SOUTH AFRICAN ELECTIONS 2021 – A gradual shift to a shared future

SOUTH AFRICAN ELECTIONS 2021 – A gradual shift to a shared future

By Cheryllyn Dudley – former MP, Author and Dia LOGOS Political Analyst

As South Africans prepared to vote in the local government elections that would determine the direction of our municipalities for the next five years, commentators, expressed the common thought that voter turnout would significantly determine the results.  This observation however did not throw much light on the possible outcome. 

The IEC revealed that only about 26 million South Africans registered to vote in the 2021 elections and 19,8 million (75.5%) actually turned out to cast their vote (as counted at 21:00 on 3 November). SA has a population of about 60 million. This means some 6 million SA registered voters and many more who did not register, chose to leave the choice of who runs their local council to just 19.8 million.

The lower than expected voter turnout could have been due to apathy, challenges on the day, weather… or it could be a protest vote or the result of a lack of trust in political institutions. While we can all relate, we thank God for those who refused to give up and chose to stand in the gap in prayer and voting despite the temptation to fall into apathy, despondency or rebellion. 

The 2021 municipal election campaigns highlighted the diversity of South Africa and the perceived racial divides, yet major differences in manifesto promises were not that obvious. Most who would normally predict results with confidence hesitated in the face of the relative similarities across many party lines – except of course for the personalities heading the parties or individual campaigns. What stands out of course is the welcome freedom people experienced as they expressed their own specific brand of individualism or collectivism and proudly put our much cherished ‘diversity’ on display.  

Results in the metropolitan municipalities where almost 70% of South Africans work and live, reflect both optimism and to some degree the old adage of “better the devil you know than the one you don’t” while still sending a message to their parties that they can and will be punished at the polls if they don’t deliver. 

As seemed likely, in Nelson Mandela Bay the DA (39.07%) and the ANC (40.8%) are running neck in neck, the EFF a distant third (6.75%) and the GOOD party, UDM, FF Plus, ACDP, and the Patriotic Alliance (PA) just getting a foot in the door. 

Based on the proportional representation (PR) votes the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) predictions for the country’s metropolitan municipalities puts:

  • Johannesburg at – ANC 36.3%,  DA 31.4%, EFF 12.2%, ActionSA 9.4%. 
  • Ekurhuleni at – ANC 39.3%, DA 29.8%, EFF 12.8%, ActionSA 6.3%. 
  • Tshwane at – ANC 34%, DA 34.3%, EFF 12% ActionSA 6%.

The IFP looks to be the biggest surprise to date and while vote-counting is slow in KwaZulu-Natal, the IFP rather than the EFF seems to have taken the edge off the ANC’s prominence in the province.  The Freedom Front Plus (VF+) have managed to take advantage of the current political situation and won seats in many councils it had not served on for many years, and will be the official opposition in at least one municipality (Koster) in North West. It seems the floating NP votes that veered to the DA for a season have returned home to strengthen the VF+. 

Parties with majority coloured support, like the Patriotic Alliance (PA), Good Party and the Cape Coloured Congress (CCC), have clearly impacted on the DA and the ANC in the Western Cape and Gauteng.  Daily Maverick points out that “Gayton McKenzie’s PA not only solidified its strong showing in Eldorado Park in the south of Johannesburg, but set itself as kingmaker in a number of rural municipalities”. In the meantime Community Forums, are giving the ANC a run for their money in formerly strong ANC municipalities. 

These local government elections are indeed reflecting the shift expected with regards to separating local and National issues and alliances. The bigger parties who have had the false impression that their support could be taken for granted will have to step up to the plate or continue to decline – favour comes but it usually only lasts for a season. The impossible task of pleasing everyone has at least been unmasked at a local level. Now we need to hope and pray for a level of maturity that will enable parties to work together for the common good of all who reside in their communities. 

In my view, coalition governments have not proved effective or efficient but this should not mean that they can’t put the people above their ego’s if they choose to. 

