Two articles – both of which have useful information of the political direction of travel.


Source: Financial Mail

Will the ANC finally lose SA in 2024?

Having just lost an outright majority nationally for the first time, it is entirely possible that the ANC could lose the country in 2024. But having got to this point, there are a number of possible futures for the country — and some of them are quite scary


The November 1 local government elections were the second of just two “watershed moments” in SA’s recent history, says the Sunday Times.

The first was the 1994 elections, “when, for the first time, all South Africans, irrespective of race, voted together for a common government”. This second watershed saw “the post-apartheid mould of one-party dominance … to all intents and purposes, broken”.

It’s a bold assessment — but perhaps a little hasty. More cautious observers believe a real epochal shift will not come until 2024, if at all. There is a long and perilous journey between a fading dominant-party regime and a competitive multiparty system.

After all, the ANC has been drinking in the last-chance electoral saloon for almost a decade. The party’s Gauteng result in May 2014 (54%, from 64% in 2009), and its disastrous performance in the 2016 local government elections (54% nationally, from 62% in 2011), made this long-term decline evident. It was obscured only temporarily by support for the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) during Jacob Zuma’s presidency.

However, what does mark out this result as special is the breaching of the 50% threshold, with the ANC securing just 46% of the vote overall.

A paltry 36% in Gauteng, further losses in Joburg and Tshwane, the failure to turn back the tide in Cape Town and Nelson Mandela Bay, and the loss of eThekwini confirm the movement’s decline. The party’s once-professional campaign machinery was a shambles: little money, no message, strikes at Luthuli House, and pitiful excuses for defeat.

But it is too soon to write the ANC’s obituary, or to describe it as a party of the former bantustans and rural areas. It remains the biggest party in 161 municipalities.

Far from storming the gates, the major opposition parties have failed to capitalise on the ANC’s vulnerability.

The fact is, the DA secured around 1,400 seats, against the 1,800 it won in 2016. The botched removal of former party boss Mmusi Maimane has contributed to a collapse of black support for the party, and support from coloured voters has shrunk badly (see page 25).

While the DA may have stemmed the growth of the Freedom Front Plus (FF Plus), it has failed to recapture lost support among white Afrikaners. As a result, its support in the Western Cape fell to 54%, and it lost strongholds such as Cape Agulhas and Breede Valley.

Perhaps party leader John Steenhuisen is pleased that the party got voters out at all, in an election where the genial Cyril Ramaphosa, rather than the Zuma bogey-man, served as leader of the governing party. And the party does have opportunities for anti-ANC coalitions thanks to the fragmentation created by the rise of the FF Plus, ActionSA and the Patriotic Alliance.

Julius Malema’s EFF secured 10% overall. Over the past decade, the party has transformed itself from a regional and ethnic formation to an organisation with a national footprint. It has continued to perform well in Gauteng, Limpopo and the North West, but it also has a substantial presence in KZN and now, for the first time, in the Eastern Cape, where it secured 8% of the vote.

ActionSA’s targeted Gauteng campaigns brought it 16% of the vote in Joburg and 7% in the province’s other metros, Tshwane and Ekurhuleni. In KZN, the IFP secured 27%.

While these and other smaller parties campaigned strongly, and will have some leverage in specific municipalities, the three big parties will dominate coalition politics.

Maturing coalition politics

Coalitions or governance agreements are unlikely to be finalised until we approach the 14-day post-election deadline for councils to meet, in a week’s time.

But it will be tricky. In 2016 there were just 27 hung councils. Today we have 66.

The bigger parties have taken coalitions seriously and considered the permutations and scenarios. They have identified “red lines” and set out “principles” that they claim will govern deal-making.

The DA appears to be the party with the most straightforward strategy, summarised by Steenhuisen as: “No unstable coalitions!”

After a weekend of deliberation, the party has reiterated that it will not work with the EFF, but also that it is now not interested in doing any deal — formal coalition or co-operation agreement — with the ANC.

This shows it learnt from 2016, when it co-operated with the EFF and others. It was a confusing mess that tarnished the party’s image, and cost it votes.

With its clear intention to govern only where it is in control, DA leaders seem happy to act as official opposition watchdogs rather than as direct participants in local governance.Picture: ALON SKUY

This suggests their focus is squarely on the 2024 national and provincial elections, when the party hopes the ANC will again fall below 50% of the vote nationally — and in several of the provinces. The DA is also clearly harbouring resurgent hopes that the ANC may contrive to explode, or split, as a result of continued turmoil in government and divisions between internal factions.

It’s a risky strategy for the DA, as voters might punish the party for sitting on its hands, rather than responding to Ramaphosa’s call — echoed by some DA benefactors — for all parties to work together to rescue municipalities from collapse.

