Sun. Apr 21st, 2024

As South Africa braces for what is being termed the most fiercely contested election in a generation, the African National Congress (ANC), once an indomitable political force, is confronted with a potential humbling experience in 2024, according to the latest polling results.

Professor David Everatt, from the Wits School of Governance, shared insights in the Daily Maverick on Monday, revealing that the ANC is grappling with a significant decline, polling at a mere 42% among determined registered voters. This marks a historic low, falling well below the critical 50% threshold, although it still maintains a substantial lead over its closest competitors. The Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) trail with 19% and 16% of the vote, respectively, failing to secure a significant portion of the electorate.

Smaller, older political entities are fading into obscurity, leaving the remaining parties vying for electoral support.

The data, derived from a survey commissioned by businessman Roger Jardine’s newly formed Change Starts Now, gathered responses from 9,000 participants across all provinces and urban/rural areas. The provincial level emerges as a focal point, revealing shifts in voter allegiance that hint at a broader reconfiguration of power dynamics.

In the Western Cape, traditionally a stronghold for the DA, the party has seen its majority decline from 56% in 2019 to a current 42%, despite being praised for governance standards. This decline suggests growing voter disillusionment, leading them to explore alternative options. Concurrently, the ANC’s grip in the Western Cape weakens, with its popularity halving compared to that of the DA.

The EFF, while almost doubling its base, remains in the single digits, struggling to make a significant impact. The rise of smaller parties like Build One South Africa and the Patriotic Alliance signals a diversifying political landscape, raising the possibility of coalition governance.

KwaZulu-Natal witnesses a significant erosion of ANC dominance, polling at a mere 26%, influenced by former president Jacob Zuma’s new political venture, uMkhonto Wesizwe. The re-emergence of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) adds complexity, challenging both the ANC and DA and prompting speculation about future coalitions.

In Gauteng, the ANC faces decline with support dwindling to 35%. Everatt suggests the DA and EFF could exploit this weakness through strategic coalitions, potentially reshaping the province’s political landscape. Similarly, in the Free State, the ANC’s dominance wanes, opening the door to coalition politics that could redefine governance.

Everatt notes that the EFF’s consistent performance across regions signals a steady, albeit limited, expansion of its influence, challenging the DA’s position as the primary opposition force to the ANC.

Both major parties, however, face a common challenge: broadening their appeal beyond a limited segment of the electorate.

These developments align with research from the South African Reconciliation Barometer (Sarb), indicating a substantial rise in distrust towards the country’s leadership. Released in December, the research reveals that 79% of South Africans believe leaders cannot be trusted, marking a fourfold increase from two decades ago. Additionally, 81% feel national leaders are indifferent to the concerns of ordinary citizens.

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