There are 19 councillors, one for each of the 10 wards in Knysna (WC048) and the other 9 proportional representatives i.e. those who next got the most votes.
Before the death of Ward 5’s DA councillor, Magda Williams, the DA held the majority in Council with 10 seats. The remaining 9 seats (7 ANC, 1 COPE & 1 Independent) had been voting together as Opposition. Minus Magda Williams and it was tie at 9 each, something that allowed the opposition alliance to negotiate for the first time in 3 years.
Knysna is volatile, having been controlled by both the ANC and the DA over the past 4 mayorships:
- Georlene Wolmarans (May 2011-present) (DA)
- Eleanore Bouw-Spies (May 2007-May 2011) (ANC)
- Doris Wakeford-Brown (December 2006-May 2007) (DA)
- Joy Cole (March 2006-December 2006) (ANC)
The outcome of the by-election for Ward 5 on July 2 2014 determines who controls Knysna.
In ‘The Political Future of Knysna and Plett?’, i was right in assuming that Eleonor Bouw, the previous ANC Mayor of Knysna, would run for political office again but did not predict her switching sides to the DA (let alone for a ward 20km from her home). What remains true in that blog was that, “There is, unfortunately, no way to avoid the colour of our skins when it arrives at the reality of politics. Traditionally, Black voters tick ANC whilst Whites opt for the DA.”
Ward 5 contains Belvidere, Brenton-On-Sea, Lake Brenton (Brenton-on-Sea), Eastford, Phantom Pass, Buffalo Bay, Rheenendal and Bibby’s Hoek. It may be a massive ward but the population is sparse in this area of natural beauty and farms.
Three-quarters of the voters are white so it’s no surprise, in the South African context, that Magda Williams (as coloured as she was, she was still DA) won the 2011 election with a massive 78% of the 2318 votes. If the scenario were repeated, just 1366 people would determine the political fate of Knysna. But it’s trickier this time…
Undoubtedly, simply by joining the DA, Eleonor Bouw has a massive advantage. I’ve doubted her honourable intentions in a previous blog but as a decision sans emotion, it was the right one for her. There’s simply no way rich white people along the coast and on the farms will be voting en masse for the ANC, not whilst the Zumas and the Malemas scare them. Furthermore, if the 2014 General Election is an indication of local hearts, the DA gained a slightly bigger lead over the ANC.
The trickier part lies in whether the ANC’s hope that some whites won’t be in attendance is fulfilled i.e. there may be many retirees but Knysna is also a holiday town so many of the swallows may be back in Johannesburg, for example, instead of at their holiday homes. That would be minimised as, surely, most will have registered to vote where they live most. But there are also those who live here but work in other cities such as Cape Town and across Gauteng (the province possessing the greatest concentration of wealth in South Africa – there is little work to be found in Knysna).
Approximately a third of the registered voters never voted last time. The ANC candidate, Alberto Marbi, believes that a lot of that apathy lay with the poor coloured youth in Rheenendal and surrounds. He hopes to motivate them. He also claims that they’ve registered over 200 new voters. If that’s true (i haven’t confirmed that with the IEC), then that’s impressive considering the small population.
The last consideration is local sentiment. There are those who are frustrated that Eleonor Bouw isn’t from their area but from Hornlee, seemingly a world away. It’s quite possible that there will be DA members disgruntled at being passed over for a ‘stranger’.
There’s no doubt that the ANC are treating this chance to win back power in Knysna very seriously. They’ve extended their stay in Oaks on Main, the building in the centre of town which they used during the General Election. I have had several sources confirming meetings being held there late into the night. On the ground, there has been hard campaigning with the ANC having crammed a community hall with potential voters.
But they have a white mountain to climb… and Eleonor Bouw, despite her faults (particularly her lack of transparency) is charismatic and already has the media on her side.