I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the United States of America is due for an election soon. ProPublica and Google News Lab have teamed up to create something called ElectionBot just shovel data at us. Seriously, all the data. So much data. (Well, mostly financial data.) My favourite: almost $200 million of outside spending has been spent opposing Trump, while $56 million has been spent opposing Clinton. I wonder if that’s having an effect on the polls.

Sexism in South African politics

Political parties generally fielded fewer female ward candidates in the 2016 local government elections, suggesting that voters might be inclined to vote for men, on the ward lists where individual candidates are directly elected.

But South African voters appear to be proving political parties wrong: while the country has a long way to go in terms of gender parity, female candidates fared just as well as men, and in some areas, even better than their male counterparts.

(Read more here: Gender parity in party lists still elusive)

As South Africa celebrates Women’s Day, we take a closer look at women’s representation in the 2016 local government elections:

Most women candidates fell between the ages of 34 and 55. The EFF had the widest range of ages of candidates, from the most candidates under the age of 25 and candidates older than 65. 


The African People’s Convention had the highest number of female ward candidates, while the African Christian Democratic Party had the lowest. The ANC, DA and EFF all hovered around the 30-35% mark.


But as a percentage of PR candidates, the number of women is more varied, with the ANC topping the list of women PR candidates across parties. 

charts_3 (1)Women appeared marginally higher up than men on the PR lists for most major political parties: 

charts_4 (1)

Women one most of the votes in four wards across South Africa, and fared relatively well in other parts of the country if one takes into account that less women appeared on the ward lists. Click on the graphic for more detail.

The EFF fielded the highest number of young female candidates. The ANC also did better in terms of gender representation than many other parties, but their female candidates were slightly older.
Overall, the trend is to field less female candidates than males, across the political spectrum. And where female candidates are fielded, they tend to be older. Click on the graphic for more detail.


The best 2016 Elections data

In the last National elections, I was foolish enough to create a live results elections map. I can tell you now that this is ill-advised, way too much stress, and more work than you first think. (See my video at the end for a good laugh.)

So while I have a leisurely voting day this time around, others are hard at work bringing you all the elections news and results.


The first place to look is, of course, the IEC. The IEC has a pretty good elections map of its own, which goes right down to voting stations. Results aren’t in, so I’m excited to see whether they report down to this level. It’s even made an app.

If you want some raw data, the IEC also has a candidates list in Excel format. It used to have the voting stations in a spreadsheet too, but that seems to have disappeared. Don’t fret, I made you a copy.

Last elections the IEC had a nifty (although somewhat flaky) API for getting results, but you had to apply for access. I assume they are running it this time, but thankfully I don’t have to worry about such matters.

IEC's 2016 Elections Map


The SABC has pulled out all the stops for this year’s elections coverage, and includes a pretty good map. According to Siyabonga Africa, “It was painstakingly built over the last 6/7 months with help from Computer Foundation (in Pretoria), our IT team here, Digital News, the CSIR and some input from Code4SA. It has a number of features, with some fun ones (that’ll go live tomorrow) being a party play-off (to see how coalitions and certain parties could win particular wards and metros) and results predictions (as soon as we get about 20% of the results the CSIR’s data models can predict the outcome of the vote).”

SABC's 2016 Elections site


I’ve been very impressed with ENCA’s poll predictions, which it’s been running for a few weeks, monitoring the key metros of Jo’burg, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay. It predicts wins for the DA in each of them, so they’ll be biting their nails to see if their predictions are correct.

ENCA's 2016 poll prediction

ENCA also has a very sexy map. They’re not doing dynamic zooming like the others which makes clicking a bit clunky, but they have chosen a lovely base map.

ENCA's 2016 Elections map


News24 put a lot of work into its 2011 elections map, and the experience shows, with what looks like it will be the most data-dense and useful of the results maps. It’s also beautifully dynamic. Last elections, they managed to wrangle replication from the IEC’s database, which meant they had the results before anyone else – sometimes running far ahead of the IEC’s official results announcements. So, if in doubt, probably the map you want to use.

