THE African National Congress (ANC) has retained the largest share of the vote in a key by-election in the Metsimaholo municipality in the Free State.
The vote was notable for being the first time in which the ANC and its South African Communist Party (SACP) alliance partner had gone head-to-head, with the communists winning 6.9 per cent.
With full results announced yesterday, the ANC came in first place with 29.1 per cent.
It was followed on 26.3 per cent by the right-wing Democratic Alliance (DA).
About 150,000 people live in the area. Because of the mix of proportional and constituency votes, it was unclear how many seats each party would end up with, and who would be part of any potential coalition.
Previously it had been governed by a coalition of the DA, the Economic Freedom Fighters — who again came third — the Metsimaholo Community Association and the Freedom Front Plus right-wing Afrikaner party.
But the by-election was called when the coalition collapsed and a reshuffled mayoral cabinet was unable to pass a budget.
At its Congress earlier this year, the SACP decided to actively contest elections outside the umbrella of its alliance with the ANC if necessary.
In a statement issued before the Metsimaholo vote, the Cosatu trade union federation, a fellow alliance partner, said its standing policy was to support the ANC at elections.
However, it noted the need to “salvage” the alliance and “make it work” as, “in its current state and class orientation,” the ANC “is no longer capable of uniting and spearheading the struggles of the broader masses of our people.”