RW Johnson: Seismic changes ahead as ANC drops, voter cynicism and MK surge ahead of May 29

Political scientist and former Oxford University Don RW Johnson shares key insights from SA’s most authoritative pre-election survey – the only one conducting face-to-face nationwide interviews rather than phone surveys. He says the results support the view SA’s politics has changed more in the past two months than in the previous 20 years. Johnson points out that the collapsing ANC vote (just 41% nationally) remains fragile, and with the trend continuing, everything points to a coalition government after May 29. Moreover, provincial voter patterns suggest pressure for greater devolution or even secession secession will grow, particularly from KZN. He spoke to BizNews editor Alec Hogg.

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Edited transcript of the interview ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

Alec Hogg (00:08.366)
Political scientist R.W. Johnson wrote a BizNews premium column on the results of the eNCA Markdata survey, released over the weekend. We’ll discuss some details and implications.

Alec Hogg (00:31.15)
Mr. Johnson, great to talk with you again. Your recent columns, especially on water issues in Johannesburg and Durban, were well received. Today, let’s delve into the eNCA Markdata results and their significance compared to other polls.

RW Johnson (01:30.019)
MarkData conducts face-to-face interviews in various languages across a nationally representative sample, including rural areas. This sets it apart from smaller telephone polls. In 2019, MarkData’s accuracy was notable, although not predictive. My involvement with eNCA is ongoing, and we’re presenting our findings through ETV.

Alec Hogg (03:33.486)
Regarding your collaboration with eNCA, could you elaborate?

RW Johnson (03:35.715)
I’ve been working with eNCA by invitation, presenting insights as we did in 2019. However, I was surprised by the lack of press coverage at the recent BizNews conference.

Read more: 🔒 RW Johnson: Reading the election’24 tea leaves

Alec Hogg (04:12.334)
Our conference was for our community, not media coverage. The key finding of ANC’s decline in KwaZulu-Natal was significant.

RW Johnson (04:45.123)
The ANC’s decline isn’t isolated to KZN; it reflects broader sentiment. Our survey also highlighted the rise of the MK Party in Mpumalanga and Gauteng. There’s potential for political shifts beyond these provinces.

RW Johnson (06:56.963)
Despite some ANC loyalists, there’s a notable desire for change among voters, reflecting disappointment and disillusionment.

Alec Hogg (07:19.854)
As you mentioned, the ANC’s fragility is evident with only 13% support in KwaZulu-Natal, a historically strong base for them.

RW Johnson (07:31.427)
Yes, KZN was their best province in terms of membership for a while. This decline has likely affected the SACP as well, given their intertwined memberships. Our survey reveals widespread disillusionment, with many attributing issues like inequality and poor public services to ANC’s negligence and corruption.

Alec Hogg (09:40.078)
These findings are stark. Why, then, does the ANC still have 41% support in the research?

RW Johnson (10:01.091)
The ANC’s decline from nearly 70% in 2004 indicates a significant shift. However, loyal ANC voters, though dwindling, still hold onto hope and loyalty. But upcoming leadership changes and public dissatisfaction pose challenges for the ANC’s future.

Alec Hogg (12:20.91)
At the BizNews conference, there was talk of a possible government of national unity. Would such a coalition be risky for the ANC’s partner?

RW Johnson (12:46.595)
Realistically, an ANC coalition with parties like MK or EFF could trigger economic turmoil. The DA faces dilemmas too, considering potential compromises and public backlash. The landscape is complex, with various factors influencing future political scenarios.

RW Johnson (14:39.779)
The DA may find itself in a difficult position, navigating between undesirable coalition options. An ANC minority government could be another challenging scenario, requiring constant negotiation in parliament. Job creation, unemployment, load shedding, and crime remain top concerns, overshadowing other political agendas like NHI and land reform, which lack significant public support.

RW Johnson (16:39.811)
The electorate’s priorities differ from the ANC’s focus on issues like NHI and land reform, with low public confidence in the government’s ability to address these challenges.

Read more: BNC#6: Corné Mulder – Only coalitions, inter-party collaboration can unseat the ANC

Alec Hogg (17:30.126)
Voters seem to be making rational choices. Looking ahead to the next 70 days, do you anticipate the trends of ANC’s decline, EFF’s strength, and MK’s emergence continuing up to the 29th of May?

Alec Hogg (18:06.11)
Will the ANC’s decline below 40%, as per your poll showing 41.5%, accelerate by the 29th of May?

RW Johnson (18:21.507)
It’s uncertain. Recent political shifts indicate a dynamic environment, with significant changes compared to the past 20 years. We need to revisit key questions just before the election to capture the latest sentiments.

Alec Hogg (19:38.222)
Could you update us on the key provincial battles: KwaZulu-Natal, Western Cape, and Gauteng?

RW Johnson (20:00.899)
In Gauteng, the ANC is performing better than expected, around 46%, while the DA is in the low 20s. The Western Cape sees the DA at 47%, impacted by recent defections and EFF’s rising influence. Turnout dynamics may also play a crucial role in the final results.

RW Johnson (22:00.963)
Anticipating turnout is challenging, with historical trends suggesting a lower turnout despite high reported interest in politics. This could significantly affect outcomes, making it a key factor to watch during the election.

RW Johnson (23:34.435)
KwaZulu-Natal presents a complex picture with no clear majority. MK, IFP, DA, ANC, and EFF all have significant support, making coalition-building difficult. The province shows signs of discontent and potential rebellion, raising concerns about governance challenges.

RW Johnson (25:41.923)
The mood in KZN and nationally reflects deep discontent, with concerns about ungovernability looming. The future remains uncertain, and we’ll have to wait and see how events unfold.

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