DA Leader, Mmusi Maimane interacting with the residents of Emzinoni, Bethal / Image via Twitter: Democratic Alliance

Losses on the coalfields: Bethal turns its back on the DA

The DA has suffered yet another loss in a by-election.


DA Leader, Mmusi Maimane interacting with the residents of Emzinoni, Bethal / Image via Twitter: Democratic Alliance

The DA’s electoral fortunes are in free fall after the party lost another municipal seat in the northern interior of the country on Wednesday night – this time in the agricultural centre of Bethal on the Mpumalanga coalfields.

Continuous bickering, divisions and lack of policy clarity are all costing the DA dearly at the polls. Bethal now joins a growing list of places where the DA is being rejected by the voters. The question is whether, or perhaps when, the leaks will result in DA councillors joining the exodus to the right.

Bethal sides with ANC, despite a visit from Mmusi Maimane

The Bethal ward, which forms part of the Govan Mbeki municipality centred on Secunda, gave its nod to the DA by a small margin in 2016, but this time it went for the ANC – and almost to the Freedom Front Plus. The ANC edged out the FF Plus by a mere six votes, with the DA coming in third.

This is despite embattled DA leader Mmusi Maimane travelling to Bethal on Sunday to campaign there – all to no avail. The DA dropped from 45% to 26% support in the ward.

The new councillor for the ward is Mabhiyane Sipela (ANC), who received 701 votes to the FF Plus’ 695. The DA polled 514 votes and the EFF got only 48.

Had the FF Plus pulled off the victory, it would have been the third in two months after they also beat the DA in Stilfontein and in the Potchefstroom suburb of Miederpark.

Read: Recent municipal ward by-elections result in losses for the DA

The DA’s silver lining

Better news for the DA came from another part of Mpumalanga, namely Lydenburg in the extreme north of the country. Although the DA lost 21 percentage points support, dropping from 69% to 48%, its candidate, Spiridian Couvaras, still won comfortably, taking 643 votes to 434 for the FF Plus and 240 for the ANC.

In the Sekhukhuneland area of Limpopo, the ANC’s Sello Phosoko won the ward by 1 269 votes to 741 for the EFF and 79 for an independent candidate. This represents a swing of four percentage points to the ANC since 2016.

But the big news is the Bethal result, and the question of when the FF Plus will start using the old DA argument against the party in blue – that in certain parts of the country, like Bethal, it is the DA splitting the opposition vote and handing the ANC victory.