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Cablegate: Western Cape by-Elections

P 111539Z DEC 08
FM AMCONSUL CAPE TOWN
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2893
INFO AMEMBASSY PRETORIA
AMCONSUL JOHANNESBURG
AMCONSUL DURBAN

UNCLAS CAPE TOWN 000243


E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KDEM SF
SUBJECT: WESTERN CAPE BY-ELECTIONS

1. (U) Summary: The ordeals of the African National Congress (ANC)
in the Western Cape do not appear to be abating. As rumors of
defections from within the ANC abound and deadlines to contest the
local by-elections are missed, the party is now plagued by calls to
disband its Western Cape Executive and heavy losses at the polls.
In spite of reported ANC led intimidation and some violence, the
Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Congress of the People (COPE) were
the big winners in the Western Cape. End summary

2. (U) A number of municipal by-elections took place on December
10, 2008 in order to fill seats in various municipalities left
vacant by resignations of councilors who have joined COPE. All
parties wishing to participate in the by-elections were required to
register with the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) by 27
November 2008. The ANC in the Western Cape, however, failed to
register twelve of its candidates for the by-election and was
excluded from the race for these council seats in Cape Town.

3. (U) The ANC retaliated by taking the IEC to the high court in an
application for an urgent interdict allowing it to participate in
the by-elections. The application was rejected and the ANC has
subsequently lodged an appeal with the Constitutional Court of South
Africa. The elections were, however, scheduled to proceed without
the ANC.

4. (U) On December 6, City Press newspaper reported that President
Motlanthe recently told a Johannesburg ANC meeting that he believed
the Western Cape provincial leadership under provincial chairperson,
Mcebisi Skwatsha, should be dissolved. The ANC leadership in the
Western province has been surrounded by controversy for quite some
time, members are accused of being power hungry, senior local ANC
leaders claim branch meetings are a mess, people are bussed in to
make up a quorum and meetings often erupt in violence. The ANC
recently expelled many of its regional secretaries in the Western
Cape and local members feel that the only thing that helped Skwatsha
maintain order was the fact that he had strong regional secretaries
who did the hard work and were able to cover for his inefficiency.
Cape Town's newspapers have reported that the ANC Secretary General,
Gwede Mantashe, severely reprimanded Skwatsha and provincial
secretary Sipho Kroma for failing to take the registration process
seriously.

5. (U) The Western Cape is the only part of the country in which
the ANC is not dominant, and has been the case since the end of
apartheid. There are a number of reasons for this trend; - the first
of these is that there is a large, affluent, powerful white upper
and upper-middle class in Cape Town and the second is the presence
of an independent and large colored community that has often steered
its own course, who do not see themselves automatically beholden to
the ANC. Opposition parties have established a foothold in the
province, and, as a consequence, have focused on shoring their base
in this part of the country.

6. (U) There were 27 by-elections in the Western Cape, eight of
them in Cape Town. Voting was hindered by angry ANC supporters who
marched through the streets urging voters to stay away from the
polls and preventing voters from entering the polling stations and,
in some cases, resorting to intimidation and violence. The DA filed
a formal complaint with the IEC against the ANC and its supporters.
Voting was, however, slow and the turnout lower than expected.

7. (U) The final results published by the IEC indicate that the ANC
won three seats, COPE's independents 10, the DA nine and the
Qwon three seats, COPE's independents 10, the DA nine and the
Independent Democrats (ID) five of the 27 seats contested in the
Western Cape. The big winners of the day appear to be COPE and the
DA, who both increased their support base in the region. In the
Western Cape, the DA won nine out of 18 wards previously held by the
ANC. Four of these nine wards were contested by the ANC. The DA
also registered significant increases in support in black wards. In
Kosovo in Cape Town, the DA increased its share of the vote from 0.3
percent in 2006 to 25 percent and in Langa they increased from 2.2
percent in 2006 to 16.5 percent. There was also a swing away from
the ID to the DA and COPE in Cape Town. In Mitchells Plein, the DA
won 91.5 percent of the vote (up from 42.5 percent in 2006) compared
to the ID's 4.9 percent (down from 30.7 percent in 2006). In
Mannenberg, the DA won 66.9 percent up from 38.8 percent in 2006
compared to the ID's 15.9 percent (down from 22.2 percent in 2006).
The results show that COPE is splitting the ANC vote and drawing
voters away from the ANC.


8. (U) With the DA leading a coalition that rules the city of Cape
Town, it was unlikely that there would be any major upsets and the
DA was never in danger of losing control of the city to the ANC. The
by-elections were, however, important as it gave voters an
indication of how COPE will fare in the 2009 national elections.
Prior to the polls opening, COPE's interim Western Cape convener,
Leonard Ramatlakane, told Cape Town reporters there was a real
chance some municipalities could see a shift in power if the ANC
lost some of the seats vacated as a result of defections to COPE and
the expulsion of ANC councilors. He said COPE would show it was a
force to be reckoned with. Comment: There is some speculation that
the ANC deliberately missed the IEC registration deadline in an
attempt to avoid embarrassment at the polls. However, even if the
ANC had registered on time it was unlikely that they would have won
a significant number of seats in the by-election when faced with
COPE and DA opposition. End Comment.

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