A couple of months ago, the leaders of the ruling party were just as shocked as the rest of the country when one of their own leaders was removed and replaced by a candidate from the Democratic Alliance. It can be said that the ANC councillors of Tlokwe literally handed the district over to the DA on a silver platter. ANC councillors voiced their lack of confidence in their ruling party colleague and mayor at the time, Maphetle Maphetle. Soon after that, DA councillor Annette Combrink took over as mayor.
The ANC promptly called the 14 councillors who participated in the motion of no confidence against Maphetle into a provincial disciplinary committee. In July, the offending councillors were expelled from the party but, the national disciplinary committee overturned that decision. One of the expelled councillors has become a thorn in the side of the ANC. Butiki “Stone” Mahlabe has since become an independent candidate in Ward 26 of the Tlokwe municipality and it seems he still has a large following among the residents of the area. Ward 26 has the biggest number of registered voters with just under 6 000 people eager to choose a candidate.
The Independent Electoral Commission is in charge of the elections in Tlokwe. The process has not been smooth sailing. Voting began on Wednesday amidst tension between supporters of ANC candidates and those of independent candidates, in particular those of Butiki Mahlabe.
The candidates for Ward 26 are Mahlabe and Oupa Mogoshane for the ANC. Samuel Maleke, a resident of Ward 26 spoke to the media and said: “People believe in Stone (Mahlabe). He used to bring service delivery and they don’t want to lose someone like him. They asked him to stand and vowed to support him.”
The ANC is equally confident that the results of Wednesday’s election will go in its favour. Oupa Mogoshane is certain that Mahlabe could only rely on the support of the people while he was still a member of the ANC. Mogoshane argues: “Now he’s outside the ANC, that’s not going to happen again.”
After heated altercations at the voting station in Ward 26, police presence was increased. The police remain present, alert and ready to respond accordingly in case the crowd becomes difficult to control. Accusations of voter intimidation flew about with claims that ANC supporters told the Mahlabe camp that he was still a member of the party and to vote for him, the voters had to select the ANC on the ballot paper.
Political analyst André Duvenhage of the North West University was quoted as saying: “We are talking about a 50/50 race. I think that the ANC probably has the advantage because they are using food parcels and other techniques.” Voting in Tlokwe will continue until 9pm on Wednesday. The eagerly awaited results are expected to be released early on Thursday.