South Africa


ANC’s collapse as South Africa’s majority party is foretold in new poll

ANC’s collapse as South Africa’s majority party is foretold in new poll
DA leader John Steenhuisen. (Photo: Gallo Images / Brenton Geach) | ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa. (Photo: Gallo Images / Papi Morake)

According to a new Ipsos poll, the ANC is collapsing as a majority party and South Africans are despondent, mainly because of the accelerating cost of living. Despite being down from post-Nasrec highs, President Cyril Ramaphosa is still South Africa’s most highly regarded political leader.

A new representative poll by Ipsos suggests that if an election were held tomorrow, the ANC would get 42%, the DA 11%, the EFF 9% and Herman Mashaba’s ActionSA 3% of the votes at a national level. A second poll, published by Rapport at the weekend, has the ANC at 38%, the DA at 27% and the EFF at 10%.  

Either way, it’s bad news for the governing party. At the weekend, ANC deputy president David Mabuza warned party delegates to a provincial conference that it was bleeding support because of the party’s state.  

“When you speak to people, they say: which ANC? They feel there’s not strong enough leadership from President Cyril Ramaphosa. There’s lots of uncertainty about December [when the ANC holds its executive electoral conference] and he talks about people who will be responsible for what they did, but people are not stepping aside. There’s a lot of talk but not a lot of action,” says Ipsos director Mari Harris.  

“People are asking: ‘Which ANC are you talking about?’ People want certainty from a political party. Carl Niehaus is talking on behalf of the ANC. Jacob Zuma is talking on behalf of the ANC, the Taliban [the name of the faction that won a recent provincial party contest in KwaZulu-Natal],” she says. 

The poll is a snapshot of eligible voters, not registered voters, and the DA usually does better than it is polled because it gets its members to register and to go out and vote.  

However, the ANC’s downward spiral is not any other party’s gain.  

“No other party is impressing voters. No other party is stepping up to the plate,” says Harris.  

“Support for the ANC in the whole country is lower than before the local government election [in November 2021]. This suggests that new councils have not made a difference. I would be surprised if the ANC gets more than 50% in the 2024 national election.”  

Harris says the party achieved 47% of the vote in the local government elections and appears to have subsequently lost five percentage points in support. 

“The slide is going in the wrong direction.” 

While the DA’s own polling suggests more green shoots, the Ipsos poll shows stasis for the party. Harris says its complaining tone counts against it. 

“I don’t think complaining about everything government does is a good strategy. You need to prove you are a credible alternative without complaining. All political parties need to be a positive force.” 

The EFF support appears to have plateaued at 9%, according to the latest poll, but Harris says both the DA and EFF are likely to do better than the poll suggests, come 2024. ActionSA, led by Herman Mashaba, remains a Johannesburg phenomenon, but it is building party structures across the country. This is not without start-up headaches, as it fired its KZN provincial executive this month. What is evident in both polls is that ActionSA has quickly caught up with the IFP. In the second poll, the two parties are running neck and neck. 

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Economy and government services drive ANC losses 

ANC members are not going anywhere else, according to the poll of attitudes and surveys. About four in 10 people polled said South Africa is going in the wrong direction, but that does mean six in 10 think we’re on the right path. Most people said they don’t know or are uncertain of the country’s direction, but the majority of people polled indicated despondency.  

“This despondency is not a South African phenomenon but, in our case, the stress is different. In Europe, for example, it’s inflation and the cost of living. With us, the stress is [also] on those things, but more on job creation. People said: ‘If we had a job, we could buy food, do things.  There’s definitely blame on government for no job creation,” said Harris. 

Unemployment is stubbornly high, with a small increase in jobs in the latest data but not big enough to make a dent. Those polled strongly believe the cost of living is rising faster than the official inflation rate (7.4% in July 2022), while administered prices like electricity and water tariffs had increased more quickly, as had the cost of food. “Two-thirds of people agree with this statement,” says Harris.  

Ramaphosa down from post-Nasrec highs 

President Cyril Ramaphosa is still South Africa’s most highly regarded political leader, according to the poll. He got 5.5/10 from respondents asked to evaluate him.  

