Beaufort West and the ANC's choice of mayoral candidate (Truman Prince) - opportunity for opposition, or continuation of a controversial legacy?


Elnari Potgieter | 28 July 2016

Truman Prince, the controversial mayor of Beaufort West, has been nominated by the ANC as its Beaufort West mayoral candidate. His nomination comes in spite serious misconduct, moral, ethical and governance failure - which include among others - being exposed during 2016 for writing a letter asking for tenders to be awarded to companies supporting of the ANC (with the aim of boosting the party financially) (De Klerk, 2016), being caught on camera (by an SABC television crew) approaching a 14-year-old girl for sex, as well as assaulting a petrol station cashier on camera in 2005 (Mtyala,2016).

The municipality is of vital importance for both the ANC and the DA. It is the only town in the Western Cape where the ANC won with a majority in the 2011 elections. The DA is the second most supported party in the town.

What is curious in Beaufort West, are the reasons why the ANC would opt to retain such a controversial candidate in a key municipality for the 2016 election? The determinant may be the almost cult like following that Truman Prince commands.

Beaufort West: Political Party Support

The 2016 local elections in Beaufort West are being contested by: ANC, COPE, DA, EFF, VF+, SA Religious Civics Organisation, ICOSA, PAC, Karoo Democratic Force and independent candidate Ralph Esterhuizen (Evans, 2016). The table below captures support for parties that have held seats in the council at any point in time.

Table 1: Percentage party support, Beaufort West local and national elections (2000-2014)

ANC support in Beaufort West during local elections dropped from 61.23% in 2000 to 40,76% in 2006 (i.e. by 20,47%), and increased again between the 2006 to 2011 elections by 10.11% to 50,87%. Support for ICOSA in 2006 was 35,68%, but support for the party decreased with 31,32% to 4,36% in the 2011 elections. The ANC's sudden drop and ICOSA's gain is attributable to Truman brief stint with ICOSA. Following the Prince's moral and ethical indiscretions, in 2005 he left the ANC. Depending on who you believe, Prince joined ICOSA out of conviction, or as others have it, the ANC's top brass had come down on his indiscretions which were thought to be ruinous for the party. Yet others suggest that he was expelled from the ANC in the possible midst of the ANC's emergent factionalism.

Whatever the truth - Prince was re-instated in 2007.

After Prince's expulsion he had joined Jeffrey Donson (who also had been convicted of six counts of statutory rape and one of indecent assault perpetrated against a 15-year-old girl in 2004 while he was mayor of Kannaland) in the Independent Civics Organisation of SA (Icosa). But after being supposedly "cleared" of charges, and subsequent to a fall out with Donson, Prince re-joined the ANC.

He then stood as ANC mayoral candidate in Beaufort West in 2011 when the ANC won the municipality with an outright majority (after previously having to govern in coalition with ICOSA). From the trend evidence of election results, it appears that a substantial proportion of voters followed Prince to ICOSA in 2006, with many returning to the ANC, together with Prince in 2011.

Meanwhile, support for the DA decreased by 21.28% from 38,77% in 2000 to 17,49% in 2006, and then increased to 41,2% in 2011. While in the 2009 national election, the DA managed to gain more support than the ANC in the 2009 national election, but did not repeat this feat in the 2014 national election in Beaufort West. Other parties, such as at one stage the ID in 2004 and COPE in 2009 performed relatively well, they have never managed to muster the support they did for national elections for a local one. By 2014, the ID had disappeared into the DA, COPE had imploded and even the emergent EFF could only garner 0,76% of votes.

Local Council Seats

Table 2: Beaufort West Local Council Seats Assigned per Political Party (2000, 2006 and 2011)

Based on previous seat allocations in the municipality, only the DA, ANC, ICOSA and ID have managed to attain seats in the Beaufort West municipality in the past. Since 2011 the ANC has governed by a slim majority of 1. The DA, however believes that it stands a good chance of winning the municipality in 2016 (Evans, 2016b) and the EFF has indicated that it would not be averse to a coalition with the DA - to keep the municipality out of the ANC's hands (Evans, 2016c). Given the unpredictability of support for the EFF, the likelihood of a DA - EFF coalition is unknown.

What is known however, is that a potential coalition between the ANC and ICOSA as there has been in the past, is possible, but perhaps unlikely given the resistance of some ICOSA members to form a coalition with the ANC.

If the DA increases its support by two seats it will be able to govern on its own. If the DA increases its support by one seat, it will need the support of ICOSA or the EFF, or the independent candidate or any of the other contestants in forming a coalition in the event that either of them manage to win a seat.

The ANC's retention of morally compromised mayoral candidate nominee, the slow encroachment of the main opposition party, the unknown potential of the EFF as the reluctance of ICOSA to commit to a possible coalition with the ANC - renders Beaufort West one of the most interesting municipalities to watch in 2016 particularly because of the possible party support permutations and the likely horse-trading that is to emerge should there be no clear winner.

References

DE KLERK, A 2016 "Controversial Beaufort West Mayor Still Holding Onto His Seat", BDLIVE, http://www.bdlive.co.za/national/politics/2016/04/25/controversial-beaufort-west-mayor-still-holding-onto-his-seat [26 July 2016].

EVANS, J 2016 "ANC hoping to retain majority in the Karoo", News24, http://www.news24.com/elections/news/anc-hoping-to-retain-majority-in-karoo-20160725 [26 July 2016].

EVANS, J 2016b "DA wants Beaufort West to be jewel of the Karoo", News24, http://www.news24.com/elections/news/da-wants-beaufort-west-to-be-jewel-of-the-karoo-20160725 [26 July 2016].

MORTLOCK, M 2016 "Not all ICOSA members are pleased with the ANC potential alliance", EWN. http://ewn.co.za/2016/07/07/Not-all-Icosa-members-are-pleased-with-ANC-potential-alliance [26 July 2016].

MTYALA, Q 2016 "Disgraced Prince still willing to serve ANC", IOL, http://www.iol.co.za/news/politics/disgraced-prince-still-willing-to-serve-anc-2036427 [26 July 2016].