A small party that was formed over a municipal demarcation dispute in a town that few South Africans visit once in their lives, if ever, has been a surprise winner in the 2016 Local Government Elections with almost 200,000.
The African Independent Congress had by 9am on Friday according to the website of the Electoral Commission of South Africa picked up 184,727 votes nationally as well as 22 seats.
That means the party has improved its showing by more than 500 percent over the previous election in 2011, when it picked up a mere 30,372 votes.
Members of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) have repeatedly claimed that voters have managed to confuse themselves over whether they are voting for the ANC or the AIC, both of which sport the same black, green and gold colours.
The AIC was formed in December 2005 by former ANC members with the express aim contesting the 2006 local government elections in a bid to have the town of Matatiele reincorporated back into KwaZulu-Natal from the Eastern Cape.
While the party failed to get Matatiele reincorporated, the party has had staying power. Apart from its success in municipal elections it has managed to pick get three members elected to the country’s parliament as well as a member elected to the Eastern Cape legislature.
While the party grew its footprint nationally, in the little town of Matatiele where it all started, the party lost three seats and almost 6,000 votes, leaving it with only three councillors in the Matatiele Local Municipality.
Party leader Mandla Galo dismissed accusations that the party had benefited from the confusion over colours and names.
“I want to say that this this is psychological warfare. They are undermining the intelligence of the people of South Africa,” he said, when asked whether the party had benefited from the alleged confusion.
He pointed out that the party had grown even in developed areas where people were educated.
“I am sure that you have see that we have also got a foot in George. That shows you very clearly that the African Independent Congress is growing. Come 2019 we are going to increase the seats in the National Assembly,” he said.
Apart from Matatiele, the party picked up a further six seats in various municipalities in the Eastern Cape, two seats in the Mangaung Metro in the Free State, a seat in Merafong City (Carletonville) in Gauteng, five seats in KwaZulu-Natal, two in Mpumalanga, a seat in the Northern cape municipality of Phokwane (Hartswater) and the seat in George in the Western Cape.
AIC had not picked up any seats in Limpopo Province or Northwest Province municipalities by 9am, but it did receive a few thousand votes in those two provinces.
Once the election results are finalised, the AIC may well have councillors in those two provinces as well.