SUSPENSEFUL END TO KNYSNA ELECTIONS

The municipal election in Knysna last week resulted in the Democratic Alliance winning 10 out of 21 seats on the new Council, one short of an outright majority. The ANC won 7 seats, while the Congress of the People, the African Christian Democratic Party, the newly-formed Knysna Unity Congress and an independent, Velile Waxa, each secured a seat. Knysna therefore has a hung Council. This means that, in order to govern effectively, the DA will need to secure the support of one or more the other 11 councillors.

It is understood that the DA has been engaged in coalition negotiations to secure compatible partners for a coalition and is confident that these talks will be successfully concluded by the time the new Council is inaugurated later this month. The Council will then elect its Speaker, its new Mayor (who will be the DA’s Eleanore Bouw-Spies) and the new Deputy Mayor. The new Mayor will announce the other three members of the Mayoral Committee. The Council will also appoint the members of the four portfolio committees of Council, as well as of all the various other committees, including the important Municipal Public Accounts Committee and the Council’s Disciplinary Committee.

Election day was cold, and rainy to start with, and the turnout was just below 64% compared to 66% in 2011. However, this turnout was better than the national average of 58%. The IEC generally acquitted itself well and there were few complaints, mainly in some of the traditional ANC wards where the contest was fierce. The leaders of the DA and the ANC, Ms Bouw-Spies and Victor Molosi, both won big victories in their wards: Bouw-Spies with 74% of the vote in Ward 5 and Molosi with 70% in Ward 8. The COPE leader, Ricky van Aswegen, won his party’s only seat by squeaking through in Ward 6 in Hornlee by 26 votes over the DA candidate, Pastor Jan Davids.

In Ward 4, Waxa achieved a remarkable victory, in what was considered to be a safe ANC seat, by receiving 1274 votes against 1036 votes for the ANC candidate. As a community leader, former ANC councillor and union leader, Waxa is expected to make his presence strongly felt in the new Council. The other surprise-package of the election was the Knysna Unity Congress, whose Monwabisi Salaze secured a proportional representation seat for his party. As a recognized community leader, he should also be able to make valuable contributions to the Council’s operations.

In the Sedgefield area, the DA comfortably retained its two seats with increased majorities. In Ward 1, Dr Levael Davis increased the DA majority from 198 votes to 342 votes, while in Ward 2 Cathy Weideman’s majority over the ANC was 1777 votes compared to the DA’s 1507 votes five years ago.

Knysna is about to join another almost 30 municipalities all over the country that have entered the era of coalition politics and, although the suspense following the election should be resolved soon, it is to be hoped that whichever parties form the governing coalition, Knysna will end up having a stable and competent government for the next five years.