But Steenhuisen’s leadership is almost certainly right that these risks are dwarfed by the dangers of participation in unruly coalitions, especially with an unreformed ANC.

The EFF’s position is equally complex. One trouble for the EFF is that many opposition parties, including the DA and the IFP, have said firmly they will not work with the red berets.

This limits its ability to play suitors off against each other.

Still, there is clearly hunger for power and patronage appointments, with EFF secretary-general Marshall Dlamini angling for control of Tshwane and stating that “we are not playing around this time”.

The EFF has set the bar for coalition or co-operation agreements very high, however, by including demands for national policy shifts — specifically, land expropriation and the creation of a state bank — that seem unrealistic. This suggests the EFF, too, would ideally prefer to wait for 2024, when it hopes to use its leverage to secure major policy concessions and ministerial appointments from a floundering ANC.Voters queue outside in Macassar, Khayelitsha to cast their vote during the 2021 Local Government Election. Picture: Esa Alexander

The ANC, for its part, is in the most difficult position. As soon as the results were announced, Ramaphosa called on party leaders to work together.

“If we are to make this a new and better era, we as leaders must put aside our differences and work together in a spirit of partnership, of co-operation, of collaboration and common purpose in the interests of the people,” he said.

From the ANC’s point of view, agreements with the DA could bring stability to the hung metros, while parallel pacts with other parties, including the EFF, could reduce factional outrage about such deals with the official opposition.

In other words, responsibility for the ongoing chaos in municipal government would then be spread among all the ANC’s major competitors.

Yet the messages about potential partners from those involved in ANC coalition planning (including acting secretary-general Jessie Duarte, treasurer Paul Mashatile and policy head Jeff Radebe) have been inconsistent.

But the DA’s refusal to play ball makes it hard for the ANC to avoid deal-making with the EFF — especially when it comes to major centres such as Ekurhuleni and eThekwini, that it desperately wants to control.

Three possible futures

The era of ANC dominance has been drawing to a close over many years.

One-party control brought many positive consequences, as the ANC was able to take some unpopular economic policy decisions, keep a lid on ethnic and racial mobilisation, promote gender parity, and entrench the institutional preconditions for democracy and constitutionalism.

But these gains always co-existed with negative features of party dominance: the blurring of party-state boundaries, the looting of state and parastatal resources for party and personal gain, and arrogance based on leaders’ ability to ignore electors.

In the end, these negative features began to decisively outweigh the positive and, indeed, to undermine the gains of the first decade of ANC rule.

As its dominance began to fade, the ANC tried to listen to voters more attentively, and where other parties gained power, it began to restore the lines between party and state.

Equally, the end of ANC dominance will come at a cost. This may include the rise of populist economic and social policies (as the ANC tries to retain supporters), racial and ethnic mobilisation as the party fragments, and increasing chaos in its system.

None of these changes is inexorable or pre-ordained, however.Of SA’s 26.2-million registered voters only 12.3-million voted in the recent local government elections. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/VOLKSBLAD/MLUNGISI LOUW

We tend to believe one-party dominance is an abnormal product of the politics of liberation. Many assume it will follow a well-trodden pathway through corruption, intolerance of opposition and economic imprudence, only to collapse into factionalism and recrimination, and replacement by a “normal” multiparty system.

The rosiest scenarios envisage the emergence of a centre-right party — perhaps a merger between the DA and “respectable” elements of the ANC — together with a centre-left party that brings together the proponents of redistribution, state-driven development and liberation ideals. These parties could then alternate happily in power.

But there are three alternative pathways into the future.

First, it is a mistake in today’s world to rule out the possibility of authoritarian rule.

Democracy is in retreat, and many in the ANC find more inspiration in the Chinese party-state than in the liberal and social democracies of Europe, Asia and the Americas. The continued fall in electoral turnout is a matter of pressing concern. Of 39-million eligible electors, just 26-million registered to vote, and 12-million actually cast a ballot. When people do not vote, they stop fighting for the free media and effective electoral institutions that democracy requires.

Second, the reality is that dominant parties in middle-income countries rarely disappear when they fall below 50% of the vote. They typically survive, and sometimes they thrive, in more competitive party systems.

Mexico’s Institutional Revolutionary Party ruled from 1929 to 2000, when it inadvertently lost a presidential election. By 2012 it was able to recapture the presidency, and has since gone back into opposition.

The United Malays National Organisation, similar to the ANC in its empowerment ideals, dominated the Barisan Nasional coalition that ran Malaysia from 1957 to 2018. It was ousted by its own former leader, Mahathir Mohamad, in 2018, after major corruption scandals unfolded — but it returned to power again in 2021.

