The 2016 Local Government Elections and the Metros - Part II: The Base Line for 2016

Charles Simkins | Jul 02, 2015
The first Brief in this series dealt with important rules of the game. This Brief takes the next step and projects a base line for 2016.
The Municipal Demarcation Board (MDB) proposes nine metropolitan areas for the 2016 elections.  The table below sets them out, along with the total number of seats and wards allocated to each, as well as the number of registered voters in each:

  Seats Wards Voters
BUF Buffalo City  [East London] 100 50 413,576
CPT Cape Town 231 116 1,911,429
EKU Ekuruhleni  [East Rand] 229 115 1,594,407
ETH Ethekwini  [Durban] 219 110 1,843,123
JHB Johannesburg 270 135 2,184,484
MAN Mangaung  [Bloemfontein] 97 49 402,913
MVE Midvaal  [Meyerton] /Emfuleni  [Vereeniging] 100 50 411,017
NMA Nelson Mandela  [Port Elizabeth] 119 60 592,749
TSH Tshwane  [Pretoria] 214 107 1,456,362
  Total 1579 792 10,810,060

Eight of these metropolitan areas existed at the time of the 2011 municipal elections, but the ninth is new. MVE is composed of two local municipalities:  Midvaal and Emfuleni, the combination promoted to metro status.

There have been some boundary changes in the other eight metros.  Cape Town, Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela and Tshwane will remain as they were in 2011.  Buffalo City is to be augmented by 24 voting districts in four blocks, Ekuruhleni by about 35 voting districts extending south to Heidelberg and east to Devon, Ethekwini by 30 voting districts in the south west and Mangaung by three voting districts in the north.

Although registered metro voters will account only for between 40 and 45 per cent of all registered voters in 2016, there are two reasons for paying particular attention to the metros.  First, the percentage of GDP generated by the metros is considerably higher, well over 50% of national GDP.  Secondly, and more importantly here, what happens in the metros will be the most sensitive indicator of shifts (or the lack of them) in party support since the national election in 2014.  The 2016 local government outcomes will have implications beyond the local level and beyond 2016.

Before making a baseline projection of 2016 election outcomes, two preliminary points must be made.  First, local government elections have considerably lower turnouts than national elections.  The median voter turnout in the nine new metros in the national election of 2014 was 76.2%, whereas the median turnout in the local government election of 2011 was 51.8%.  This is not peculiar to South Africa; generally in democracies round the world, local government elections have lower turnouts than national elections, since there is less at stake.  However, in closely contested metros, an important determinant of a party’s success will be the ability to get as many of its supporters to the polls.

Secondly, not a single metro returned an independent in 2011.  South Africans, it seems, are party animals and the assumption will be made that they will remain so in 2016.    

The baseline scenario is constructed assuming that the pattern of party support everywhere will be exactly the same as it was in the 2014 national election.  Since the outcomes in each voting district in 2014 are published and since the voting districts in each metro are known, this calculation is possible and it leads to the following table.  Parties not gaining a vote in any metro are excluded.

Seat allocation Same voting pattern as 2014 national election
  BUF CPT EKU ETH JHB MAN MVE NMA TSH All
African Christian Democratic Party 1 3 2 1 2   1 1 2 13
African Independent Congress 1 1 1 1 1   1 1 1 8
African National Congress 69 75 130 144 145 62 65 59 109 858
Agang South Africa   1 1   2       1 5
Al Jama-Ah   2   1 1         4
Bushbuckridge Residents Association           1       1
Congress of the People 1 1 1 1 2 1 1 2 1 11
Democratic Alliance 18 137 61 50 80 20 23 48 67 504
Economic Freedom Fighters 6 6 24 6 27 8 7 5 25 114
Inkatha Freedom Party     2 7 4         13
Kingdom Governance Movement           1       1
Minority Front       2   1       3
National Freedom Party     2 5 2         9
Pan Africanist Congress of Azania 1 1 1   1   1   1 6
Peoples Alliance           1       1
United Congress           1       1
United Democratic Movement 3 2 1 1 2     2 1 12
Vryheidsfront Plus   2 3   1 1 1 1 6 15
Total 100 231 229 219 270 97 100 119 214 1579
Majority 51 116 115 110 136 49 51 60 108  

The outcomes are:

A DA majority in Cape Town
A coalition in Nelson Mandela
ANC majorities in the remaining seven metros.

Note that the amalgamation of Midvaal and Emfuleni will result in the demise of the only municipality outside the Western Cape controlled by the DA.  The number of voters in Emfuleni is much larger than the number in Midvaal and Emfuleni has a large ANC majority.  

The redrawing of boundaries in four metros slightly favours the ANC in the baseline scenario as the following table indicates:

ANC support 2011 boundaries 2016 boundaries
Buffalo City 68.0% 68.6%
Ekuruhleni 56.4% 56.7%
Ethekwini 65.4% 65.5%
Mangaung 64.1% 64.2%

The final brief in this series will consider the effects of possible changes in the pattern of party support in 2016.

Charles Simkins
Senior Researcher
charles@hsf.org.za