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JOHANNESBURG — Despite clinching a close victory at NASREC in December, Cyril Ramaphosa may have more power than we all think, according to a recent survey of ANC members. The results of the survey – which are published below – highlight how average ANC members are a lot more middle-of-the-road when it comes to their views on the economy. While expecting the imbalances of the past to be rectified, they also want pro-business policies to drive investment and jobs growth. If Ramaphosa taps into this desire, he could ensure himself a long, successful run in office. – Gareth van Zyl
By Dr Anthea Jeffery*
ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa has won many plaudits for insisting on the immediate replacement of the Eskom board, inducing President Jacob Zuma to appoint the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture, promising the prosecution of those implicated, and assuring the World Economic Forum at Davos that South Africa has turned over a new leaf and is open for business once again.
Such interventions have generated a heady optimism, if not an exuberant belief that the worst is now behind us. However, it is not simply pervasive corruption – and blatant thieving by many in the Zuma camp – that have dragged the economy down in recent years.
Still more important are the ANC’s ever more dirigiste interventions on black economic empowerment, mining, land reform, and property rights in general. Delegates to the ANC’s national conference at Nasrec in December last year went further still by resolving that the Constitution should be amended to allow expropriation without compensation.
If Ramaphosa wants to resist this demand – and embark on the ‘pro-business’ policies at which he has hinted – he will have strong support for this approach from ordinary ANC voters, if not from the politicians and activists who dominated at Nasrec.
Many commentators have suggested that Ramaphosa’s position is too fragile and his Nasrec victory too narrow for him to embark on any major policy reforms. It is, of course, true that he won the ANC presidency by a scant 179 votes. However, if the preferences of ordinary ANC voters had been taken into account, he would have won by a landslide rather than a whisker.
The views of ordinary ANC voters are clearly evident from the results of a comprehensive opinion survey carried out in September 2017. This survey was conducted for eNCA by MarkData and canvassed the views of a fully representative sample of some 5 000 people, including 2 717 self-declared ANC voters.
The results of this survey, as analysed by renowned author and political analyst RW Johnson, were first released by eNCA during the December race for the presidency. They have now also been published in the latest issue of @Liberty, the IRR’s policy bulletin.
As Johnson points out, when these 2 717 ANC voters were asked in September 2017 who they would prefer as their new president, 48.4% opted for Ramaphosa, whereas only 21% supported his key rival, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. Ramaphosa was thus already ahead by a margin of more than 2 to1.
In addition, when the pollsters returned in November 2017 to ask the same question of a panel of some 1 198 of these ANC voters – all of whom had volunteered to be questioned again – “the Ramaphosa momentum had continued and he now led Dlamini-Zuma by 64% to 14%”, as Johnson writes.
Comments Johnson: “Ramaphosa supporters might have been disproportionately likely to volunteer to be on this panel. There is simply no way of knowing that. The most likely interpretation is that there could well have been some sampling bias of this sort, but there must also have been a genuine movement of opinion towards Ramaphosa.”
Among ordinary ANC voters, thus, the contest between the two was hardly ‘neck-and-neck’ or ‘too close to call’. Hence, that the vote at the Nasrec conference ended up being so equal suggests “a quite heroic level of delegate manipulation”, as Johnson comments.
The survey results confirm that Ramaphosa has a great deal of support within the ANC – at least among its rank-and-file membership, if not among the Nasrec delegates. This suggests that he need not be so concerned about ‘unity’ or appeasing the pro-Dlamini-Zuma faction. He ought instead to be able to act decisively on what ordinary ANC voters want.
And what most ordinary ANC voters want is for the ruling party to embark on ‘more pro-business policies’, rather than to pursue ‘radical policies/redistribution’. Even in Dlamini-Zuma’s home province of KwaZulu-Natal, 57.2% of ANC voters said they wanted the ANC to ‘adopt more pro-business policies in the hope that business would invest more and create more jobs’. By contrast, only 19.5% wanted the ANC to ‘push on with radical policies aimed at the complete redistribution of all wealth and income’.
Support among ANC voters for ‘more pro-business policies’ was frequently still stronger, standing at 75.9% in North West, 66.8% in the Eastern Cape, 57.1% in the Northern Cape, 55.9% in Limpopo, and 49.9% in Gauteng. In all these provinces, support for ‘more radical policies/redistribution’ was low, coming in at 6.6% in North West, 8.7% in Limpopo, 10.6% in the Eastern Cape, 12.8% in the Northern Cape, and 16.2% in Gauteng.
Only in two provinces did support for more radical policies exceed support for more pro-business ones. In both these provinces, however, ANC voters were almost equally divided on these options. In the Western Cape, 37.8% of ANC voters wanted more radical policies, whereas 36.5% favoured more pro-business ones. In Mpumalanga, 34.8% of ANC voters preferred more radical policies, whereas 33.1% wanted more pro-business ones.
These survey outcomes confirm that the great majority of ordinary ANC voters want more business-friendly policies, not the ‘radical economic transformation’ that Dlamini Zuma repeatedly emphasised, nor the ‘expropriation without compensation’ (‘EWC’) option which the Nasrec conference endorsed.
As Johnson writes, this suggests that “much of the ANC leadership has completely lost contact with what most ANC voters think and may not even be conscious of the huge divide that separates their assumptions from those of their electorate”.
If Ramaphosa is really different from the rest of the ANC leadership – and if he truly wants to implement the policy reforms required to unleash the country’s great potential – he can tap into this hunger for ‘more pro-business policies’ and set about implementing them.
Whether he has either the wish or the will to do so remains to be seen. His apparent endorsement of the EWC decision at Nasrec suggests the opposite. So too does his recent statement that EWC could turn South Africa into the ‘garden of Eden’. He has also been steeped in the ANC’s socialist ideology for some three decades.
However, if Ramaphosa does indeed want a ‘new deal’ for South Africa, he can forge ahead with vital structural reforms knowing that the bulk of ANC voters not only want him as ANC president, but also want him to walk his talk in implementing pro-business policies.
- Dr Anthea Jeffery is Head of Policy Research at the IRR.
- R W Johnson’s analysis of the opinion survey results, entitled Ramaphosa and the Strange Workings of ANC Democracy, was published yesterday in @Liberty and is available on the IRR website.
Cyril Ramaphosa: The Audio Biography
Listen to the story of Cyril Ramaphosa's rise to presidential power, narrated by our very own Alec Hogg.