South Africa, Politics

Video: Between the Lines – what do the election results mean?

By John Matisonn 22 August 2016

It’s all over bar the shouting, and the inevitable post-mortems. How to decode the results of such a groundbreaking election? Watch JOHN MATISONN’s interview with Prof BOB MATTES of UCT’s Department of Political Science.

Going into the local government elections, the ANC was the overwhelming leader, the 500-pound gorilla of South African politics; the Democratic Alliance was the official opposition, less than half its size with what seemed a firm ceiling because of its white, coloured and Indian demographics, and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) the young insurgent growing by leaps and bounds.

But then the people spoke. And the ground shifted.

Prof Mattes explains what changed, and how it shapes the future.

The ANC surprised most pundits who expected it to fall, but by small enough numbers that it would hover at or close to 60%. On the day, it fell to 54%, big enough to leave ANC leaders stunned and confused, losing control of major metros to coalitions and voting agreements among opposition parties concerned enough at rising corruption and rudderlessness under President Zuma to put aside ideological differences to prioritise clean government.

Mattes found that the gains by the EFF show that it has a stronger future than previous breakaway parties from the ANC, but may have a ceiling imposed by support limited to the youth vote, the most unreliable demographic in both registering to vote and showing up on the day. Older black voters strongly disapprove of the EFF’s unruly disrespect in Parliament.

The DA, on the other hand, was commonly believed to have a firm ceiling on its potential black vote, but raised that ceiling as its image as a racially inclusive party was reinforced by Mmusi Maimane’s leadership and an aggressive TV ad campaign.

High abstentions in some ANC wards could be temporary or translate into permanent losses for the ANC, depending on how the ANC deals with its unpopular president and his image as an enabler and beneficiary of corruption.

Mattes found South African voter turnout to be low by international standards, once it is measured against those of voting age rather than registered voters. This is the accepted international standard for turnout measurement.

Experts will pore over the results for a long time. But the new reality of opposition-led local metros controlling large budgets, opposed by an ANC that may or may not revive itself, will determine whether these trends become firm or are reversed. DM

BETWEEN THE LINES with John Matisonn is broadcast on CTV and DSTV 263.

Photo of LGE2016 by Greg Nicolson/Daily Maverick.

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