ANC land grab talk backfires; party support hits record low

EDINBURGH — President Cyril Ramaphosa has failed to woo back disillusioned ANC voters, a survey suggests. Support for the ruling party was already dwindling under Jacob Zuma, with widespread corruption persuading many in urban areas to vote for other parties in local elections in 2016. Ramaphosa beat the land grab drum earlier this year in an effort to regain the loyalty of citizens who have shifted allegiance to the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) – a party that would like to see Venezuela-style economics and is hostile to white South Africans. Although the ANC has lost its lustre, it is still expected to take more than 50% of votes in next year’s elections. – Jackie Cameron

By Roxanne Henderson and Antony Sguazzin

(Bloomberg) – South Africa’s ruling African National Congress is on course to secure just over half of the vote in next year’s elections, its worst-ever result, a poll commissioned by the Institute of Race Relations showed.

Fifty-two percent of 978 registered voters interviewed by phone between Aug. 22 and Sept. 4 said they would support the ANC, while 23 percent backed the Democratic Alliance and 13 percent the Economic Freedom Fighters, according to the poll, which was conducted by Victory Research on behalf of the Johannesburg-based research institute. The survey had a margin of error of 3 percent.

File Photo: Supporters of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

Should the poll prove an accurate barometer of voter preferences, it would indicate the ANC has yet to recover from former President Jacob Zuma’s scandal-marred rule, during which its share of the ballot plummeted to 54 percent in a 2016 municipal vote, from 62 percent in national elections two years earlier. The ruling party forced Zuma to step down in February and named Cyril Ramaphosa to succeed him.

The survey showed that the EFF, which won 8 percent of the vote in 2016, has won over many disenchanted ANC supporters with its push to force the ruling party to adopt populist policies, such as expropriating land without compensation, said Gareth van Onselen, the SAIRR’s head of politics and governance.

“Alienated black ANC voters have responded to the EFF’s ability to dominate ANC policy and, already favourable to the EFF, chosen to align with it rather than the ANC,” he said. “It means that the ANC’s strategic decision to nullify the EFF by attempting to pander to and adopt its policies has backfired dramatically.”

Ramaphosa said in an address in New York on Monday that the country would hold national elections before the end of May next year, and he expects the ANC to regain lost ground. The 106-year-old party has held power since the country’s first multiracial elections in 1994.

The SAIRR survey’s other finding include:

  • Support for the EFF is fragile and a low voter turnout could see it lose out to the DA, currently the second-largest party.
  • No party is on course to win an outright majority in the central Gauteng province, which includes Johannesburg, the economic hub, and Pretoria, the capital.
  • A lack of jobs, drug abuse and crime were seen by respondents as the three most pressing issues the government needed to tackle.
  • Addressing land reform was considered the lowest of 13 possible priorities suggested by the institute, despite the issue having dominated public discourse over recent months.