Stakes high in crucial by-elections

Outcome could tip the balance of power

20 November 2013

With exactly a week to go before one of the most hotly contested by-elections in the Eastern Cape, the ANC and DA have stepped up their campaigns as they prepare to go toe-to-toe for control of the Kouga Municipality.

The outcome of the by-elections in Wards 5 and 9, which are in Humansdorp and Hankey respectively, could tip the balance of power in the area, which the ANC currently controls with only one seat more than the DA.

The ANC had 15 seats in the Kouga municipal council and the DA had 14, but this was reduced to 14 and 13 seats when, councillors Lulamile Ntshiza CANC) and Eugene Groep (DA) died in September.

For Ward 5, in Humansdorp, which is currently a DA ward, the ANC has fielded Kouga mayor Booi Koerat to run against the DA's Desmond Peterson.

And in Hankey Ward 9 which is an ANC ward, the ANC has chosen veteran Xolisile Percent to run against the DA's Otto Williams, who is a former

ANC chief whip and mayor in the area:

Both parties are confident that they will win the two wards and govern the municipality after next Wednesday's by-elections.

ANC regional secretary for the Sarah Baartman region Scara Njadayi said he had "no doubt in [his] mind" that the ANC would continue to govern the Kouga municipality after the by-elections. "The people who think they will take Kouga from the ANC are just dreaming ... The ANC's strength will remain unshaken," Njadayi said." He said ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe would be campaigning in the area on Friday and Saturday.

DA MP and constituency leader for the area Elza van Lingen said: "We believe we've reached a tipping point because people are so fed-up with no services. Staunch ANC people are coming over to join the DA and our sup-port is really growing".

She said DA MPs Donald Lee and Helen Lemoela were campaigning in the area this week-as well as Western Cape legislature speaker Richard Majola and Plettenburg Bay mayor Memory Booysen.

The Kouga municipal region consists of several towns, including Jeffreys Bay, Humansdorp, Hankey, St Francis Bay, Cape St Francis and Thornhill.

A large majority of the population are poor and rely heavily on the government for social grants and housing, particularly in Hankey, Thornhill and parts of Jeffreys Bay. This is in stark contrast to the wealthy in Cape St Francis and St Francis Bay as well as some in Jeffreys Bay.

Koerat believes the ANC has delivered on its promises to the poor since 1994 and that this is what will clinch the vote for him.

"I'm feeling well and geared up for this election. The community asked me to stand for them and the people are very excited be-cause they know with the ANC in power, things will happen.

People are happy because they have been getting houses and geysers and I believe the ANC is the only organisation that can do that for the people."

Koerat is the mayor and a PR councillor. Should he win, he would be mayor and a ward councillor. This means the ANC would have to deploy another member to fill the PR councillor vacancy.

His opponent, Peterson, said he was a well-known community leader in Humansdorp as a youth pastor and elder in the church.

"I'm very optimistic and confident that the DA can govern the municipality. I do a lot of home visits and I've had public meetings and the response has been positive," Peterson said.

Williams, a former ANC mayor of Hankey before 2000, said he had infiltrated three of the ANC strongholds in the town.

"In the last election, the Stofwolk area was an ANC area, but it's [now] a DA area because we have recruited lots of DA card-carrying members.

"Centerton is a stronghold of the ANC, but today it's divided because I have managed to get a lot of members for the DA. Rosedale was an ANC stronghold too, but we've made inroads there [too]."

Percent said the ANC won Ward 9 by about 1 000 votes in 2011 and he did not think the DA could have garnered enough support since then to gain the 1 000 votes.

"I'm not undermining the opposition, but I don't think they've recovered to the extent that they will get all those votes. I think our chances of winning are quite good," Percent, who is the former ANC chairman of the old Tsitsikamma region, said.

Source: The Herald

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