News24's Elections map

Finally, News24 also has a bit of a data journ story, 2016 local government elections by the numbers, including a poll, big numbers (which could easily have become a great infographic – a missed opportunity there), and a nifty StoryMapJS.


This late edition comes after the TimesLive peeps pointed out that I was looking at the wrong TimesLive page, which is why they didn’t make it into the first edition of this story. The correct place to go is elections.timeslive.co.za, not www.timeslive.co.za/elections, which is what you get if you click “Elections” from the front page. Another map (this time with dashed borders!), a ward lookup, elections news, but also something called “Battlegrounds“, which currently is showing 2011 data but might become interesting when results start coming in.

TimesLive 2016 Elections map

And just in case you’re ever tempted to build an elections map, allow me to try to dissuade you of this silly notion:

The ‘double agents’ of the local government elections

Muzonjani Zulu is so determined to change South Africa and to free it from what he describes is a government of non-intellectuals incapable of running the country, that he decided to contest the local government elections. Zulu is one of thousands of “double-agents” – candidates running for multiple wards and/or multiple parties – who stand to get more seats on the council by getting more votes.

But what sets Zulu apart from the other ‘double agents” is that he is running for 108 of 110 wards in the eThekwini Local Municipality – more wards than any other candidate in the country.

Another “double agent” is Kempen Nel, a farmer from Jacobsdal, a small town in the Free State, who appears to be caught up in intra-party politics. He is standing in two different wards for the Congress of the People (Cope) and is on the DA’s party list, but he says that this is an error.

Over 5,000 double agents

But Zulu and Nel are just two out of over 5,000 “double agents”, with the majority of parties fielding candidates standing in more than one ward.

Zulu was a senior figure in the National Freedom Party (NFP) resigned from the NFP on May 25 and set up a new party, the Academic Congress Union (ACU), three days later. With just five days left before the cut-off date to register a party for the upcoming local government elections, and to submit a candidate list to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), Zulu decided to contest all but two of the wards in his municipality. He is also on the party’s proportional representation (PR) list.

The “double agent” strategy is being used by nearly 15% of party-affiliated candidates.

Parties are allocated PR seats according to a formula based on the percentage of the vote they get. And votes that double garner in every ward they contest is counts. A predetermined process is then followed to allocate seats. So, when it comes to getting a seat, the underlying principle is simple: the more votes you get, the more seats you get.

Zulu could force 107 by-elections

Although this is completely in line with election legislation and regulations, the strategy is an opportunistic one, with some of these candidates running for dozens of wards within their municipalities. If a candidate wins in more than one ward they can only take up one – and by-elections must be held in the other wards they took.

For example, if Zulu wins every ward he runs in – which is unlikely due to the small size and newness of the party – then 107 by-elections would have to take place.

This strategy, however, will add to an already existing problem, “with the mounting number of candidates being killed”, according to Ebrahim Fakir of the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA). With the candidate list already finalised, even deceased candidates cannot be removed from it, which means that in some cases, wards will find the anomaly of dead candidates being elected and by-elections will have to take place.

So, is allowing candidates to run in as many wards as they like enabling parties to take advantage of the entire system, at a cost to the IEC and to the public?
On the surface it appears unethical, but is merely “incentive to use every available opportunity, no matter the cost”, says Fakir.

When voters arrive to cast their votes on August 3, there are two aspects they will have to consider: a list of possible ward councillors and a list of parties, which is the PR list. Together, the results of these will be used to determine who will be the ward councillors for the next five years and how many seats a party gets on a local council.

“The purpose, for me, is to get PR votes,” says Zulu. “Our intention is to contest as a party in the 2019 elections.” But first, people need to know who the ACU actually are, and what better way than to run in as many wards as possible?
Zulu’s purpose, therefore, is twofold: he wants to increase his party’s chances of getting a seat on local council and to advertise the party across three different provinces – the Eastern Cape, Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal – where the NFP has always had support. But what about the costs that will be incurred if he wins in more than one ward?

