South Africa

South Africa

Lies and damn lies: What would it take for the ANC to lose Gauteng in 2014?

Lies and damn lies: What would it take for the ANC to lose Gauteng in 2014?

Check the question again. It’s not asking whether the party should lose the province, or how likely it is that it will fail to reach the 50%-of-the-vote threshold. It just wants to know what series of events would be needed for this to happen. Whether you think this is an imminent or fantastical outcome, whether the prospect fills you with hope or dread or dismissive contempt, none of these things are important for the analysis. By PAUL BERKOWITZ.

Firstly, some background. Gauteng has had more registered voters than any other province since the first general election in 1994. Just under a quarter of all valid votes in the 2009 elections were cast in Gauteng, although the long-run average is closer to 23% of all votes, in line with the province’s share of the national population.

Gauteng is also the seat of executive power (Tshwane) and the highest court in the land (the Constitutional Court is in Johannesburg). It’s the most densely-populated province and constitutes about 35% of national economic output.

% votes, Gauteng



































The ANC has comfortably won the province in every election since 1994. It received 68% of the vote in 1999, 69% in 2004 and 65% in 2009. The party tends to perform better in national/provincial elections than it does in municipal elections, where it’s averaged 62% of the vote over the last three such elections.

So far, so unassailable, it would seem. But, if you’re an opposition party or an unhappy citizen then you have to dream about the possible, and not just the probable, outcomes of the upcoming election. You have to hope that you can fan the flames of discontent that have sprung up in Bekkersdal and Sebokeng, that you can hammer the ruling party over e-tolls, unemployment and poor education, and that the ripples from Marikana and Nkandla spread as far as the highveld.

Your assumptions and projections, realistic or otherwise, will focus on how many voters you can poach from the ANC, how many first-time voters you can capture and how many of your erstwhile supporters you can keep loyal. Of course, the province remains the ANC to lose and your success is heavily dependent on voter apathy among previously-loyal ANC supporters.

The ANC received 2.8 million of the 4.3 million votes cast in Gauteng in 2009. There were 5.5 million registered voters that year and there are over 6 million now. You need to convert a large enough share of the 2.8 million voters to see things your way, but you have to hope that an even larger share will stay away from the polls in May.

Let’s say you assume that only 70% of all registered voters will turn out, or about 4.2 million people. That’s fewer people than in 2009, despite the increase in registration over the last five years. The ANC will need to receive fewer than 2.1 million votes, pushing the party below the 50% mark. That’s 700,000 fewer voters than in 2009 despite the increase in registrations.

If you’re the DA, you build your dreams around your 2011 successes, where you won 33% of the vote and you received more than a million votes in the province for the first time. It’s true that you’ve performed much better in municipal elections (average of 30% over the last three elections) than in national/provincial elections (a peak of 21% in 2009) but things are different now.

You’ve campaigned non-stop in the past few years. You’ve got a young, charismatic candidate for premier who’s been on a whistle-stop tour of the province, kissing hands and shaking babies. Your growth in absolute voting numbers during a less-popular election proves that your voters are more loyal and will come out in great numbers.

You’ll receive 1.3 million votes or about 31% of the total. That’s almost 30% more votes than you received in 2009. You have to be realistic about your appeal to ex-ANC voters and expect most of your growth to come from first-time voters who are swayed by your record in the Western Cape and the fact that your ward councillors don’t openly carry guns in the Gauteng streets. Oh, and e-tolls – don’t ever forget about the e-tolls.

If you’re the EFF, the sky is the limit. Although, in the real world, you have to be somewhat tethered to the facts. You’ll win about 420 000 votes, or about 10% of the vote. That’s more than COPE won in 2009, but then again you’re better than that party ever was. Half of your votes come from unhappy ANC voters and the rest from newly-registered people under 40.

If you’re one of the five small parties (ACDP, COPE, FF+, IFP and UCDP) that make up the Collective for Democracy you have to hope that your collective power is greater than the sum of its parts. Between the five of you, you received almost 12% of the vote in 2009, mostly due to the first-time success of COPE. In 2011 you only managed 3.3% of the vote between you.

You hope that your appeal to religious and ethnic sensibilities shines brightly in the minds of voters on the big day. You’ll receive about 350 000 votes, equal to 8% of the total. You’re now a kingmaker in the most important province on the continent. You should be proud.

Panelbeating the voting numbers was the easy part (and if you don’t like these indicative numbers, you are free to adjust them up or down and make them fit your particular fantasy). The ANC has lost its outright majority in the province but that’s not the same thing as losing the province. Now you must form a coalition.

How likely is it that a coalition of the opposition will succeed? Can the DA and the EFF live under the same umbrella? Do you have a dream, like Martin Luther King, of little red berets one day holding hands with little blue berets? Can the EFF climb down from its declaration to only form coalitions with parties that will advance its revolutionary agenda? Can the party of tea-girls and madams break bread with the uncircumcised?

Would the Collective for Democracy gain more from being the junior partner in a three-way coalition with the DA and the EFF than it would from being the kingmaker in a coalition with the ANC? Would the FF+ swallow hard and consider a programme of radical land reform?

In order for the ANC to lose the province, the coalition must win. It is not enough to win the war if the victors cannot keep the peace.

Can the ANC lose Gauteng? Sure, if loses a quarter of its 2009 votes and picks up no new support, if the DA’s support has doubled in a decade, if the new party secures 10% of the vote and if a ragtag alliance of white, Christian, Zulu and Tswana interests can bring out the vote. After that, all that’s needed is a stable grand coalition of market conservatives and radical socialists with a few religious fundamentalists and special-interest groups thrown in. What could be easier? DM

Photo: Holiday makers have fun on the Merry-go-round at the Gold Reef City amusement park, in Johannesburg, South Africa, 25 September 2013. EPA/KIM LUDBROOK


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