Two-thirds of by-elections since November 2021 were because a councillor died

There have been 28 by-elections since the local government elections on 1 November 2021.

16 of these by-elections were held because a ward councillor had died.

by-election occurs if the courts set aside an election, the council dissolves, or a vacancy is created when the council member resigns or dies.

Of the by-elections held since the local government elections, at least seven of the 16 ward councillor deaths appear to be murders. 11 of the by-elections followed resignations and party expulsions, and one by-election followed a court order to set aside the election results for a ward in the Enoch Mgijima Municipality.

Four of the seven murders were in KwaZulu-Natal: two eThekwini councillors, one in Nongoma and one Umvoti councillor.

Two were Nelson Mandela Bay councillors and one councillor was from the City of Johannesburg.

16 ward councillors died since November 2021 local elections
16 ward councillors died since November 2021 local elections

Ward councillors who died in, or just before taking, office

Two councillors died just before the local government elections were held and won their wards posthumously.

The National Freedom Party’s (NFP) Dumisani Qwabe was killed a few days before the elections. Qwabe’s name still appeared on the Nongoma ballot paper and he won the position as ward councillor posthumously.

Arrests were made in December following Qwabe’s death, and a by-election was held on 2 February 2022 where fellow NFP member Bongukwazi Mbatha won the ward councillor seat.

The ANC’s Siyabonga Mkhize was shot and killed in Cato Ridge while campaigning in late October in the lead-up to the elections. He won the ward council seat in eThekwini posthumously. In a by-election in February 2022, his fellow ANC member Muzumuni ‘Mzi’ Ngiba was elected ward councillor.

Ngiba and three other people were arrested in May in connection to Mkhize’s death

Ironically, Ngiba survived an assassination attempt in March 2022 when he was shot at leaving a committee meeting.

Five councillors won their ward council seat and served only a few months.

39-year-old ANC eThekwini councillor Minenhle Calvin Mkhize was shot and killed in his car in front of his home on 22 January. The ANC’s Jeffrey Mchunu won the by-election held in April.

Nelson Mandela Bay ANC ward councillor Wellington Zwelandile Booi was shot and killed while driving in Kwazakele in February. One of the passengers travelling in the car with Booi was wounded in the attack. Fellow ANC member Mzimkulu Ngabase won Booi’s ward council seat in May.

Umvoti ward councillor Thembinkosi Lombo was shot and killed in Durban in February after he left a council meeting. On 1 June 2022, the municipal council seat was won by the ANC’s Sphiwe Sihle Ndlovu.

38-year-old Jo’burg ANC ward councillor Ntaoleng Mpho Mofokeng was shot and killed after two intruders entered his home in early March. In June, ANC’s Ntshavheni Thovhedzo Mutavhatsindi won Mofokeng’s ward council seat.

45-year-old Nelson Mandela Bay ANC ward councillor Andile Andries was shot and killed days before an ANC elective conference in May. His assistant – the acting ANC branch secretary – was also killed. In a by-election in July, the ANC’s Mandlakazi Mabuda was elected ward councillor.

For more information on the threats faced by ward councillors, mayors and their deputies, read: How many bodyguards does a mayor need?

Not all ward councillors died violently at the hands of others. One ward councillor died in a car crash, and seven ward councillors died with no mention of the cause of their death.

The ANC’s Koyose Lenah Phetha – a ward councillor for Mafikeng – died in February following an illness, according to a spokesperson for the municipality. The EFF’s Dedrick Mbali Phetha won the by-election in May.

Did political parties manage to hold onto seats in the by-elections?

Of the 28 by-elections, political parties retained their seats in 20 of them. In eight by-elections, political parties lost seats. Three of the seats, however, were won by the same candidate but under a new party banner.

The councillors were Christo Jacoby Boks in the Western Cape’s Matzikama, Paul Bodutu Mokgosinyane in Mpumalange’s Thaba Chweu local municipality, and  Olebogeng Samuel Tumodi in the Northern Cape’s Phokwane.

Boks left the Patriotic Alliance for the Democratic Alliance. And two former ANC members won seats for new political parties: Tumodi won the council seat for Economic Freedom Fighters and Mokgosinyane for the African Unified Movement.

For more reporting on local government movements, keep an eye on our municipality tracker.

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