“You can’t equate democracy to how much money it’s going to cost,” says Western Cape IEC spokesperson, Trevor Davids.

Mowethu Mosery, a provincial electoral officer of the KwaZulu-Natal branch, agrees. “It’s all part of the democratic process,” he says. “[Our job as the IEC] is to facilitate the will and choice of the voters.”

Besides, Mosery is confident that Zulu won’t win in that many wards. “I just don’t think it will happen,” he insists, laughing at the strategy the party has chosen to take. Regardless, if he does land up winning in more than one ward, by-elections will have to take place.

For Zulu, beyond hoping to increase support for his new party, it is about countrywide intellectual growth. South Africa, he says, is “running short of intellectuals who are politicians”.

“For us to change our country, we need intellectuals to take the country forward,” he explains. “Zuma does not have enough skills to lead the country because of his level of education.”

Zulu provides a detailed history of his education, from a Bachelor of Arts undergraduate degree at the University of South Africa, to having just submitted his PhD. He also does not show concern over the possibility of – hypothetically – 107 by-elections taking place. “We need to grow, grow, grow,” he says.

Fired or resigned?

Nel, whose irrigation farm is in Letsemeng in the Xhariep municipality. Since before 2000, Nel has sat on and headed up various community committees and has remained heavily involved. The municipality is small, consisting of only six wards and covers a vast rural area. This, he says, is why he is running for more than one ward.

On June 20 this year, Nel wrote a letter to the DA, resigning from the party. He received no response and was surprised to see his name on the party list when it was released.

Patricia Kopane, a Member of Parliament for the DA tells the story quite differently. When the party received the candidate list, a day after Nel had begun the resignation process, they realised that he was running for Cope and subsequently fired him. She cannot, however, explain why the party did not use the opportunity available to rectify the double-partied candidate. She also says he was also fired for “being a racist”.

Although Nel is one of the only DA candidates running for multiple parties, more than half (54,9%) of the party’s ward candidate list is running for multiple wards. And they aren’t the only ones, with hundreds of candidates from the ANC and EFF in the same situation.

He explains that he felt “pushed out” by provincial DA leadership due to incidences of nepotism, inequality and the unwillingness to engage the long-time rural councilors and bring in new, inexperienced ones instead. So in May, when he was approached by Cope to run as a representative in two wards, he quickly agreed.

Nel says that he is not running because of politics, but rather for his community, who “are all behind me in these elections”.

Kopane does not believe that Nel will be voted in at all: “Cope doesn’t exist in the Free State, and the people are not supporting him,” she says. “Cope is dead, they are immaterial, I don’t even consider them competition.”

Fakir, who is manager of the EISA’s Political Parties and Parliamentary Programme, says that although we can point to examples like Zulu and Nel, this is the “system we chose”.

“The reason we have this system is because we don’t want peoples’ votes to go to waste,” he says.

INFOGRAPHIC: Candidates can only take up one seat or ward councilor position, even if they win multiple wards. There are 5, 572 of these “double agents” in the upcoming elections.




Election Resources

It’s never been easier to find the information you need to report on the upcoming August 3 local government elections in South Africa – if you know where to look. The good news is that Code for South Africa has made the job much easier by curating a variety of useful resources and creating some free infographics for your blog or website.

Jump to resource list

Jump to embeddable infographics

But this is not just a one-stop source for information; if you take the time to dig through the different resources you’ll find lots of great story ideas. A recurring one for municipal elections, for example, is how it differs from national and provincial elections, something many voters are still unaware of.

In a General Election voters cast their vote for a party, not an individual and parties are designated seats in Parliament in proportion to the percentage of the vote the receive. Parties then allocate MPs seats according to a list drawn up by parties and submitted to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) before the elections.

