South Africa’s watershed 2024 elections – Katzenellenbogen - Biznews

Nov 29, 2023
The national and provincial elections next year could be a watershed in our post-1994 history. There is a good chance that the African National Congress (ANC) will obtain slightly below 50 percent at the national level and that three of the nine provinces – Western Cape, Gauteng, and KwaZulu-Natal, will be in the hands of the opposition.
South Africa’s watershed 2024 elections – Katzenellenbogen - Biznews

The upcoming national and provincial elections in South Africa may mark a turning point in post-1994 history. Polls indicate the African National Congress (ANC) may fall below 50 percent, potentially losing control of key provinces to the Democratic Alliance (DA). While coalition scenarios depend on ANC’s performance, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) could play a pivotal role. Worsening power cuts, allegations of election interference, and the rise of coalition ideas add complexity. The outcome will shape the nation’s future, challenging ANC’s long-standing dominance and fostering hopes for change.

Jonathan Katzenellenbogen

The national and provincial elections next year could be a watershed in our post-1994 history. There is a good chance that the African National Congress (ANC) will obtain slightly below 50 percent at the national level and that three of the nine provinces – Western Cape, Gauteng, and KwaZulu-Natal, will be in the hands of the opposition.

Three provinces under the control of the Democratic Alliance (DA) and its allies, stands to open the way to greater challenges to the central government and a faster erosion to ANC power. If the DA and its allies play it right, there will be three provinces that can provide startling counter-examples to the ANC’s poor governance.

The different scenarios for coalitions at national level depend on how far the ANC falls under 50 percent. Although the ANC will still be the largest party, its failure to reach 50 percent will end thirty years of one-party rule. An ANC with less than 50 percent support will also help unravel the myth in the minds of many that a liberation party can rule forever.

Polls
Three polls released since October show the ANC at below the 50 percent mark more than six months ahead of the election. ANC support was only at 41 percent in the Brenthurst Foundation’s poll and at 45 percent in the Social Research Foundation (SRF)  poll, both released in October. And in a poll released by the Institute of Race Relations this week, the ANC was at 46.5 percent.

With a larger sample size, the Brenthurst poll’s margin of error is three percent, compared to the SRF’s five percent and the IRR’s of six percent. While data from the Brenturst poll shows that the ANC cannot make 50 percent as it is not within the margin of error. The SRF shows the ANC may achieve up to 52.5 percent.

All results would be well down on the 57.5 percent the party obtained in national elections in 2019, but the recent polls show the ANC might just scrape through. ANC support is eroding as the country becomes more urban, but the continuing quandary remains why former ANC supporters tend to stay away from the polls rather than support other parties.

The ANC tends to poll lower far ahead of an election than it achieves at the actual election. It often picks up support in the last few weeks to the poll as its campaign gains traction with rallies, rumours that the opposition will cut grants, promises that it is the party to fight corruption, and documentaries on the struggle that are aired on the state-controlled broadcaster, the SABC.

Coalition
If the ANC falls short of 50 percent by a small margin it will go for a coalition with a group of smaller parties. It will probably be able to get its way on much of what it wants to do, but its patronage ambitions would be slightly curbed. But what parties would make up the margin?

Patricia de Lille of the Good Party is currently in the Cabinet, but might not even make it back to Parliament next year next year. After all, the problem with small parties is that they are small and often simply disappear. Would the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) abandon the DA and the Multi-Party Coalition (MPC) and join the ANC despite possible future vengeance from the voters?

If the ANC needs to make up ten percentage points  or so its partner would probably be the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). An ANC-EFF alliance would seek to shore up its position through radical populist policies aimed at a rapid redistribution of wealth. It would rapidly terminate the benefit of the doubt some investors have given us and we would see a severe recession and the faster erosion of many basic services.

But the prospects of an ANC-EFF alliance after the election next year are unlikely. The ANC will probably not need ten percentage points and besides, the ANC probably realises that the EFF would be overly demanding, unreliable, and make a coalition very heavy work.

All over the place
The polling shows the EFF all over the place in these three recent polls – 17 percent in the Brenthurst poll, 9 percent in the SRF, and 11.6 percent in the IRR. The EFF has for some time had a problem growing as its target market, the 18-to-25-year-olds, have a strong tendency to not even register to vote. The EFF has an effective organisation, a clear proposition, and a strong brand, but it is far from clear that it can break out much beyond ten percent.

There are a few wildcards, both favourable and unfavourable to the ANC.

While our elections have been free and fair so far, who is to say that the IEC, with its heavy reliance on the ANC-aligned South African Democratic Teachers’ Union, might not help the ruling party on the day. The Economic Freedom Fighters have frequently suggested that this Union has been of help to the ANC.

Then there are worsening power cuts, a continuing reminder that the ruling party cannot fix the problem and does not deliver. We might be experiencing the worst power cuts since these seriously began in 2008 because Eskom has been instructed to aggressively fix things ahead of the election. Even if this is the case there will be no guarantee that Eskom is election ready.

Even at a stretch it is unlikely the MPC can gain enough votes and form the necessary coalition to displace the ANC. But the MPC, made up of the  DA, (IFP) Freedom Front Plus, African Christian Democratic Party, ActionSA, Independent South African National Civic Organisation, , the United Independent Movement, and the  Spectrum National Party, seems to be gaining traction.

Polling shows that the idea of parties working together in a coalition is favoured by the voters. In the Brenthurst poll the DA gets 23 percent and the MPC 36 percent. The MPC is not shown in the other polls but the DA is at 31 percent according to the SRF and 26 percent in the CRA poll.

It is highly unlikely that given the numbers in the recent poll that the ANC will need the DA to remain in power.

Decline
If the ANC does win by a thin margin, our decline will continue. It is almost certain that the ANC will delay allowing private contractors to run power stations and rail line. And failure might still mean that it will double down on its plans. That is what ideological governments whose policies have brought failure tend to do – witness Zimbabwe and Venezuela. It is also the case that they will be deeply frustrated by their failures and have to place blame elsewhere.

That is what is displayed by the comments last week of the Minister in the Presidency, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, that the private sector is “engineering the collapse” of the government.

Jonathan Katzenellenbogen is a Johannesburg-based freelance financial journalist. His articles have appeared on DefenceWeb, Politicsweb, as well as in a number of overseas publications. Jonathan has also worked on Business Day and as a TV and radio reporter and newsreader.

https://www.biznews.com/thought-leaders/2023/11/29/south-africas-watershed-2024-elections-katzenellenbogen

This article was first published on the Daily Friend.

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