Analysis of the Metsimaholo 2017 by-election results and the coalition prospects in this Free State Municipality


Following the 2016 local elections, South Africa was gripped with coalition fever, with 27 municipalities having hung councils where no one political party has more than 50% of the allocated seats.

Forming coalitions is an exercise in real politics ( politics or diplomacy based primarily on considerations of given circumstances and factors, rather than explicit ideological notions or moral and ethical premises) and its therefore dangerous to predict the outcome of any coalition negotiations beforehand. Relying on what is speculated in the mainstream media is especially fraught with danger as evidenced in this article looking at what transpired in 2006 in Cape Town when parties were also faced with a hung council scenario Anatomy of a coalition coup: Are there lessons ahead of the August election?

In this blog post I will look at the municipal by-election that took place in the Metsimaholo  Municipality in the Free State on 29 November 2017, analyse the result and compare it with the 2016 local government elections that took place on 3 August 2016 and indicate what the most likely coalition government would be seeing that the no party again received 50 %+ of the allocated seats.


  • Total seats: 42
  • Minimum seats for a majority: 22
  • Seat allocation: ANC 19, DA 12, EFF 8, MCA 2, FF+ 1
  • Scenario: The ANC short 3 seats for a majority and the DA 10
  • Possible coalitions available at the time: The ANC could have partnered with the DA or EFF individually or together with the two smaller parties or just with the MCA (the Metsimaholo Community Association, a local party that might hold the balance of power) and FF+ who together holds 3 seats. The DA could have formed a coalition with the ANC or EFF but in the latter instance they will require the support of the one or both of the smaller parties.


The Democratic Alliance (DA) formed a coalition in the end with the Metsimaholo Community Association (MCA) and the Freedom Front Plus (FF+), supported by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), to govern the municipality. The MCA’s Sello Hlasa was elected mayor, while Arnold du Ploy and Linda Radebe of the DA were elected Speaker and Council Whip respectively.


The municipal council failed to adopt a budget for the 2017/18 financial year because of disagreements between the coalition members. As a result the council was dissolved in July 2017 and an administrator appointed by the provincial government.

For an overview of what went wrong with the DA, EFF, FF+ and MCA coalition read the following two articles:

Dissolving of council welcomed by DA


The run-up to the by-election was dominated by the news that the SAPC decided to field 42 candidates to contest the Metsimaholo by-election, a turning point for the party in that it for the first time contested elections alone without its alliance partner, the ruling African National Congress (ANC).

SACP fields 42 candidates in historic first solo by-election

SACP contesting Free State by-election ‘regrettable’, says ANC

SACP ‘Hasty’ Regarding Metsimaholo By-Elections – Cosatu

The SACP has the ANC over a barrel in Metsimaholo municipality

Metsimaholo by-elections an experiment to dislodge the ANC

Municipality up for grabs

Will the Metsimaholo by-elections bring relief to its beleaguered residents?

By-Election preview: All eyes on the big contest in Metsimaholo, Free State


Despite claims of irregularities and vote rigging in the Metsimaholo Municipality by-elections, the Local Government Minister Des Van Rooyen who was overseeing the process felt that all went well on election day –

Minister van Rooyen happy with Metsimaholo by-election

Earlier it was reported that Minister van Rooyen left Metsimaholo after EFF supporters allegedly blocked him from entering a polling station –

Van Rooyen leaves ‘voluntarily’ after EFF supporters allegedly block him in Metsimaholo

The SACP claimed that there was irregularities in the voting process –

SACP cries foul over Metsimaholo by-election voting process

The ANC called for an investigation into allegations of vote rigging in Metsimaholo –

ANC calls for an investigation into the allegations of vote rigging in Metsimaholo


Following the counting of the votes the IEC announced the Metsimaholo election results late on Friday 3 December 2017:

IEC releases Metsimaholo by-election results

Mets 1

Mets 2

The by-election results is depicted in the pictures above and summarised in the table below comparing it to the 2016 and 2011 local government election results:

Political Party

2011 % Votes

2016 % Votes

% Shifts 2011 to 2016

2017 % Votes

% Shifts 2016 to 2017


63.04 %

45.08 % – 17.96 % 30.24 %

– 14.84 %


28.97 %

35.22 % + 6.25 % 24.36 %

– 10,86 %

EFF Did not participate

17.87 %

+ 17.87 % 17.47 %

– 0.40 %

SAPC Did not participate


Did not participate

7.58 %

+ 7.58 %

Of the smaller parties the FF+ increased its percentage of the vote from 2.14% to 3.02%, the MCA’s percentage dropped from 4.91% to 1.48% whilst the support for COPE and the ACDP remained fairly constant. The Matatiele-based AIC party had an impressive foray into Metsimaholo. They won a PR seat and 2.11% of the vote.


