The world is changing fast and to keep up you need local knowledge with global context.
LONDON — Many people in the United States during the election of President Donald Trump and in the surprise Brexit result in the United Kingdom had a serious, ‘What the heck went wrong?’ moment. This was mainly due to the polls that indicated that Hillary Clinton was on track to enter the White House and that the sensible Brits would never vote to leave the European Union. More people are now questioning election polls and say they can’t be trusted. There are many reasons why I steered away from polls as a political journalist: they are invariably wrong, make deductions from small samples and people may not feel comfortable telling pollsters who they want to vote for. What I have to say in their defence however is that they normally include many qualifications. Two different sets of polls and a gut prediction were released this week; one is by the Institute of Race Relations predicting a surge in support for the opposition and the governing ANC just hanging onto a majority. While another poll by Ipsos predicts that the ANC will romp home with more than 60% of the vote. If you chuck a few premonitions and assumptions in, 12% of people will go for the smaller parties as they are fed up with the Big Three. This is what Chuck Stephens from the Desmond Tutu Centre for Leadership predicts and he thinks there may be a big surprise at the end of it all. – Linda van Tilburg
Support for South Africa’s ANC slumps ahead of vote, poll shows
The poll of 2,375 registered voters conducted this month by the South African Institute of Race Relations showed the ANC would win 51% backing based on a 72% voter turnout, down 5.2 percentage points since a February survey. The latest poll showed the Democratic Alliance winning 24% of the vote and the Economic Freedom Fighters 14%, the Johannesburg-based institute said.
Previous IRR poll: ANC support waning with Gauteng up for grabs
Another poll of 3,600 adults, who were interviewed face-to-face by research company Ipsos between March 22 and April 17, showed the ANC is likely to secure 61% support based on a 71% voter turnout, while the DA would get 19% and the EFF 11%.
Poll shows South Africa’s ANC winning 61% support in May 8 vote
The poll of 3,600 adults, who were interviewed face-to-face by research company Ipsos between March 22 and April 17, showed the ANC is likely to secure 61 percent support based on a 71 percent voter turnout, while the Democratic Alliance would get 19 percent and the Economic Freedom Fighters 11 percent. No other party polled more than 2 percent support.
The survey results are broadly in line with Ipsos’s last poll of 2,835 adults who were interviewed between Feb. 1 and March 4.
Only a Premonition
By Chuck Stephens*
I am not a pundit yet. Just a keen observer. Before I stick my neck out with a premonition, a couple of assumptions need to be stated.
First, that 81% of South Africans are black; 9% are coloured; 8% are white; and 2% are Indian.
Second, that few, if any whites, will vote for the EFF, which has been accused of “hate speech” although it recently escaped sanction for that by the SAHRC. However, some whites could vote ANC, to support Ramaphosa’s clean-up campaign.
Third, fragmentation is a factor in these elections – in and of itself. Give people a menu to choose from, and they will not all order pap and beef stew. Several polls have indicated that 12% of voters will not vote for any of the Big Three (ANC, DA and EFF).
Henry Ford famously sold his Model T’s on the campaign “You can have any colour you want, as long as it’s black”. But times have changed. People love automobiles of all colours now, even white is very popular. So with 48 parties contesting this election, that “centrifugal force” is bound to have some effect on the “gravitational pull” of the ANC.
The fourth assumption is really important. Remember that there is a national ballot and a provincial ballot. Looking at the national-level voting, the results are determined to a large extent by the returns from two provinces – Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal. Yes there are seven other provinces, but their populations are relatively small.
So much for assumptions, now here are a few premonitions…
The ANC will struggle to win votes in Gauteng, because of the respectable track-record of the DA-led coalitions in the two major metros there – Johannesburg and Tshwane. The DA’s Solly Msimanga inherited a budget deficit from the ANC when he took over as Mayor after the “mid-terms” in 2016. He resigned early this year to campaign as the DA’s candidate for Premier of Gauteng – leaving a budget surplus behind him in Tshwane. This speaks volumes. The DA’s strategy is not only to take Gauteng (at provincial level) – it is to secure a huge block of votes at the national level too – where the density of population is highest in the country.
