party that Andile Mngxitama set up after his expulsion. Clearly, someone didn’t like the direction that the EFF was taking.
My guess is that this coalition has already had long-standing agreement. But we’ll have to see if something doesn’t go wildly awry in the two weeks before mayors have to be appointed (always possible).
On a Positive Note
Actually, I think it all sounds really positive.