Final seat allocation based on the by-election result were as follows:

  • ANC 16 (three less than in 2016),
  • DA 11 (one less than in 2016),
  • EFF 8 (sames as in 2016),
  • SACP 3 (did not participate in 2016),
  • MCA 1 (one less than in 2016),
  • FF+ 1 (same as in 2016),
  • AIC 1 (did not participate in this municipality in the 2016 elections),
  • F4SD 1 (did not participate in this municipality in the 2016 elections).


The following articles sets out some of the reactions to the outcome of the 2017 by-election in Metsimaholo:

Metsimaholo hangs in limbo as by-elections has no outright winner

‘Really massive collapse’ in ANC support in Free State by-election

ANC support down in Metsimaholo, SACP pick up 3 seats – IEC

DA Metsimaholo has voted for a new beginning – Patricia Kopane

Metsimaholo’s elections send strong signal – SACP

An analysis of by-election result in Metsimaholo indicates that:

  1. The ANC is continuing to loose voter support at an alarming rate (since the 2011 local government elections to the latest 2017 by-election their support in Metsimaholo dropped by a staggering 32%). The majority of their losses can be ascribed to voters voting for the EFF in 2016 and now again in 2017 and to the SACP in 2017. They also lost votes to other parties such as the DA and other smaller parties but up to 25% of their losses are the result of voter support gained at their expense by the EFF and SACP. This indicates how critical the SACP is for the ANC continued power base and the party will have to put all its energy into mending the fences with their alliance partner before the 2019 general election.
  2. The by-election result also confirmed the trend that the ANC’s support base is more robust in rural areas than suburban or urban areas as they did better in more rural based wards of Metsimaholo compared to those in the towns. The ANC will have to somehow regain the trust of the urban voters if it wants to have any hope of governing again nationally after the 2019 general election.
  3. The DA percentage of the votes in 2017 compared to 2017 dropped by nearly some 11%. While the party was propelled by high turnout in the suburbs in 2016, turnout this time round was sharply down in vote-rich areas for the DA, averaging at about 25% less than 2016. There was lower turnout in the ANC-held wards as well, but the lower turnout was not as pronounced.
  4. It also seems as if many former white DA voters in Metsimaholo this time around voted for the FF+ which indicates some extent of disillusionment with DA’s direction under Mmusi Maimane with many feeling that the DA has become nothing else than an ANC light version. This is a trend that the DA will have to counter if it wants to build on its election gains of previous national and local government elections.
  5. The DA also did not have enough growth in the townships of Metsimaholo to mask their decreasing returns in the suburbs, and ultimately increase their representation on the council. The DA will have to do better in the townships in 2019 it wants to build on its election gains of previous national and local government elections.
  6. The EFF made great strides in some township wards but their growth was not uniform, and in some ANC-held Metsimaholo wards their share of the vote went down. They ended up where they began with eight seats. The EFF did not manage to increase their percentage of the overall vote in the 2017 election compared to that of 2016 in the end, leading to questions as to whether the party is about to reach a ceiling of voter support?
  7. The SACP had a solid showing in their first electoral foray and was allocated 3 PR seats on the Metsimaholo Council. They came very close to also winning Ward 3 (Refengkgotso Deneysville), where the ANC beat them by 34 votes, getting 35% of the vote compared to their 34%. The SACP was able to get over 10% of the vote in six of the 16 ANC held wards. Will the SACP continue contesting elections or put that strategy on hold if their preferred candidate wins the presidential race at the ANC conference in a few weeks’ time?
  8. Despite the FF+’s solid growth on election day, they still only have one seat on Council. They were able to hurt the DA, but were not able to attract enough DA voters to get an additional PR seat.
  9. As indicated earlier the AIC had a an impressive foray into Metsimaholo. They won a PR seat and will be an ally for the ANC if they have any chance of ruling in Metsimaholo.
  10. The MCA ended up holding onto one of their two seats but will struggle to be the factor they were in Metsimaholo after the 2016 election.
  11. The F4SD did well to gain one seat following the election.
  12. The number of political parties represented on the Metsimaholo Council increased from only 5 in 2016 to 8 in 2017. I would not say that this is any indication that in future voters will be willing to vote in large numbers for smaller parties as in my view this is a trend typically only found in local government elections.


