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Election anxiety: Public concerns mount amid opinion polls and split vote speculations

Azra Hoosen |
9 April 2024 | 10:00 CAT
4 min read

As South Africa approaches its upcoming general election slated for late May, there are indications from various polls that the long-standing ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), might receive less than 50% of the total votes for the first time in three decades.

Criticism directed towards the ANC has significantly undermined its traditional support base. Consequently, the prospect of a coalition government looms on the political horizon.

Under the leadership of President Cyril Ramaphosa, the ANC faces mounting pressure amidst a backdrop of challenges. These include stubbornly high unemployment rates, which soared to 32% last year, persisting economic disparities, allegations of corruption, and frequent power outages.

Political analyst Mr Sandile Swana, speaking to Radio Islam, said that the issue of the ANC losing power in South Africa has been coming for a long time. Swana has observed a steady decline in ANC’s electoral support since 2004, reaching about 45% in the last local government election. In contrast, the Democratic Alliance (DA) previously trailed at around 20% while the ANC held a dominant position at 60%, but this dynamic has changed.

According to Swana, the concept of the split vote is gaining traction and is expected to impact the election at three levels. “For instance, a person in the Western Cape might vote for the DA for the Western Cape but choose another party nationally. The statistics already show that the DA receives a higher vote for local elections than nationally, indicating a split in votes. This trend is also observed in Gauteng with the ANC; despite a decrease in ANC votes, they seem to be given the benefit of the doubt by some,” he said.

He anticipates Gauteng as one of the provinces likely to be lost, followed by KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), with the Western Cape already deemed lost.

“The other option is to split the vote, and you can vote for an independent candidate you want in the provincial cabinet. You vote for a party nationally, but locally, you vote for a local independent candidate,” he said.

He believes all these things are strengthening our constitutional democracy.

Swana emphasised the population’s benefits: freedom of thought, speech, association, and pluralism.

“You don’t have to worry that you are voting for a particular party; your vote always counts in a proportional representative system. The votes are totalled up for that party, and if they amount to a seat in parliament, your party will get a seat there. The views that are expressed in parliament are not a winner-takes-all; the democracy was not designed to be that way. All groups are supposed to be representatives of all. Pluralism protects everyone and democracy. We are not supposed to be so proud that we allowed the National Party to be the dominant party from 1948 to 1994 and make a mess of the whole country, and from 1994 to 2024, we allowed the ANC to be dominant and make its own mess. The dominant party idea has been exhausted,” he said.

The issue of respecting institutions is paramount. Swana contends that with an established constitution in place, it’s inappropriate for individuals to band together, seeking a two-thirds majority solely to amend it, especially if they’ve breached numerous laws and should rightfully face consequences. Such actions, including attempts to undermine judges and the constitution itself, must be rectified.

“When you take the reports from the Auditor General, StatsSA and others, the period from 1994 to 2024, although you had the same government under the ANC, the statistics have deteriorated; the education of black people is worse today than it was in 1975. The infrastructure is worse today than it was in 1994. These are according to stats that are professionally recorded. You can have a stable government that wins every election, and then you have stable, steady and consistent deterioration because there is no plurality of view; no one can question anything because you have a bulldozer of a government. What they call ‘instability’ is that they won’t be able to bulldoze anymore. For instance, they bulldozed the Phala Phala report,” he said.

Adding to the complexity of the electoral landscape is the emergence of the uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) party, named after the former armed wing of the ANC. This new entrant introduces an element of unpredictability to the race, particularly in the influential province of KwaZulu-Natal, which is known as the stronghold of former President Jacob Zuma.

According to Swana, the trends indicate that the DA will likely lose ground in the Western Cape, potentially leading to a coalition government. Similarly, the ANC faces challenges in Gauteng, meaning smaller parties could play a significant role in government restructuring.

He highlighted that the MK party is poised to be a pivotal player in KwaZulu-Natal, with the ANC possibly forming an alliance with them. However, the MK party could also ally with the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), which significantly influences KZN.

Swana believes that the IFP and MK party are key players shaping the political landscape in KZN.

LISTEN to the full interview with Muallimah Annisa Essack and Political analyst Mr Sandile Swana, here.


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