The way our cities are managed as we go forward, will impact significantly on how people perceive life in South Africa and will help stimulate or stifle local and international investment and tourism. The signs of a healthy democracy however, like it or not, are that things will always look somewhat messy, iffy and noisy.  While South Africa’s democratic politics has generally been dominated by what has been referred to as ‘elite’ parties like the ANC, DA and EFF returning to councils either as a majority or significant opposition, this election gave little room for the usual confidence and arrogance. This has to be good!

Declarations regarding coalitions will now be tested. The DA is on record that it will not go into coalitions with the EFF again. Smaller Parties like the UDM, Patriotic Alliance and ACDP, have played the role of kingmaker in the past and are likely to do so again but with many newer, stronger local parties in the mix. 

Of course, many of us were eager to see how independent candidates, backed by Maimane’s One South Africa Movement would fare and how they will align themselves. Especially since the 2024 elections will feature independents on the national and provincial ballots for the first time.  Time will tell as the story unfolds.  Now is a time to help those who made it be the best they can be. We are as much responsible for their success as they are. 

My opinion is that: The more we are aware of the temptation to place Individual and party interests above those of the country as a whole and the more we make concerted efforts to resist the temptation – we will experience more of the best of a people who choose to value diversity and unity. I came to understand, in time that a biblical perspective accepts the imperfection of the world and sought to serve, preserve and bless, doing what I could to make society – not perfect but – as just as possible.  A justice that measures political systems by the quality of justice the system secures for the poorest of the poor and weakest of the weak, that seeks ways to work with whatever political leadership we have, not accepting the myth that one leader will be all good and another all bad, and a justice that always looks for ways to move towards redemptive restitution and restoration.

On the issue of unity I also couldn’t agree more with Solly Moeng, CEO of DonValley Reputation, who said recently: “The unity we need cannot be imposed from outside. It must come from within. If we fail again to appreciate the bigger picture, misplaced levels of racial suspicion and intolerance will continue to rise and only benefit the plethora of opportunistic political entrepreneurs whose numbers keep rising”.   

Our hope as Christians however need not waver as we read in Luke 18:27 that Jesus, told those who questioned him that what is impossible for man is possible with God. Yes, what is impossible for man is made possible with God and He who touched our hearts can touch others. 


By Mike Burnard – Analytical strategist at dia-LOGOS

For those who expected a more drastic change in local and national government, the outcome of the elections might be disappointing.  But there are three points to consider when analysing the results

  1. In Africa, sudden political shifts are never conducive to peaceful transitions. We need gradual movements of change to secure peaceful transitions and fortunately, this election secured just that.  The ANC has gone from 65% in 2005 to 62% in 2011 to 54% in 2016 and now a predicted 46% in 2021.  This is a healthy trend in a maturing democracy and as Christians, we should rejoice that God is dealing gently with us as a nation.  Never be disheartened by gradual change.  God has His ways and His time, and we should rejoice in that
  2. Patience is a good virtue ONLY if exercised with perseverance and continuity. All South Africans now need to build patiently on this platform of democracy for a better and a shared future.  We cannot stop now, and we dare not lose hope.  For those who did not get who they voted for, rejoice that you were able to participate in an event that celebrated your freedom, not your victory.  Nearly all countries on Earth call themselves democracies but according to the best metrics we have, only 86, or 44% of them, meet the standard required for democratic participation. South Africa is one of them – count your blessings.
  3. Let’s not waste the lessons we’ve learnt from a painful past. Reconciliation is now more achievable than ever before.  Let’s not get side-tracked by those who seek to promote agendas and personal egos.  Let us, therefore, remember these words of Paul:  2 Corinthians 5:19-20  that God … has committed to us the message of reconciliation.  We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.

I want to close with the words of my colleague, Cheryllyn Dudley:  “We can do so much more than just identify problems  and criticize”.  Let’s give thanks for peaceful elections and let’s move forward like people who have hope, faith, and eternity at heart


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