EFF leader Julius Malema was the second-highest at 3.8/10, and the DA leader, John Steenhuisen, received 3.3/10. This is not good news for the President, who polled much higher after his election in 2018 and he had more support outside the circle of ANC members than he does now. This suggests a drag effect on him by the ANC’s travails and his failure to institutionalise party reforms (or “renewal” as the ANC calls its efforts). 

The ANC’s head of elections, Fikile Mbalula, was not available for comment. 

“The last four months have shown a significant rally in DA support. Ipsos always profoundly underestimates the DA,” said Helen Zille, the chairperson of the party’s Federal Council. “In 2011, Ipsos said we’d get 19.3% — we got 23.8%. In 2019, Ipsos said we’d get 15.3% — we got 20.7%.”  

Michael Beaumont, the ActionSA chairperson, said: “Polling is never going to be kind to us in the early days,” said. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Joe Irwin says:

    In order to bring attention to government deficiencies someone has to complain. I don’t see any of the other political parties making a noise about these deficiencies? The ANC is way past its sell by date and cannot possibly recover to a level that will satisfy anyone, other than the people who see them as their only source of income.
    The flip flop EFF will never attract more than 15% of the vote until the get rid of their 2 loudmouth leaders and they change their “worker” uniform. As for Herman’s party, well, maybe they will replace the EFF in 10 years or so, but until then the DA is then only solution.

    • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

      I 100% agree that DA complaining is necessary. They do get bad press for it – but we should all be thanking the heavens the DA are holding this government to account.

      • Davis Kate says:

        I agree 100% with you.

      • Peter Underwood says:

        You’re lucky to have an active opposition, they are MIA here in UK and we have a zombie government at present; drifting into the eye of the hurricane comes to mind. My SA wife and I are hoping to return to Simons Town next year – or maybe hold off until 2024. It can’t be any worse than it is here and at least we will have the sun to enjoy.

  • Rg Bolleurs says:

    47% of voters are undecided on whether the county is heading in the right direction.

    There’s the problem for you. Most citizens are like sheep who just go with the flow. We have failed to produce a class of critical thinkers.

    And maybe this failure has been intentional.

  • Malcolm McManus says:

    In a democracy, you get what you vote for. The EFF getting stronger is a worrying sign. A healthy democracy is built on a well educated population as a firm foundation. This doesn’t say much for many democracies all over the world. Western countries, arguably not excluded.

    • Peter Dexter says:

      Too true! Here’s a thought: When you turn 18 you have the right to drive a car, but the right is withheld until you prove your competence, and are then issued with a driver’s licence. This is logical as doing otherwise would cause harm to others. When you turn 18 you also have the right to vote. For some strange reason there is no competence test required for this, and based on the massive levels of poverty, it is clear that incompetent voting results in far more harm than incompetent driving. Passing a simple civic education course on one’s home language regarding democracy, and the basics of economics in order to be allowed to vote, would definitely improve outcomes. It would even be a good idea to get MP’s to do one.

  • Eric Reurts says:

    The ANC has against all odds succeeded in its main objective so far, keeping the party together. It is clear to party leaders, it’s members and employees that the requirements for running a party are exceeding the combined skills qouta on offer. Stealing employee contribution towards UIF, Medical aid, pension funds and PAYE and then failing to pay the employee the remainder says it all. The inability to run a party conference confirms it. They have realised that running a country is beyond them. Yet perhaps more scarier is what awaits us when the ANC looses it’s majority. Current examples of coalition government can’t fill us with optimism. Negotiations to knobb a coalition together is a legitimatie basis for complete abanbandonment of the election manifestos Emergence of King makers hands power to those who did not earn it at the polls and the recipe for disaster is complete. Once installed a coalitions main objective will be retaining power, warding off attacks from within and opposition. Any time left will be required for political point scoring, name calling and the odd good old fisticuffs.
    Time has come for drastic changes so that a national governance structure that manages based on measurable deliverables is arrived at. You deliver, you get paid and get to keep your job. You don’t and you will be facilitated out. Wait isn’t that how a successful business is run?? Imagine South Africa Pty Ltd. Everybody pulling in the same direction to common goals. Imagine

    • Mariella Norman says:

      I completely agree with Eric about the scary scenario that awaits us if the ANC loses its majority, with the current examples of an attempt at coalition government in various metros. Imagine that at a national level.

