KNYSNA NEWS - If the saying "numbers don't lie" is anything to go by, the DA in Knysna seems to have reason for concern judging by the results of last week's by-election in Ward 5, which included an unprecedented number of special votes.
Although the DA came out triumphant after the by-elections on 21 August, they lost a large percentage to new kid on the block Knysna Independent Movement (KIM) in the Brenton and Belvidere areas as compared with results in 2016.
Back then, the DA secured 75% and 100% votes in these areas respectively but this time around it was KIM that claimed 75% and 74% of the votes respectively.
The little storm
The DA's political head in Knysna, Dion George, said they are nevertheless pleased with the results. "KIM caused a little storm. I am not sure whether this independent movement wants to be independent from the rest of the country as they are anti-development. The DA is non-apologetic and is a party for everyone and supports sensible development. It is not a party for exclusivity. The voters have spoken and we are happy with the results."
George went on to say that KIM based their campaign on bad-mouthing the former mayor Eleanore Bouw-Spies. He added, "The narrative is disgusting and they still didn't win."
'DA will lose'
KIM's Susan Campbell said she had not expected such figures: "We're a brand-new party so for us to beat the DA in their strongholds is a big deal. If there are by-elections in wards 9 and 10, I am no political analyst but I can tell you now the DA is going to lose."
To George's statement on how KIM elected to do their campaign, Campbell responded: "KIM's campaign was not concerned with the very unpopular previous ward councillor. The hostile reception Bouw-Spies received during the Rheenendal debate left no doubt as to how poorly her constituents rated her performance," Campbell said.
'The people have spoken'
She added that KIM alerted voters to the DA's ongoing attempts to boot out the Knysna Municipal Planning Tribunal in favour of a tribunal from outside Knysna, as well as the DA's plans to sell or lease public conservation land near Buffels Bay and Swartvlei to property developers. "Mr George has therefore labelled us as anti-development, which is of course complete nonsense," said Campbell, adding, "At least Mr George and I agree on one thing – the people have spoken loud and clear and the DA is in deep trouble."
In Belvidere in May this year, during the national and provincial elections, the DA had 90.68% votes, 89.40 % in Brenton, 80.90 % in Buffels Bay and 48% in Rheenendal. The figures in the recent elections indicate that the affluent areas rejected the DA and that the party's win is from Rheenendal.
For last week's election there was a 58.83% voter turnout, according to the IEC, with 2 367 votes cast, of which the DA received 959 votes, KIM 583, Plaaslike Besorgde Inwoners (PBI) 511, ANC 307, and the EFF came in at seven votes.
Of particular interest in this latest election was the number and location of special votes registered: of the substantial figure of 511 special votes, 462 were from the Rheenendal area alone and 316 were registered online. The IEC explained that the online system was introduced for the first time prior to the local government elections in 2016, when there were only 52 online registrations in Rheenendal and 39 during the May 2019 elections. Although there were rumours that one of the opposition parties was challenging the results, the IEC said they have no knowledge of any party who is or was contesting the by-elections.
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