Voters warming to coalition government, rejecting BRICS, ANC crashing – Ray Hartley

A recent survey conducted by the Brenthurst Foundation has found that support for the ruling ANC party has dropped from 48% in 2022 to 41%. The poll also showed that the gap between the ANC and opposition parties has shrunk and that the Multi-party Coalitions (MPC) – which combines the votes of DA, IFP, Action SA, FF+, and United Independent Movement – could get 36% of the vote. Additionally, 24% of voters said that the launch of the MPC made them more likely to vote for an opposition party. The survey also indicates a rise in support for the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) – up from 11% a year ago to 17%. South African voters’ attitude towards BRICS was also polled, with 40% of people indicating that they prefer an association with the West and other democracies to an alignment with BRICS. It also indicated South Africans were keen to vote in 2024 with 80% saying that they would almost certainly go to the polls.  In an interview with BizNews Ray Hartley, Director of Research at the Brenthurst Foundation said the survey was conducted through in-depth interviews with a random sample of 1,500 voters. Hartley said that the survey indicates a substantial erosion of the ANC’s political base and it is clear that Gauteng and Kwazulu-Natal will join Western Cape as provinces ruled by the opposition. He added that the growing support for opposition parties is linked to a widespread desire to see politicians come together to address the country’s challenges, rather than engage in divisive bickering. – Linda van Tilburg

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Relevant timestamps from the interview

  • 00:00 – Introductions
  • 00:44 – On what the polling data says about the ANC’s grip on power
  • 02:54 – Do people see a coalition government as the solution
  • 04:44 – On more parties joining the opposition pact in future
  • 05:54 – On more responders seeing ANC as most effective governance
  • 07:21 – On responders’ opinions on BRICS
  • 08:25 – How responders feel about private sector handling infrastructure
  • 09:32 – On the reliability of the polling data
  • 10:33 – When Brenthurst Foundation plan to do another poll
  • 11:02 – On the ANC losing its power
  • 12:34 – How people feel about Cyril Ramaphosa
  • 13:52 – On the growth in EFF support
  • 16:02 – On working on election monitoring

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Excerpts from the interview

ANC support is crashing, competition makes every political party better 

It seems to be slipping fast. We did a similar poll and used the same questions 12 months ago, at the end of 2022. In that poll, the ANC was at 48% and it’s now at 41%. So that is a result of the impact of load shedding in particular, which has been heavy over the last year. When we did that poll, we were just entering the heavy phase of load shedding at the end of 2022 and it’s almost been load-shedding every day since then. The impact on people’s attitudes has been enormous and particularly the seeming inability to fix it. So, that’s quite a stark number in the poll. 

It is pretty clear that Gauteng and KwaZulu-Mittal will join the Western Cape as provinces that are governed by the opposition. That in itself is quite a substantial erosion of the ANC’s political base. I think they will be looking for coalition partners. So that represents quite a big shift. The democratic effect of political competition shouldn’t be underestimated. If the ANC is governing in a coalition, I think they’re going to become a lot more focused on delivering results and on trying to claw back their position and their political profile in the country. It should make them better and the opposition think that they could win the next election. So, the rising political competition makes everyone better, makes everyone more focused.

Ramaphosa’s popularity is in decline, 1% above ANC

We did some favourability testing and his favourability is actually in decline. So, he has the highest favourability of South African politicians. It was 48, and that has declined to 42. It’s still a point above the party, which is interesting.

Support for opposition grew after the formation of Multi-Party Charter

There is a new stat in the poll, which is an amalgamation of all the parties that are part of the multi-party coalition. If you look at their numbers, they’re up from a year ago marginally, from 34% to 36%. So, what’s quite interesting there is that you had a 14-point gap between the ANC and the multi-party coalition a year ago. That’s down to five points now. So, it starts to raise the question of what will happen if more parties join that multi-party coalition and add a few percentage points here and there,  and if the slide continues for the next six months heading into the next election, it could be a very competitive election.