    • Carsten Rasch says:

      The problem is the State has been filled with cadres. One of the primary reasons the metro coalitions aren’t working. The politicians identify the problems and come up with policy, but it falls apart when it comes to execution. Too many city and state employees are cadres. They are consciously sabotaging efforts to reform.

  • Carol Stewart says:

    Helen it’s not IPSOS’s opinion, it’s polling of eligible (vs. registered and willing) voters. Don’t blame the messenger!

  • Darrel Scott Scott says:

    At the risk of being pedantic, I think the first sentence of this article is incorrect and potentially misleading. If an election were held tomorrow, per the poll, 14% of people asked would not vote. A further 12% don’t know who they would vote for, or refuse to say. Of the remaining 74%, 57% (42/74) would vote for the ANC. Even if only 10% of the undecided vote for the ANC, that will be enough for them to get or nearly get a majority (43/86).

  • Nicholas Labuschagne says:

    What no-one seems to be considering is the impact of the Russian troll farms on the upcoming elections. We all know what their agenda is, and how much they have to lose if the ANC is voted out of power. If there ever was a country tinder-box ready to explode over imagined and fabricated insults, past hurts and future fears, it is ours. Any troll farmer with half a brain could tear our society apart.

  • Jimbo Smith says:

    Harris says the DA targets ANC failures too much and should be seen to be doing things better. Seriously!!! How do these so called “expert commentators” get away with this sort of inane comment. For the record, where the DA governs their performance is leagues ahead of the ANC! DA keep silent on catastrophic ANC failures? Crazy!!

    • S M says:

      The “expert commentor” is correct. Even amongst my group, which would tend DA, state it just seems the DA is the moaning party or that they act like a bunch of condescending “Karens” but the DA may not understand/or want to accept how their message is received and perceived. The criticisms they level against the ANC is valid and necessary (and the reason an opposition exists) but how they do it is like being lectured to by a inept middle manager (fighting for his/her piece of the pie) who just keeps complaining about higher management and everybody “switches off” when the complaining starts. People want a vision/objective and some positivity, that speaks to the heart and not just the head. Voters know the problems, people want an opposition that also provides solution, not just complaints and if something is done well acknowledge it, wherever it came from (if they where or where not involved). If the DA says that they are doing that already, well then their current communication message/methods/technique is not reaching the masses (and no, the twitter echo chamber does not count) or maybe it is easier staying in opposition and just keep moaning on.

  • Malcolm Mitchell says:

    We all know the saying, “there are statistics and there are damned lies”. Unfortunately when push comes to shove people still vote with their hearts and not their heads. The ANC is still strongly regarded by many people as the “liberation party”, and it is not easy to talk sense into such people.

  • Alan Fine says:

    So with IPSOS the ANC was supported by 42%. But only 76% expressed a preference. So the ruling party received 55% of the actual preferences expressed in that poll. The Rapport poll is far less favourable for the ANC, and hugely favourable for the DA. What is unclear is why the two polls are so different. As if they were polling different populations. It would help if the author could investigate that. Or if the polling companies could explain

  • Benjamin Cockram says:

    How should the DA present their case to the voter? This is the question to be solved if the DA is to take advantage of what is a massive opportunity to win votes right now.
    The profound flaw in the DA approach is an apparent lack of understanding of what the ANC means to the majority of voters. The ANC represents liberation from the indignities of the past and the provision of basic needs. They are the liberator and for many through grants, and the web of patronage for the past 2 decades the provider of food on the table for millions. When the DA complains it just sounds like whining. It triggers defensiveness and alienation. On the other hand the average voter can see the gradual collapse of the Post apartheid dream and want better. So there is a real opportunity for the DA to grow political support and frankly an imperative for them to do so if we are to develop into the society nearly everyone wants. The DA needs to be very clear in what it stands for. The liberal ideals that have ruled the world since the end of WW2 have ushered in a period of prosperity enjoyed almost without exception throughout the world from west to east and north to south and even ended apartheid right here in SA. The DAs focus should be on educating the voters on what this means in a practical sense and avoid the temptation to sound patronizing and complain like white folks around the dinner table.

  • Danielle Van der Hucht says:

    Maybe the ANC should split itself in 2 parties…. One with the geriatrics and another one with the younger generation.

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