But municipal elections use a ‘mixed system’ that is quite different to provincial and national elections, in which people vote directly for ward candidates based on the ‘first past the post’ system. They also get a second vote for a party which is the allocated PR seats based on the percentage of votes they get across all municipal wards. And in the case of a district council, made up of several smaller councils, voters get a third vote for a party to elect district councillors (except in metropolitans, which are classified as big cities).

Slightly complicated to explain, but important for voters to know when they show up at the polls. So perhaps a good story to start with is an explanation of how the electoral system works in SA. Or perhaps a quiz for your readers/viewers/listeners as a way of educating them?

But it’s also important to remember that these elections are all about people and their issues. So, whatever info you find, you need to get out into the field and speak to people in order to put a human face to your story. These elections are one of the few times that people can raise issues – and the politicians are listening. And you can help amplify their voices.



The Independent Electoral Commission website should be your first stop for election information. Get the election timetable, find your current ward councillor, voting station, keep track of election results and more.

The IEC’s 2016 Municipal Elections Handbook has a lot of the online information in one downloadable PDF document. Electing Councillors: A Guide to Municipal Elections is a comprehensive guide detailing the electoral process and the rules and regulations governing it. This Municipal Elections Handbook from The Education and Training Unit for Democracy and Development is a nifty guide – with examples – to explain the electoral system and how it works.

Source election results from the last municipal elections at Wazimap along with rich 2011 Census data on a ward, municipal, provincial and countrywide.

A list of links to municipal financial documents and resources including financial statements for each municipality since 2002/3, municipal budgets – drafted and adopted, audit reports and more.

The Independent Electoral Commission have released the names of election candidates by province, including ID numbers, so you can do deeds office and CIPRA listings for them. You can download the PDF by province here or find the full list in an easy-to-use spreadsheet.

Has the City of Cape Town delivered on their sanitation goals? This interactive map of toilets in informal settlements lists all the kinds of toilets – or lack of – in informal settlements across Cape Town, Dig through it to find all kinds of stories. Tip: look at the ages of different settlements, the number of permanent toilets and the reasons (“restraints”) for not providing more permanent infrastructure.

The Municipal Demarcation Board is responsible for municipal boundaries – which have just been changed. Some wards have completely disappeared while others have merged or grown. See the Board’s website for more information.

Check out these free-to-use Elections 2016 infographics by People’s Assembly to embed on your website, blog or social media. NB: you need to credit to People’s Assembly and also send them an email to let them know you’ve used it. Elections readiness and Women and the 2016 elections

Code for South Africa has designed these free-to-use infographics explaining how our voting system works, how the candidates are divided amongst the parties, and how our system allows for “double agents”. Simply embed the codes above the graphic into your website or blog.

If we’ve missed anything, please let us know via our Election Resource Google Form: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSezsbty760yN-s8XnBo3u8Nor9d0GrCEx0Gpsk8PDFD1N6AJQ/viewform

Resource List

How the elections work


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The candidates


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Voter registration weekend in numbers: E Cape reaches target

More than 3 million South Africans visited registration stations across the country this weekend to register to vote for the up-coming local government elections, according to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC). Of the 3.5 million people registering to vote over the weekend, more than 1.1 million are from KwaZulu-Natal. The province registered the most eligible voters. In terms of voter turnout results, the Eastern Cape province is third after KZN and Gauteng.

In a statement, Eastern Cape provincial electoral officer Thamsanqa Mraji said:
“Amongst the challenges was the high voter turnout, causing long queues in some registration stations; to address this challenge an increase in staff allocation and increase in registration materials is being provided for this registration weekend.”

According to data released by the IEC this week, 78.6% of the new registrations were under 30-years-old. Total new registrations for the age group 16 – 29 in the province is 74,135 which is 83% of the new registrations for the province.

This story was first published in the Daily Dispatch on 13 April 2016


 New registrations by province over the past weekend – infogr.am