Frans Cronje unpacks Zuma “gamechanger” sending ANC election prospects tumbling

The Social Research Foundation polled Jacob Zuma’s popularity in his home province of KZN just days before the popular politician announced his support for the newly formed MK party in opposition to the ANC. SRF chairman Dr Frans Cronje says the data shows Zuma’s re-entry is a “game changer” for an ANC which he says is now in panic mode. With Zuma’s MK set to draw 10% nationally and around a quarter of the vote in KZN – primarily from the ANC – the ruling party can no longer expect a benign post-election future where it retains power with the help of a smaller party or two. Among the consequences of the Zuma fracture is increased pressure for provincial secessions from a union imposed by the British colonial power in 1910. Cronje spoke to BizNews editor Alec Hogg.

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Relevant timestamps from the interview

  • 00:00 – Introduction
  • 00:44 – Particular insight that Jacob Zuma might enter the race     
  • 02:57 – Would Zuma’s entry impact the EFF?
  • 03:38 – Zuma’s dynasty v.s. Ramaphosa
  • 05:37 – What might the coalition look like?
  • 08:15 – EFF in KZN
  • 09:35 – What might be the optimistic be getting wrong?
  • 11:13 – A date of election was not announced
  • 12:18 – What did you feel about the voter registration weekends?
  • 14:55 – Why do you feel other parties will not gonna make the impact some other people believe they will?
  • 20:16 – Recent developments
  • 25:16 – Conclusion

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Edited transcript of the interview ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

Alec Hogg: Dr. Frans Cronje has valuable insights into the potential impact of Jacob Zuma’s re-entry into politics with the African National Congress in the upcoming national election. As the chairman of the Social Research Foundation, Dr. Cronje recently conducted a poll on Zuma’s popularity, shedding light on the unfolding political landscape.

Frans, your January poll was timely. Were there indications that Jacob Zuma might enter the political arena?

Frans Cronje: Certainly. Some of Zuma’s colleagues had registered a party earlier, signalling the potential for his entry. Once officially announced, we conducted surveys in Natal over the last two weeks to gauge public sentiment. The results indicate a significant shift, especially in KZN’s provincial ballot.

In 2019, the ANC secured about 50% in KZN, but last year, after Zuma’s entry, our polls showed a drop to around 40%. In the current data for KZN’s provincial ballot, ANC stands at 25%, Zuma at 24%, and IFP at 24%. If these trends hold nationally, Zuma could impact the ANC’s tally by five percentage points, potentially lowering ANC’s national support to around 40%.

Alec Hogg: Is Zuma drawing votes only from the ANC, or does his entry also affect the EFF?

Frans Cronje: Primarily, Zuma is attracting ANC voters, with some impact on the EFF and IFP. The significant shift involves ANC supporters leaving for Jacob Zuma.

Alec Hogg: Does this revisit the 2017 dynamics when the Zuma faction narrowly lost to Ramaphosa, suggesting lingering resentment?

Frans Cronje: Partly, but it’s deeper. Zulu nationalism, present since Zuma’s leadership, played a role. Zuma’s appeal lifted ANC support in KZN. These numbers also reveal a broader challenge – testing the unity of South Africa, particularly in KZN, where there’s notable support for secession.

Alec Hogg: Given the current polling in KZN, how might potential coalitions shape up?

Frans Cronje: Provincially, ANC at 25%, IFP and Zuma at 24%, and DA at 15%. Coalition dynamics are uncertain, with no firm decisions from the parties. The shock of these results has hit the ANC hard, and the possibility of a faster decline in ANC’s support is now on the table.

The ANC might struggle to cobble together a majority, and the prospect of a rapid collapse is higher than anticipated. While these are not definitive forecasts, the implications of the data suggest a challenging scenario for the ANC in the upcoming elections.

Alec Hogg: You mentioned that the EFF is not performing well in KZN, yet over the weekend, there were many people in the Moses Mabhida Stadium.

Frans Cronje: The crowd in a stadium tests the efficiency of organising logistics to transport people. Putting 20,000 people in a stadium is a gauge, but not a definitive measure of overall support. In KZN, our data showed ballot splitting, with the EFF doing better on the national ballot than the provincial one. While influential, the EFF isn’t overshadowing Zuma’s impact in KZN.

Alec Hogg: The pollsters, including SRF, have the EFF’s support ranging from 9% to 18%. What might the more optimistic forecasts be getting wrong?

Frans Cronje: We have them on the lower end at around 10%, while others suggest 18%. Considering margins of error, the difference isn’t substantial. Discrepancies arise from sampling methods, possibly undercounting or exaggerating certain voter demographics. Despite varying estimates, the consensus is that EFF’s support is in the teens.

Alec Hogg: Were you surprised that a date for the election was not announced in the state-of-the-nation address?

Frans Cronje: Not particularly. While they have time to announce, delaying could impact voter turnout, especially in regions like the Eastern Cape where cold weather may discourage voters. The decision may likely come in the second half of May.

Alec Hogg: What are your thoughts on the voter registration weekends?

Frans Cronje: The DA outperformed, and registration weekends are crucial for parties to mobilise voters. However, registering voters from lower socio-economic backgrounds is challenging. Younger voters, skeptical due to past betrayals, may not significantly impact registration numbers.

Alec Hogg: Your skepticism about new political entries like ActionSA, Roger Jardine, and Songezo Zibi – why do you doubt their impact?

Frans Cronje: It’s not cynicism but skepticism based on understanding the voting market. Some new entrants may struggle to appeal to a specific voter base. While smaller parties collectively garner a significant percentage, their impact depends on decisions regarding coalitions.

Alec Hogg: Regarding potential coalitions, you mentioned a confidence and support agreement. How might this unconventional approach shape post-election dynamics?

Frans Cronje: It’s an alternative to formal coalitions, where parties agree to oppose motions of no confidence for stability but may not endorse policies. This approach could be pivotal in achieving national stability and passing essential legislation.

Alec Hogg: Is there any upside to recent developments in South African politics?

Frans Cronje: There are significant upsides. Despite governance challenges, the prospect of a peaceful transition is positive. The centrist and moderate nature of public opinion, the absence of money printing, and the ability of communities to fill gaps left by the state are advantages. South Africa holds the potential for a positive transformation if played effectively.

Alec Hogg: Dr. Frans Cronje, chairman of the Social Research Foundation, thank you.

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