Steuart Pennington: What we can expect from the 2024 elections

As South Africa gears up for the 2024 elections, the political landscape is teeming with over 100 parties, challenging voters to decide amidst a myriad of choices. Steuart Pennington delves into the potential shifts in voter turnout, questioning if the nation’s ‘Hobbits’ will awaken, ‘Hooligans’ reconsider party loyalty, and ‘Vulcans’ emerge as a rational force. Against a backdrop of state failures, corruption revelations, and socio-economic challenges, the article explores the dynamics of Coalition Pacts and their impact on political leadership. Will egos be set aside for a united front? A call for Vulcan-like reason and a vibrant debate in this critical juncture.

Sign up for your early morning brew of the BizNews Insider to keep you up to speed with the content that matters. The newsletter will land in your inbox at 5:30am weekdays. Register here.

By Steuart Pennington


In 2019 some 50 parties contested the national and provincial election, 14 parties ended up in Parliament, eight with 2 or less representatives. 28 of the parties were not represented in Parliament but represented in provincial  councils. Between 25 and 35 parties contest provincial elections in each province (not all the same). A number of new parties have registered since 2019, notably BOSA (Mmusi Maimane); ActionSA (Herman Mashaba); PA (Gayton McKenzie); Rise Manzi (Songezo Zibi); Change Starts Now (Roger Jardine); Arise South Africa (Mpho Dagada); to name a few. 

In summary we have +/- 100 parties and party political leaders at national and provincial level spread around the country

2024 Elections – 

I would think there are four questions on everyone’s mind as we head towards our National 2024 elections.

  1. What will the voter turnout be?
  2. Which party will those who do vote, choose to vote for?
  3. Which leaders will emerge as credible?
  4. Will the focus be more on the formation of Coalition Pacts/Alliances than individual leaders and their parties?

Definitions of Voter Turnout

StatsSA tells us that in our 2019 election our Voting Age Population was 37 800 000 (over the age of 18) and of that 75% registered (26 756 649), of that 66% voted (17 772 851), the turnout then was 49% (66% x 75%). Source: The Conversation.

As the PEW Research Graph below explains, this puts us 48th out of a survey of 50 reasonably ‘serious’ countries, making as pretty lethargic as a voting nation. BUT, given the malaise of the last five years (to name some); 

  • The Zondo Commission and the massive exposure of state capture
  • The overwhelming evidence of stealing and corruption amongst our political elite
  • The failure of the majority of local governments to improve service delivery 
  • Load shedding which looks set to stay for at least another three years
  • The collapse of our SOEs 
  • The deterioration of infrastructure
  • The massive budget cuts in Education
  • The ongoing challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality
  1. Will we see an increased turnout?
  2. Will we see a change in voting patterns?

So,  the BIG question is WHO will pitch and HOW will they vote?

In his book ‘Against Democracy’ Professor Jason Brennan from Georgetown University, describes three types of voters; Hobbits, Hooligans and Vulcans

Definitions of Voters

“Hobbits are those who don’t bother to learn about politics, mostly no-voters, and if they do, vote in ignorance of number of parties, party manifesto’s and issues at stake.” Will our 51% no-voter stay-aways change as eligible voters make the effort to register – and vote? 

“Hooligans are those who follow their own party with the devotion of sports fans and adhere to a certain party, irrespective of past performance and future plans.” Will the number of ‘Hooligans’ diminish as they become more aware of greater choice between parties/coalition alliances, or will they persist with their loyalty vote?

“Vulcans, a significant minority of people who behave rationally, gather data and vote with full information. Vulcans are noted for their attempt to live by logic and reason with as little interference from emotion as possible.” Which of the three groups (above) will our existing and emerging political parties pitch to? Will they form Coalition Pacts to change voter’s minds? 

Based on the PEW Research it would appear that 40-50% of eligible voters in SA could be described as Hobbits, 35-45% as Hooligans and 15% as Vulcans!

“Unfortunately” Brennon says “because of the dominance of hobbits and hooligans, democratic outcomes are not only unrepresentative of the majority’s true views, but are also wrong and damaging to the common good.” Clearly the current situation in SA, but will this change?

Given the obvious manifestations of state failure and ANC indifference to the needs of the proletariat combined with their obsession of putting party before state will we see a change in voting turn-out and voting patterns or just an increased no-vote

Clearly we still have a number of Hobbit and Hooligan voters in this country, but will we see the emergence of a new breed of Vulcans ready to work together to mount a more forceful ‘coalition-based’ opposition? 

Or will the voter turnout diminish further because of petty and increased squabbling amongst opposition parties as their leaders endlessly and mindlessly contest the coalition and leadership space?  

Defining Political Leadership in SA

Dr. Piet Koornhof our infamous Minister of Co-operation and Development in the mid-70’s once said “when I make policy people think it’s a joke, and when I make a joke people think it’s policy”. The same can be said of current multiplicity of choices ordinary citizens currently have (a joke in the view of many – or maybe growing pains of a young democracy!).

But that aside, if it is accepted that there are three major players; the ANC, the DA and the EFF, all with very different manifesto’s, leaders and leadership styles, and that and ANC is teetering on a 50% vote, four questions present:

  • Which parties will coalesce with the ANC so that it remains as the governing party and what positions will their leaders be ‘bought’ for?
  • Which parties will join the Multiparty Charter for South Africa to form a stronger co-ordinated opposition and who will lead it, be its spokesperson?
  • What will the rest do?
  • Crucially will the number of ANC parliamentarians drop below 200?

There are a number of  big egos out there, is there any chance that these egos will be put aside in the interests of forming Coalition Pacts now so that voters can make sense of their ‘agreed’ manifesto for South Africa regarding:

  • Economic growth 
  • International Investment
  • Clean and lean government
  • Functional SOE’s
  • Improved Education
  • Safer communities
  • Electricity 
  • Maintained Infrastructure
  • Abandoning NHI, EWC, BELA, BCEA

South Africans are not going to let this country fail, that’s for sure. Given that i) public opinion is predominantly centrist and moderate; ii) the ANC will probably lose Gauteng and KZN and iii) Western Cape will remain DA, one hopes that our new era of Coalition politics will be presented in a way that encourages the swelling of our Vulcan ranks and voter turnout. 

If you have read this far, you are probably a Vulcan, please stimulate the debate!

Read also:

*Steuart Pennington: CEO South Africa – The Good News