Parties — even once-dominant parties — can lose and then win again. Though large organisations find it hard to change because of entrenched interests, they can also be shocked into reform — and it is electoral defeat that is the most common precipitant.

It will be interesting to see if Ramaphosa uses his window of opportunity for internal party reform at, and after, next December’s ANC conference.

Third, a “secret” ANC fallback position has always been to embrace the return of the EFF to the mother body after a national election defeat. With the ANC down to, say, 40%, and the EFF on 15% — and the rest of the opposition itching to bring the ANC down — the red berets would have unprecedented leverage. Jobs and patronage could be shared, and the liberation project would live on for another day.

Perhaps the most important outcome of these local government elections may be that most opposition parties are refusing to deal with either the ANC or the EFF. In this way, they are driving those two parties together before they are ready.

Much depends on who voters will punish in 2024 for whatever now follows.

The true extent of the ANC and DA’s losses

An analysis for the FM by the Council for Scientific & Industrial Research gets beyond the spin and reveals the true extent of the decline of SA’s two biggest parties

BL PREMIUM11 NOVEMBER 2021 – 05:00NATASHA MARRIANVoters queue in Khayelitsha to cast their vote during the 2021 Local Government Election. Picture: Esa Alexander

The truth about SA’s two largest political parties, the ANC and the DA, is that they are in deep denial about their electoral fortunes. And if the numbers are anything to go by, the 2024 elections have the potential to be apocalyptic for both.

Yet the bravado and business-as-usual approach to coalition talks indicate that the penny has not yet dropped; the electorate is roaring against SA’s two largest political parties but they remain too arrogant to hear it.

DA leader John Steenhuisen has been bullish, arguing that the DA has improved on its 2019 performance. Only, those were national elections, not easily comparable to a local poll.

On the other side, the ANC’s acting secretary-general, Jessie Duarte, and its treasurer, Paul Mashatile, have spun in circles to project their party’s performance as a win.

But number-crunching by the formidable election modelling team at the Council for Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) for the FM has painted a picture that should alarm both parties.

It’s known by now that the 2021 election results show that the ANC was rejected by urban voters and has effectively become a rural party. But the CSIR analysis shows that the rural areas are by no means a stable and reliable base for the ANC. The party has also been shedding support there — according to the CSIR, by almost as much as in urban areas, from 67.8% in 2016 to 59.6% in 2021. It’s still a strong number, but the trajectory should be sounding warning bells.

Turnout in rural areas dropped as well, from 54.7% to 46.3%. This, too, is not hugely different from urban areas, where it fell from 57.5% in 2016 to 44%.

The provincial breakdown paints an equally disturbing picture for the ANC.

Take the Free State. There, the plunge in support in the mostly rural areas was dramatic — from 65.6% in 2016 to 41.6%. This fall was more profound than in urban areas of the province, where it dropped from 61.2% to 53%.

In KwaZulu-Natal the picture is also bleak. Support for the party in rural areas fell from 60.3% in 2016 to 42.7%; in urban areas it was down from 57.5% to 40.2%. Turnout fell by double-digit numbers too.

In Mpumalanga, the ANC’s rural support was down from 76.6% in 2016 to 68.6%. In urban areas its support fell from 67.6% to 55.4%.

In the North West, the ANC’s rural support held strong, despite the disarray in service delivery, dropping only slightly from 64.6% in 2016 to 61%.

Support also held up relatively well in Limpopo and the Eastern Cape: in rural Limpopo it dropped marginally from 72.4% to 72.1%, while in the Eastern Cape it was down from 78.7% to 75.3%.

Still, the current trajectory suggests that by the time the 2026 local elections roll around, the ANC will be facing hung councils in many more rural areas, after having lost the cities outright.

No longer for minorities

The DA, for its part, was somewhat shielded from a more humiliating defeat by a high turnout among white voters. But two analyses of the results show the party can no longer be described as a party for minorities, given its waning support among Indian and coloured voters.

The CSIR analysts note that their figures are rough estimates, as they used data from the 2011 census. But their analysis is confirmed by independent analyst Dawie Scholtz, who took a deep dive into the numbers for News24 over the weekend.

Speaking to the FM, Scholtz says the DA numbers are down among black, Indian and coloured voters everywhere.

The only positive is a relative recovery of the white vote against 2019 figures — but that’s based purely on a higher turnout among white voters, which “masked how badly the DA actually did”, Scholtz says.

Support for the DA among the white Afrikaans community dropped from 87% in 2016 to 72%, while among English-speaking white voters it fell from 86% to 76%, Scholtz says. Newcomer ActionSA — by far the most diverse party in this election, he says — drew a considerable number of white votes.

The CSIR analysis paints a similar picture: the DA’s support among white voters dropped from 84.5% in 2016 to 72.3%; among black voters it dropped from 8.7% to 6.1%.

