RW Johnson: Why ANC/EFF most likely post-2024 – and potential consequences, including provincial secession pressure

In this sobering but enlightening interview, SA’s foremost political scientist RW Johnson shares insights from his latest column which is on BizNews Premium – and delves deeper into the reasons why he believes SA is likely to have an ANC/EFF government after the 2024 election. He doesn’t fancy its longevity, however, and explains how this coalition could trigger irresistible pressure for provincial secession, particularly by the Western Cape. He was interviewed by Alec Hogg of BizNews.

Timestamps for interview below:

  • 00:08 – RW Johnson on the parallels between the book A Bend in the River and South Africa
  • 03:55 – On if we are underestimating the trouble South Africa is in
  • 07:26 –  On the Eskom and De Ruyter debacle and it’s reflection of the state we’re in
  • 09:01 – On the shafts of light still present in SA
  • 10:54 – On why the DA will not be voted by the majority in 2024
  • 13:40 – On the bad blood between the parties and what must be done
  • 14:58 – On the reasons why the ANC/EFF coalition seems the most likely post 2024
  • 18:09 – On the pressure for secession especially in the Western Cape
  • 20:17 – Concluding remarks

Some extracts from the interview:

RW Johnson on if we are underestimating the trouble South Africa is in 

I don’t think so. I think we’re all fairly well aware of what’s gone wrong and how we have an irresolute and incompetent government, which is right. The thing that is really so striking, and I was struck by over the weekend reading the reactions of various business leaders, saying, the really distressing thing is that the whole situation with electricity has been going around since 1998 and for 25 years this government allowed the situation to get worse and worse. And it just sat on its backside and allowed it to happen. The same is true about greylisting. The business community warned the government five years ago that unless they got their act together that something bad would happen and now it’s happened because they didn’t do what they were told they needed to do. But they just don’t do a thing. And one can see a similar situation boarding up over the car industry. Already for several years now they’ve been warning that if they don’t move to electric vehicles it’ll be the end of the car industry in this country, they urgently need a new government policy on this, which will take away the extra taxes on electric vehicles and so on and so forth. And there just isn’t such a policy and the government does nothing. And yet this is a huge employer. It’s a large part of the whole industrial sector of South Africa, it really can’t afford to let that go. And yet they behave as if it’s allowed. It’s extraordinary.

Read more: RW Johnson: Home truths about the DA and coalition governments

On why the DA will not be voted by the majority in 2024

Well, it’s no secret that, since 1994, our politics has been to some extent an ethnic census. And the people are still voting quite heavily on racial lines. And that is not going to stop overnight. It has declined. The fall in the ANC vote shows the decline and is still declining. But I think there is a barrier where the DA is concerned that they are seen far more than ActionSA or the IFP or whatever as a white party. And in that sense, I do think that the only way ahead for the Opposition is a sort of a popular front where now, the DA cannot easily win over voters from the ANC and the EFF, but ActionSA probably can. Now, they need an alliance with parties like that and the IFP and Freedom Front, all the parties on that side who are able to get some of those votes and to maximise the total opposition. But obviously there’s no point, including the Patriotic alliance, parties of that sort, which are purely opportunists and will do a deal with whoever on the next day they feel. But nevertheless, there are a number of reasonably principled parties that are available and I think that’s the way that the DA has got to go. 

On the reasons why an ANC/EFF coalition seems most likely post-2024

Well, it’s simply that it’s a much easier thing for the ANC than to deal with the DA. A deal with the DA is a divorce from Cosatu, and the SACP right away and so you’ve got a huge problem with the alliance, which you don’t have. If you go for a party to your left like the EFF: Certainly the EFF was going to have probably a 10 or 11%, the DA, maybe a quarter of the vote. And, it’s much easier to deal with a relatively smaller group. And that’s about what we’ll need anyway. Certainly, there is simply racial politics that it’s very much easier to do a deal with another African party. And particularly, one that used to be part of the ANC. So I think emotionally and psychologically, it’s very much easier for the ANC. And it’s true that there will be a number of people in the ANC that’ll be very uncomfortable with an alliance with the EFF. But who would actually leave the party for that reason? Difficult to say most of them would rub along, however, unhappily with it, whereas if they did the deal with the DA. I think you would find that the triple alliance would immediately break up Cosatu and the SACP, which they’re right, we can’t ever let you do that. So you immediately have a big crisis in the ANC. So I think from that point of view, it is more likely and yet at the same time, as I put it in the article, I don’t think there is a viable government, which can last any length of time in that direction. I think that a government, including Malema and where the ANC has been weakened by falling well under 50%, is probably where it’s going to be run by people like Mashatile who has got no national following at all. It’s just not viable. The business community will be horrified by having EFF in government. Solidarity, which is the most powerful of all the civil society groups, will feel similarly. There’ll be a panic in the markets.  

Read more: RW Johnson: DA’s State of Disaster flip-flop – and beware Putin’s influence on SA’s 2024 Election

On the pressure for secession, especially in the Western Cape

Well, it would certainly trigger that. There would be more feelings of that kind. Two things I would mention, which I didn’t mention in the article: One is that quite apart from the fact that almost all the new jobs are being created in the Western Cape. If you look at building plans, the Western Cape now accounts for 40% of all the country’s building plans. And that’s higher than Gauteng. Which is really very striking. It’s the first time ever that the Western Cape has overtaken Gauteng in that regard. Another interesting point came just this weekend where Geordin-Hill Lewis, the mayor of Cape Town warned the EFF that they better try to stop everything from working here on March 20. He says look, we’re not going to stand for that and anyone who tries to prevent offices, factories, schools and universities from working, we are going to arrest, is just not going to happen in the Cape. I wouldn’t say that it’s a different country, but it’s moving in that direction. Whatever happens elsewhere, is not gonna happen in Cape Town. I think the movement of people and business down to the Western Cape, is only the start. We’re going to see a lot more of that.