  • Seats required for overall majority = 22.
  • Scenario: The ANC requires 6 seats to form a majority and the DA 11.
  • Possible coalitions for the ANC: The ANC could partner with the DA or EFF individually or together with the other smaller parties to form a coalition government. Such a coalition with either the DA or EFF would however be highly unlikely and to govern without the DA or EFF they will have to secure the support of the SACP and three of the four smaller parties namely the FF+, AIC, MCA or F4SD who each gained 1 seat.
  • Possible coalitions for the DA: The DA could form a coalition with the ANC or EFF but in the instance of the EFF they will require the support of either the SACP or three of the four smaller parties namely the FF+, AIC, MCA or F4SD who each gained 1 seat.

The following article sets out the three possible coalition scenarios:

By-Election: Metsimaholo – with no outright winner and entry of SACP, prepare for strange bedfellows

The three possible coalition scenarios are as follows:

“Scenario 1: DA (11) + EFF (8) + VF+ (1) + MCA (1) + F4SD (1) 22/42

The most likely scenario would see the DA returning the favour to the EFF. This week the EFF lent their votes to the DA to help defeat motions of no confidence against the respective mayors of Johannesburg and Nelson Mandela Bay. The two parties together would have 19 out of the 22 votes needed to form a coalition which could govern in Metsimaholo. The most palatable party for both to work with would be the F4SD. Both parties were willing to work with the F4SD to rule in Rustenburg in North West. The F4SD was formed by aggrieved ANC members and they are more likely to work the opposition then the ANC. The opposition would need another two votes. The VF+ are not going to work with the ANC. The question is whether the EFF would want them in a coalition, and/or whether their supporters would tolerate them sitting with the EFF (and potentially the SACP). The MCA supported the opposition after the 2016 election. While the party was split, the leader who worked with the ANC is no longer in the party, and it is more plausible to expect them to work with the opposition again. So, the EFF and the DA have a realistic path to the needed 22/42 seats. The elephant in the room is the SACP and their valuable three seats.”

“Scenario 2: ANC (16)+SACP (3) + AIC (1) + MCA (1)-21/42 Hung Council.

The ANC knows that the first party to join them in a coalition in Metsimaholo would not be their tripartite alliance partner, the SACP, but the AIC. The ANC (16) + AIC (1) would leave the ANC five short of the magical number of 22. Let’s assume that Gwede Mantashe can broker a deal between the ANC and the SACP, and even offer the SACP the mayoral chain – that would still only take the ANC coalition to 20. They would be two short. The MCA had mixed feelings last time, and maybe the ANC could persuade them again. We would now be in hung council territory: 21. Unless the ANC offered the F4SD some rich pickings in Rustenburg, where they could offer them a place in the coalition, it is unlikely for the F4SD to work with the ANC. We know that the DA, the EFF and the VF+ will not work with the ANC. Thus it is more plausible that the ANC will not be governing in Metsimaholo.”

“Scenario 3: DA (11) + EFF (8) + SACP (3)

Ironically, a scenario which would be most stable numerically but the least stable ideologically would be a coalition with the DA (11) EFF (8) and the SACP (3) which would give them 22 seats. The DA would have to resign itself to either an EFF or an SACP mayor. The coalition could count on support from the F4SD, VF+ and possibly the MCA on policies which would suit the smaller parties, but at the same time they would not be held ransom by the smaller parties. The DA would be reluctant passengers here, but no scenario is ideal for them. Neither scenario 2 nor 3 is ideal for the SACP, and of course, scenarios 1 and 3 are not ideal for the EFF. Strange bedfellows will be holding hands in Metsimaholo.”


The South African Communist Party (SACP) has indicated that it is willing to enter into a coalition with the ANC in Metsimaholo municipality in the Free State provided the governing party meets its “conditions” which include a commitment to respect the people, fight corruption and tackle corporate capture.

SACP sets terms for ANC coalition

Where to now for Metsimaholo?

The most likely outcome for me would be a coalition between the DA (11), EFF (8), FF+ (1), MCA (1) and the F4SD (1) giving such a coalition the 22 votes to form a majority government in Metsimaholo. Only time will however tell as coalition politics sometimes makes for strange bedfellows.


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