Election 2024: ANC “very difficult” to beat & Zuma could get 10%

It’s going to be “very difficult” for the ruling African National Congress (ANC) to lose national power in the upcoming election; former President Jacob Zuma “is capable” of getting 5 to 10% nationally; and smaller parties in the Multi-Party Charter face an uncertain future. This has emerged from an interview with Political Commentator and Editor of the “Inside Politics” blog Gareth van Onselen. He also discusses the mixed fortunes of parties that have broken away from the ANC, and dissects the provincial battles in Gauteng where ANC support is on a knife-edge, and the Western Cape where the Democratic Alliance (DA) is under threat from smaller parties.

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Relevant timestamps from the interview

  • 00:11 – Introduction
  • 00:39 – The Multi party charters chances in the election
  • 03:55 – The prospects of parties that have broken away from the African National Congress
  • 07:52 – How would an adverse provincial result affect the national result for the ANC
  • 09:50 – How the MK party could affect the elections particularly the KZN region
  • 11:50 – Ace Magashule
  • 14:15 – The Western Cape and DA under threat
  • 17:25 – Foreign funding for various parties
  • 17:34 – This election is also a battle between superpowers.
  • 18:55 – What can we expect from this election
  • 21:20 – Conclusions

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Highlights from the interview

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It’s going to be “very difficult” for the ruling African National Congress (ANC) to lose national power in the upcoming election. 

That is the opinion of Political Commentator and Editor of the “Inside Politics”  blog Gareth van Onselen.

Speaking to BizNews, he says: “…I think in order for the ANC to actually fall out of national power and not be able to cobble together some coalition of like-minded small parties – even before you consider the EFF (Economic Freedom Fighters) – it really needs to drop down to about 45% and below. And that is incredibly difficult to do.

“So 50% is a nice democratic metaphor for the way in which the country’s democracy is unfolding and change in government options. But as far as hard power goes, you need the ANC to drop by almost 10 points or more. And that’s a really tough task.

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“…in absolute terms, the ANC really has a huge number of votes. I mean, at its peak, it was between 12 and 10 million. It’s still pretty much around 10 million. And the number of votes that you need to lose, or at least that the ANC needs to lose to drop below 50% is really substantial. It has to lose more votes than it lost in 2019. So its decline has to accelerate from 2019. There’s no real prospect of it dropping below 50% if it declines at the same rate or even a lower rate.

“And given the amount of effort that the ANC is putting into electioneering, it’s going to have some effect on its rate of decline. I mean, the ANC will still decline, I think, but we have yet to see and we’ll have to wait for some more recent polls as to what that kind of rate of decline looks like.”

Here are some of the other highlights from the interview: 

The voter turn-out factor: 

“The critical factor in bringing the ANC below 50% is you need a very particular kind of turn-out scenario: You need ANC voters to stay away in large numbers, which they have done in the past, but simultaneously you need opposition voters to come out in huge numbers, which is historically difficult for the opposition to do in national elections.

“So you need that combination of two factors to work together. You need ANC voters to be alienated and stay away or not vote or ideally switch to another party. And you need opposition voters across the board, all opposition parties to come out in huge numbers. And those are both very difficult things to do on a huge scale. They might happen on a small or a medium scale, but you need them to happen on a big scale for the ANC to drop below 50%. It is possible, just an outlier scenario.”

Gauteng where ANC support is on a knife-edge: 

“…it’s most likely that the ANC will fall below 50% are Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal. And there are a couple of reasons for that. The one is that the ANC has already dipped below 50% twice in 

Gauteng in local government elections and once in KZN also in a local government elections.

“If the majority of votes come from a certain place and your vote goes down, obviously it’s going to hurt you nationally. But the risk to the ANC is almost double fold. They risk losing big and powerful provincial governments, but then also seriously damaging their national percentage.”

The impact of Zuma’s MK in Natal: 

“A lot of people say, well, the ANC lost a certain percentage, significant percentage of votes under Jacob Zuma and therefore those votes are all available to Zuma. That’s partially true, but his market is probably bigger than that because between the ANC and the IFP (Inkatha Freedom Party), they’ve been trading millions of votes for 20 years. And there’s just a huge market of fluidity in KZN. It’s also true that, you know, a kind of Zulu nationalism in KZN is a very powerful political force. And the person who’s best able to exemplify that tends to do very well too.

“I would say Zuma is capable of getting 5 to 10% nationally. And I think his market is not just KZN, I think that’s the primary market. But I think he could get a few votes in Gauteng as well. And then some bits and pieces elsewhere. But yeah, those two markets, KZN in particular, are I think where his biggest strength lies.”

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The DA under threat in the Western Cape: 

“It’s problem is that its decline is not coming at the expense of the ANC, but of a wide variety of smaller parties which typically have some kind of nationalistic or populist ideology which is very difficult for the DA to compete with…It can’t play the kind of populist politics that a lot of opposition parties can and new parties in particular because they have no historical record to compare what they say against; so they can kind of promise the world, but also they can take really dangerous positions…, particularly on issues like illegal immigration, which is a very fraught issue and needs to a great deal of sensitivity and empathy to deal with that the DA can’t really compete with. 

“And it’s getting attacked on a lot of fronts by these small parties that are all taking small bites out of it. And so the DA’s fundamental battle in this election is going to be to protect its core support base from those smaller parties. Which I think it should do and its majority should be fine. Again, it’s still a while to go to the election, but all evidence suggests that it’s solid in the Western Cape. 

“It does pose a longer term problem for the DA…I mean, it dominates the coloured votes in the Western Cape, it dominates the Indian votes, such as it is in the Western Cape and KZN, and it absolutely dominates the kind of white constituency. But black voters, former ANC voters, alienated voters that have dropped out of the pool, it seems to do far worse at. And unless it just wants to spend its life kind of fighting for a 50 % majority, it needs to find a way to break into those other markets in a substantial way, as opposed to the small way it has at the moment, to just give itself some more breathing room.”

The fate of smaller parties in the Multi-Party Charter:

“…76% of all the votes in the charter of those 10 parties come from the DA (Democratic Alliance). And then at the other end of the spectrum, there’s six parties inside that coalition, which have never stood in a national provincial election before, or they did and they’ve vanished, basically. So you have at the other end of the spectrum, a whole lot of parties that are really going to battle to get a single seat at all. They’re really unknown. They’re really small. 

“And that kind of presents a number of political problems for the members of the charter. The one is those parties that fall in the middle, parties like the ACDP (African Christian Democratic Party) and the Freedom Front (FF+) and Action South Africa, are heavily reliant on the DA for the charter to perform well as are the smaller parties, which are going to rely heavily on those other parties in order to be able to be part of something meaningful, because if they can’t deliver a seat, their ability to influence the charter at the negotiating table is going to be nought.

“And that’s one of the downsides of coalitions for smaller parties is that the big majority party tends to dominate. It kind of eats up the support of the smaller parties over time. And it’s something that I think these coalition, multi-party charter coalition partners are going to have to be very wary of.”

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*The link to Gareth van Onselen’s blog: