Graphic by Peter Attard Montalto
IEC chairperson Glen Mashinini brought the 2019 general elections to a close on Saturday night by announcing the official results in Tshwane, where he declared the ANC the winner, taking 57.5% of the vote and 230 seats in the National Assembly.
Mashinini said 13 of the 48 political parties that contested the elections won seats in the National Assembly, with the ANC and DA losing seats in Parliament and across most provincial legislatures.
The ANC’s result was significantly lower than the 62.15% it won in the 2014 elections, meaning it lost 19 seats in the National Assembly, down from 249 to 230 seats.
But the ruling party improved on its showing in the 2016 local government elections, when it managed to win a mere 54% of the vote nationally in what was widely seen as an emphatic rejection of the corruption that took hold during former president Jacob Zuma’s administration.
The big question now is whether President Cyril Ramaphosa will have sufficient leeway to stave off a powerful faction in the party opposed to his reforms to kickstart economic growth and clamp down on corruption.
The DA maintained its position as the official opposition with 20.4% of the vote. The party’s support decreased from its 2014 election performance when it garnered 22.23% and will have five fewer seats than the 89 it previously held.
The EFF grew in comparison, receiving 1.8 million votes and 19 more seats in the National Assembly, moving from 25 to 44.
Trailing behind was the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), with 3.38% of the votes, getting four more seats from the 10 it won in 2014.
The Freedom Front Plus (FF Plus) surprised the audience at the ROC with its 2.38% of the national vote, winning six more seats than the four it won in 2014.
The National Freedom Party (NFP) won only 0.38% and lost four of the six seats it held previously.
The African Independent Congress (AIC) lost one of its three seats in the National Assembly and the United Democratic Movement (UDM) lost two of its four seats. The Congress of the People (Cope) won two seats, down from the three it held in the previous Parliament.
The PAC kept its one seat in Parliament while the ACDP added a seat from the three it held previously.
There were also newcomers in these elections, with Al Jama-ah taking one seat and Patricia de Lille’s Good party winning two seats.
Mzwanele Manyi’s African Transformation Movement will also enter Parliament with two seats and has now backed out from demanding a re-run of the elections with the “smaller” parties who are aggrieved by the IEC and media.
According to the Chief Electoral Officer Sy Mamabolo the “exponential increase in political parties” gave voters plenty of choice, but presented administrative challenges to the IEC.
Mamabolo spoke of instances where ballot papers ran out and interference in the running of voting stations due to rain or protests. He also mentioned the difficulty and time it took to count all the votes.
Mamabolo also addressed the IEC’s challenges with double voting and assured the crowd that these were “isolated cases where the IEC systems might not have worked”.
Despite the challenges, Mamabolo said that “we have come out stronger”, not just as the IEC, but as “a people”.
Earlier in the day, the IEC said it would “vigorously” oppose any court application challenging the release of the results.
This was in reference to a threat by a group of smaller parties to take the commission to court, citing various irregularities, including instances of double voting.
According to a survey conducted by the Human Sciences Research Council, 96% of voters sampled thought the elections were free and fair.
Though the ANC has come out on top in the National Assembly, it suffered in the provincial legislatures.
In Gauteng, the party is three seats down with 37, down by one in Eastern Cape with 44, down by three in the Free State with 19, down by eight in KwaZulu-Natal with 44, down one seat in Limpopo with 38, down two seats in Mpumalanga with 22, as well as in Northern Cape with 18 and North West with 21 seats.
The DA remains the official opposition in the Eastern Cape (10 seats), Free State (six), Gauteng (20), Northern Cape (10), while retaining a majority in the Western Cape with 24 seats.
The EFF, on the other hand, became the official opposition in North West with six seats and in Mpumalanga with four, while retaining its official opposition status in Limpopo with seven seats.
The IFP has surged to dethrone the DA in KwaZulu-Natal as the official opposition with 13 seats.
After the results were announced, Ramaphosa thanked South Africans for participating in the elections, especially those who had to “cross rivers and mountains” to go cast their ballots.
Ramaphosa sent his condolences to the families of Suzan Maduna from Vanderbijlpark and Dirk Henry Osche of Pretoria, who died at voting stations.
He thanked young people who decided to participate in their future and applauded the keen interest they had shown through social media.
Furthermore, he applauded the IEC for “braving the storm” by conducting itself “professionally, impartially and with dedication”, as the presidency had come to expect.
He shared stories of people who were issued temporary IDs by Home Affairs after the floods in Kwazulu-Natal so that they could vote.
He also extended his “sincere gratitude” to the leaders of political parties who “contributed significantly” to the “peace and calm” of the elections through their conduct.
The president went on to thank the media for informing the people. He said those who had not had much sleep had “presidential permission” to go and rest.
“We will take it from here,” said Ramaphosa, raising a laugh.
“Let us now work together – black and white, women and men, young and old – to build a South Africa that truly belongs to all who live in it, one which is united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous,” said Ramaphosa.
“These were tough elections,” said ANC NEC member Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma after the results ceremony at the IEC Results Operations Centre.
“We are grateful that our people have given us a second chance and we are grateful that they have given us a mandate to continue,” she said.
Turning to the ANC’s losses in the National Assembly and provincial legislatures, Dlamini Zuma said:
“I think we must increase our contact with the people, not only in the elections but generally, make sure there is no distance that develops between us and our people. We must also be honest and use the resources as honestly as we can because if we don’t, that also corrodes the trust between government and the people.”
Commentators have cautioned that factionalism could continue to damage the ANC now the elections are over.
Dlamini Zuma said the ANC must continue working together as it had during the elections.
“We must live what we’re saying and not just say it, but live it,” she said.
The IFP’s Narend Singh said the party’s significant jump in votes was a positive sign as it started looking towards the 2021 local government elections, while managing the transition in leadership, with party leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi likely to step down at some stage.
The FF Plus was one of the surprises of the 2019 elections. Party leader Pieter Groenewald said that while no opposition party had the ability to overturn the ANC’s decisions in Parliament, his party would now have 15 rather than 10 minutes in debates. Groenewald plans to ensure its voice is heard. DM