There is a very strong feeling among people polled that they would accept or like a coalition government. I think it’s related to  ‘let’s get together and fix this’, which seems to be the mentality behind that. They don’t want to see people bickering and fighting and splintering. They want to see people getting together and trying to do something about this. 

I think that’s what that multi-party coalition set out to do – to say ‘Look, we’re getting together and we’re putting all that stuff aside’ – and look at what happened in municipalities. We don’t want that to happen at the national level. So, the message has been pretty well received. One of the interesting statistics here is that 24% of those polled said they would consider voting for an opposition party following the launch of the multi-party coalition. So, it’s early days and the multi-party coalition has got a lot of work to do because frankly their public impact has been very low, they’re not really in the media, and they don’t get their message out. They are however working a lot behind the scenes on trying to get themselves onto the same page. So,  it’s an interesting time, as always, for South African politics.

Majority thinks ANC is still the best at governing 

I think there’s another way of looking at it, which is saying that is below their poll figure. 41% say they’ll vote for them, but only 30% say they are the most effective at governing. It tells you that there are other factors, loyalty, or whatever else playing into it. The DA has 29% which is again above the 23% that it’s polling. So, there are people in other parties who think that it is most effective. I think that probably relates to the Western Cape and Cape Town, which show up very strongly as the best-governed province and city. So, it’s quite an interesting statistic. It suggests that it’s a little bit out of kilter. People aren’t necessarily being or rationally allocating their votes based on performance.

Association with the West preferred to BRICS, want private sector involvement in infrastructure 

We expected there to be a huge bump for BROCS following the summit but more people believe that it’s in South Africa’s economic interests, 40%, to have an association with the West and other democracies compared to BRICS. So, it doesn’t quite ignite the public imagination  in the way that President Cyril Ramaphosa believed it would.

South Africans want the private sector to get involved with infrastructure development.

I think there is a great deal of openness amongst people wanting the private sector to get involved. So it’s a pretty solid number, and it’s rising compared to a year ago. So I think there is, again, this desire of ‘Let’s get together and fix this now.’ People are less interested in whether there is privatisation than nationalisation.

They want to see some kind of cooperation working together. And I think it’s quite a big signal for the government because I think the ANC often thinks that there is a political obstacle with its constituency to bring the private sector into infrastructure development and so on. And actually, there isn’t.

EFF and Julius Malema’s popularity is increasing, which could tempt ANC into a coalition

Julius Malema’s favourability has risen from 25 to 31, which I think is quite interesting. The EFF was very smart this year. They used their birthday celebration to run a mini-election campaign. They had posters across the country, events, and then they had the great big shindig at FNB with the rising stage and all of the channels televised it. That has led to a bump for them. Whether that will survive until the election, I’m not sure. But they certainly are rising.

I think it puts them more towards the centre stage. If the ANC falls dramatically to gain around 41% of the vote, it’s first going to look for a single coalition partner, because that’s a much more simple and straightforward way to take back or retain power.

The EFF will offer them a good majority. They’ll have a coalition of two parties with a 58% majority So, the temptation will certainly be there. There’s no love lost between Julius Malema and Cyril Ramaphosa, but Paul Mashatele, on the other hand, the deputy- president has indicated that they should consider this.

I think it would be pretty dire for the country in my view, because there would be a pound of flesh demanded and the EFF is likely to insist on senior government positions. They’ll probably take a shot at getting the deputy presidency.  But also policy-wise, they came so close and yet disagreed on the expropriation of land. They might resolve that.

On the reliability of polls and surveys

We have people working out of an experienced polling company in London, so they’re not connected to any party in South Africa because a lot of the South African pollsters are doing work for one or other of the parties. That can cloud the way they would do things. So, we use a company in London called SABI and they use telephonic interviews that are 15 minutes long. We think you get a pretty good qualitative result out of that.

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