A breakdown of the provincial picture shows that the DA’s support among black and white voters declined in 2021 — even in the Western Cape, where support among white voters fell from 93% in 2016 to 85.3% in 2021.

In Gauteng, support for the DA among the white population declined by a sizable 17 percentage points, while it was down 10.9 percentage points in Limpopo, 15 in the North West and 10.9 in Mpumalanga.

It would seem that many white voters supported smaller parties. The Freedom Front Plus said it had grown by 242% in the 2021 election.

In the metros, the DA bled support from white voters in Joburg, where it dropped 19.3 percentage points. It registered an 18.7 percentage point decline among white voters in Tshwane and a 14.3 percentage point drop in Ekurhuleni.

These figures illustrate how much the ANC and the DA have to do before South Africans vote again in 2024. And, crucially, the parties will need to be honest with themselves about their trajectory rather than denying the true extent of their decline.


What the big parties say …

ANC — The biggest loser

The governing party has been one of the biggest losers in the elections, with its national share of the vote for the first time dropping below the 50% mark.But, says party elections head Fikile Mbalula, it’s not the campaign that was the problem. “We put up one of the best campaigns of the ANC in a very short space of time,” he told News24. “From a campaigning perspective, we needed two months extra to get our loyal base out to vote in their numbers. We didn’t have that time.”He may have added that the party ran short of funds and faced a revolt by staff, partly due to the chilling effect of the new Political Party Funding Act and a clampdown on corruption, which meant previous big spenders (think Bosasa) were out of the picture.President Cyril Ramaphosa, who has consistently rated higher than the party in opinion polls, was the face of the campaign. “We knew our arsenal was the president,” Mbalula said. “We were fortunate to have President Ramaphosa at the height of these difficulties,because our people believed the president.”

DA — Some gains, but more losses

John Steenhuisen says when he was elected party leader a year ago, he inherited an organisation where the previous leader “walked off the job and essentially chucked the flag on the floor”. (Mmusi Maimane was basically fired after the party’s lost support in 2019.) In what can be interpreted as a snipe at Maimane, Steenhuisen says: “I’ve given most of my life to this party, and I wasn’t prepared just to walk away from it, soI chose to pick up the flag and tried to dust it off, and get ready for an election.” During the lockdown, the DA ran a strong social media campaign. But it was unable to reach people in rural areas, or meet people face to face. There were, however, also benefits. “I addressed an online virtual rally of over 1,000 people in Nelson Mandela Bay the one night, whereas if you had [a gathering] in Walmer town hall, you’d have got 300 people out,” says Steenhuisen. The party also ran an activist campaign in the uMngeni municipality, where it now controls a KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) council for the first time. “It took years and years of work, it wasn’t an overnight thing. We had an energetic campaign and an energetic,compelling candidate, and a good team around[mayor-elect Christopher Pappas].” Steenhuisen admits he ought to have gone to Joburg sooner – a metro where the DA has won just 26.11% of the vote and lost 33 of the 104 seats it won in 2016. Steenhuisen blames this on “the structure of the party over time [and] how we run constituencies” rather than the competition from Herman Mashaba’s ActionSA. There was also a problem for the party in Western Cape municipalities outside Cape Town. “We’re going to look very carefully at why people, despite the fact that there is good governance and clean municipalities, didn’t vote for the DA there,” Steenhuisen says.

EFF — Slowing momentum

For this campaign, the EFF stuck to tried-and-tested tactics: party leader Julius Malema – the “son of the soil” – was the national face of the campaign, and the message was simple: “Land and jobs manje [now].” The message clearly still appeals, because the EFF’s share of the vote grew by two percentage points to just over 10%. But the gains weren’t nearly as big as in previous years. “I’m the happiest man,” Malema bravely told journalists on Thursday. “When we started our journey we said we wanted to drive the ANC below 50% and we did it.” Malema covered a lot of ground in his campaign. But he says the biggest drawback was the inability to hold big rallies. “Elections, you know, you need excitement,” he says. “The [Covid] regulations do not allow excitement. “What made matters worse was to compete with an incumbent who looks permanently tired,” he says of Ramaphosa. “When you try to fight him it looks like you are attacking an innocent person, and we feel guilty about it.”

IFP — Rebuilding under way

For the IFP, an election is not an event, it’s a process, says party elections head Narend Singh. The IFP has made big gains into double figures in KZN. The party also grew in Chatsworth and Phoenix, from a low base, after it put up posters as a counter to the DA with the message: “Real heroes unite communities.” Singh says the party’s campaign slogan – “Trust us” – has proved popular. Covid has forced the party to have smaller district-level engagements, which paid off, he says.

Carien du Plessis