In KZN, the IFP seems to be making something of a comeback. he ANC is split right across the country, but that is particularly tense in KZN. This could well come into play. It could mean people just not rocking up to vote? Or it could ride the “centrifugal force” to support for other parties? Will it be back-to-the-future with the IFP?
For example, some of the church-backed parties are attracting voters. In the same way that the DA could lose some votes to whites who dislike Maimane’s identity as a “social democrat” more than a liberal democrat”, who may rather opt to vote for the Freedom Front… some black people could opt out of voting ANC just because it has become a “Patronage Party” and vote for one of the church-backed parties?
The split in organised labour is another factor. COSATU no longer represents all Unions. Some Unions have left the ruling alliance and joined SAFTU – led by Jim and Vavi. These visionaries could see that the era of impunity was coming to an end. One new option is the Socialist Worker’s Party. The recent climb-down of AMCU’s strike in the platinum sector is a sign that the power of organised labour is waning.
Not all black workers will vote Left. This could even catch up with the EFF, which once claimed to represent the non-unionised workers – gas jockeys, security guards and domestic workers. But there is now a party launched by the 1.8m security guards in South Africa. There are over 10 security guards for every policeman. And not all these people are Leftists.
Nor are those who are self-employed – the micro-entrepreneurs of the informal sector. They are businesswomen and men, and many of them will vote for parties – even the DA – that want to create better conditions for business and economic opportunity.
To pass the post, the future government must consolidate 51% of the vote. There are 400 seats in the national Assembly, so 201 seats will do it. Although 51% of 400 seats is actually 204 seats.
My premonition arithmetic goes something like this. Most whites, coloured and Indians may not support the ANC? Most people peg the DA at about 22% of the overall vote.
Another 10% or so will support the EFF – all black.
The polls say that 12% of voters will support parties other than the Big Three.
That totals 44%.
So to get past the ANC, to 51%, only another 7% is needed. That is only nine percent of the full black vote. If you lump that with the EFF vote, it comes to 24% of the full black vote.
So can that gravitation pull of the ANC really still attract 8 out of 10 black voters? Especially when the most populous two provinces – Gauteng and KZN – signal some significant support for other parties?
Of course the 12% that tell the pollsters that they will not vote for the Big Three has already been counted by my arithmetic. Not all of those are black, but these three – EFF, swing voters and the 7% required to un-seat the ANC is only 36% of the full black vote.
That is why these elections may be closer than anyone can predict? Basically, the ANC will have to take two out of three black votes to stay in power – by my calculations. But even winning in 6 out of 9 provinces will not guarantee this national-level vote, if Western Cape, Gauteng and KZN swing a lot of votes away from the ANC.
Recent research has been published that suggests that African voters do not really believe, on the whole, that the vote is really secret. They feel that they are being watched. In light of what has come out about the State Security apparatus, political murders and computer-hacking into elections, one can understand why. But FEAR is not a good reason to choose a party. Rather vote it out and bring in a coalition that wants to change the way things are.
FW de Klerk has recently added his remark that in some ways, apartheid offered better services than the ANC government has. It is reminiscent of Helen Zille’s comments that colonialism was not all bad. While comments such as these are regarded as politically incorrect, some black people also think along these lines, believe it or not. It is arrogant to call them “coconuts”, especially when you consider the rise of the “Alt Right” worldwide. In these elections, for once it is OK to say that you are not a socialist. There is even a new Capitalist Party. That climate of fear and the rule of “group think” are fading with the arrival of the born-frees in the electorate.
My premonition is that when the votes are counted, we will all get a big surprise. We will wake up the next morning, and not believe the news headlines. Certainly no other party can overtake the ANC. The real contender this time around is a DA-led coalition. The odds are long, but it cannot be ruled out.
- Chuck Stephens, Executive Director of the Desmond Tutu Centre for Leadership.