🔒 Premium RW Johnson: What we already know about SA’s watershed 2024 Election

Don’t miss the third successive Premium-only contribution below from RW Johnson, the most popular columnist on BizNews.

By RW Johnson

Although we are still some way from the 2024 election a number of points already seem clear. First, the ANC vote, after decades of rock-hard solidity, has become soft and spongy. This is visible from multiple sources. First, the latest Brenthurst survey puts the ANC at 41%, down from 48% in its previous survey. In the Western Cape the ANC vote has collapsed from over 28% in 2019 to only 8% now. 

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This could probably only happen to a patronage-based party. The ANC has almost no patronage at all in the Western Cape and so its support has completely collapsed. In KwaZulu-Natal, despite being bolstered by Jacob Zuma’s still great popularity there, the ANC has fallen from over 54% in 2019 to just 40% now. And nationally, the ANC has fallen from 57.5% in 2019 to just 41% now. With swings this great in its support now commonplace there is no knowing where the ANC vote could end up in 2024.

Secondly, Ramaphosa’s support has fallen vertiginously. In 2019 no less that 11% of voters said they would vote for the ANC purely because they had confidence in Ramaphosa. (In those days Ramaphosa’s favourablity rating was 60-65%.) Now, however, only 42% say they view Ramaphosa favourably, while 40% view him unfavourably. This, hardly, by accident, coincides with the ANC’s level of support.  

Thirdly, this collapse in ANC support has seen a corresponding ascent in the EFF’s following. Thus in 2019 the EFF got only 4.04% of the vote in the Western Cape but  is now on 15% there, making it the chief opposition party in that province. But this is not true everywhere: in KwaZulu-Natal, where the EFF got 9.71% in 2019, it now sits at only 8% – doubtless constrained by the tense battle in that province between the ANC and the Multi-Party Coalition. However, nationally the EFF has risen from 10.8% in 2019 to 17% now. Thus while the ANC has lost 16.5% since 2019 only 6.2% of that has gone to the EFF, meaning that over 10% has gone elsewhere. 

As always with the EFF, there has to be a cautionary note. The EFF is heavily dependent on the support of younger voters and that group is particularly prone to abstention and even a failure to register.

The Multi-Party Coalition is buoyed by the fact that no less that 74% say they would like to see a coalition government – a figure which includes many ANC voters. In general the idea of parties collaborating with other parties is popular.

However, there has been no great surge in support for the MPC’s lead party, the DA. In 2019 the DA fell back to 20.77% but it has now recovered to 23%, which is to say its support is still largely confined to the minority ethnic groups. On the other hand the MPC (which now includes the ACDP) has now edged up from 34% to 36%. This leaves it only 5% behind the ANC and, for the first time, presents us with a potential two-party system.

The great weakness of the MPC is that it lacks a major African component. Only in KwaZulu-Natal is that not so. Here the IFP’s revival has carried it from the 16.34% it won in 2019 to 26% now. Moreover, the DA’s participation in the MPC has earned it extra votes here – it has climbed from 13.9% in 2019 to 18% now. Thus all told the MPC is on 44% in this province compared to only 40% for the ANC. 

Only in Gauteng is the IFP vote likely to be important. In 2019 the ANC clung on here with only 50.19% of the vote. If the ANC merely scores its average loss here in 2024 it will fall to 34-35%. But the IFP nationally is set to rise from 4% in 2019 to 7% in 2024, which means it might well play an important role in the MPC in this key province.

What this means is that the MPC could well win the three most populous provinces – Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape. These are also the most heavily urbanized provinces, emphasising the fact that the ANC is retreating from the cities to become a predominantly rural party.

However, the joker in the pack is that clearly the old solidity of the old voting blocs (especially the ANC bloc) is gone. There could easily be further dramatic movements between now and election day 2024.

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