Signs of electoral change in Khayelitsha

In a one-party dominant, multi-party system like South Africa signs of electoral volatility are often obscured or masked by aggregate election results. A scrutiny of the election data at its micro- level component, such as Wards and Voting Districts, is therefore useful to identify signs of electoral change.

Khayelitsha is one of the largest and fastest growing townships in South Africa. Sitting on the periphery of Cape Town, it has always remained an ANC heartland in a city governed by the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) after the 2006 coalition when the party formed a multi-party coalition. The DA went on to win an outright majority in the 2011 elections in the city with 61% of the PR vote. However, the DA has faced a significant impediment to its growth in the traditional ANC strongholds across the city’s townships. While the party consolidated the opposition vote, its performance in townships like Khayelitsha, Gugulethu and Langa did not challenge the ANC.

A closer look at 2016 municipal election results in seven key wards in Khayelitsha suggest that opposition parties have started to penetrate this important ANC constituency. A similar pattern holds across all Wards. While the ANC continue to hold a clear majority, it has experienced significant decreases in support. In contrast, opposition parties have grown their support bases. For example, Ward 87 shows a drop of 22 percentage points for the ANC from 93% in 2011 71% in 2016. The DA has growth from 3% to 8% and the EFF secured 8%. Similarly, in Ward 18 the Ac lose 18% percentage points from 89-71%, while the DA increase its share from 2-13% and the EFF hold 10%.

The DA’s growth should not be exaggerated given that it remains for the most part in the single digits, but undoubtedly the party will be happy with its performance. Struggling to shake off its image as a party that represents largely white, middle class interests, the DA has rarely achieved more than 3% in these Wards. Likewise, the EFF will be delighted with its inroads as a newcomer party to local elections. Of course, a key question that the DA will puzzle over is whether the EFF’s presence has effectively reduced its own ability to grow at a quicker rate? Without the EFF would more disgruntled ANC voters have switched their vote to the DA, pushing up their overall vote share in these Wards?

We see increased support for opposition parties in a traditional ANC stronghold like Khayelitsha because of a combination of increased party competition and directed campaigning strategies. In past elections, disgruntled ANC supports have chosen to not participate at the polls rather than cast a vote for the opposition. This inadvertently helps to secure a strong vote share for the ANC despite decreases in actual support. In 2016, however, voters were confronted with greater competition and choice than in previous elections. Voters are generally mobilised to vote when they perceive that there is a party that represents their interests. Moreover, a focused campaign strategy also helped the DA and EFF make inroads into Khayelitsha, ensuring that voters are exposed to repeated campaign messaging from these alternative political homes. Evidently, these factors resonated. For the first time, across Khayelitsha in 2016 the DA, EFF and smaller parties like the African Independent Congress (AIC) garnered between 20% to 30% of the vote share.

Table: Ward results in %’s


Party 2011 2016 % difference
Ward 18 ANC 89 71 -18
  EFF 10  
  DA 2 13 11
  AIC 2  
Ward 87 ANC 93 71 -22
  EFF 8  
  DA 3 8 5
  IND 8  
Ward 92 ANC 93 76 -17
  EFF 12  
  DA 2 8 6
  AIC 2  
Ward 93 ANC 92 84 -8
  EFF 7  
  DA 2 5 3
  AIC 3  
Ward 95 ANC 93 83 -10
  EFF 7  
  DA 1 6 5
  AIC 2  
Ward 96 ANC 91 80 -9
  EFF 7  
  DA 2 9 7
  AIC 2  
Ward 98 ANC 95 83 -12
  EFF 8  
  DA 1 5 4



Collette Schulz-Herzenberg, Stellenbosch University


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