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ANC support plummets to 33%, but it is still likely to form a government next year, new study finds

ANC support plummets to 33%, but it is still likely to form a government next year, new study finds
From left: (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla) | (Photo: EPA-EFE / Kim Ludbrook)

The DA and EFF have grown in support, and coalition governments are likely in Gauteng and KZN, according to a study by the Inclusive Society Institute.

The ANC’s hegemony on the public imagination of South Africa has ended, but it can still form a government next year, a study by the Inclusive Society Institute (ISI) shows. 

The ISI has analysed the latest Ipsos polls and found that while ANC support among eligible voters has plummeted to 33%, it is still likely to form a government next year – but is unlikely to win a majority.

“It’s a major decline, but not as bad as I thought. The ANC will lead the government if an election were to be held tomorrow,” says ISI CEO Daryl Swanepoel. 

He has calculated that on a medium turnout of 43% of registered voters, the ANC could get 48% (50% on a high voter turnout and 53% on a low one). Pollsters attribute undecided voters to parties they are likely to vote for in order to reach more accurate numbers. 

“If they get just under 50%, they can form a coalition government with (Patricia de Lille’s) Good party or one or two smaller parties,” says Swanepoel, who believes the party will not need EFF support at a national level. The ISI is a social democratic independent think-tank which advises the ANC. 

“At this point, and if an election were held tomorrow, we should have an ANC-led government and it will definitely not be a Multi-Party Charter (MPC) government,” he says.  

The MPC is a coalition of seven parties led by the DA, ActionSA, IFP and Freedom Front Plus, along with a few smaller parties. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: How the Multi-Party Charter could make history at the 2024 polls

DA MP and campaign strategist Leon Schreiber says that on the Friday before voter registration weekend earlier in November, internal polls had the ANC at 39% and the DA at 32% support among registered voters. Further longer-term trend analysis put the ANC at 38%, DA at 28% and EFF at 8%, said Schreiber.

Eligible voters (42.6 million) are distinct from registered voters (26.8 million now); the ISI and DA analysis numbers are based on registered voters.

Both DA and EFF grow

While the ANC has lost support since the 2021 local government poll, the DA and EFF have grown. If an election were held tomorrow, the EFF could get slightly more than the DA, according to the ISI analysis. Three polls and the ISI analysis show the EFF is likely to make the most gains in 2024, especially if more young voters register. 

“What has happened is that the ANC has reached a tipping point amongst the electorate, and voters are really fed up,” says Schreiber, who puts the DA’s support at 28%. He does not regard the Ipsos polling as credible.

While the ANC HQ at Luthuli House has instructed that the party should pull out of alliances with the EFF, Gauteng could end up with an ANC-EFF coalition government, says Swanepoel. 

ANC support in Gauteng, home to a more urban and less forgiving electorate, looks set to reach around 36%. According to the ISI analysis, the party’s outlook in KZN is even worse – with 22% support.  

ANC governance in KwaZulu-Natal has collapsed, even in Durban, where the eThekwini municipality can’t keep the sea clean and safe or the beaches functioning. (See Tony Carnie’s report here.)

In KZN, a charter pact provincial government is a possibility often raised by pundits, even as the governing party took a big ward in a by-election, as Wayne Sussman reported. The ANC denies that it can lose one of its biggest voter catchment provinces. (See Chris Makhaye’s report here.)

Load shedding and corruption have come home to roost for the ANC.

How Nelson Mandela’s party has reached this position ahead of an election is a multi-layered story. If you look for one immediate reason, it is load shedding. The rolling blackouts have sucked the marrow from South Africa’s resilient people. Ongoing power cuts have worsened between 2020 and 2023, costing the economy and its people R223-billion, according to a study by Nova Economics.

“I’d say it’s load shedding, corruption and non-delivery,” says Swanepoel. 

“ANC supporters say that promises come to nought. There is low trust; 43% of ANC supporters do not trust the ANC to deliver.”

To remedy this, the ANC’s campaign is returning to its first decade in power when it extended the benefits of development and democracy in meaningful ways.  

Early stump analysis shows ANC leaders are using apartheid and colonialism as tropes to explain why black people, in the main, remain trapped in often near-feudal circumstances. 

“I don’t think people will buy that,” says Swanepoel.

The EFF has built a support base on the idea of elusive economic freedom and created its brand on radical policies and the notion that apartheid hasn’t died but has in fact worsened. The lifestyle of its leaders is the opposite of the ascetic socialism it preaches, but this seems not to matter much to supporters.

The Red Berets are a second-choice party to the ANC, says Ipsos director for sub-Saharan Africa Mari Harris. The ANC may try to campaign by “out-radicalising” the EFF, but Swanepoel is doubtful this tactic will work.

The election in 2024 now clearly promises a rupture of the ANC’s single-party dominance and the arrival of the era of coalitions. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • D Rod says:

    This might be the last democratic elections in SA. Cry, the beloved country

    • T'Plana Hath says:

      “Cry for the broken tribe, for the law and the custom that is gone. Aye, and cry aloud for the man who is dead, for the woman and children bereaved. Cry, the beloved country, these things are not yet at an end. The sun pours down on the earth, on the lovely land that man cannot enjoy. He knows only the fear of his heart.”
      -Alan Payton, 1948

  • Cornay Bester says:

    ANC coalition partners … Russia, China & Iran.

  • David Mitchley says:

    Is there no independent source for these types of polls or are they all undertaken by organizations tied to political parties?

    • Cunningham Ngcukana says:

      The polls have been very reliable in the past and the only thing is that these elections will be run on issues not sentiment. The reason that the DA has the numbers it has is because it has always been able to get its base to the elections. The critical issue are people who have not been voting but registered and those eligible to vote but not registered. The new parties are targeting these voters and the polling organisations are not tied to any party. We adjust from their figure based on the issues next year, otherwise they have been dependable in particular Ipsos. Unless the DA can be able to get to the unregistered to register and the delusioned to vote for them. Political parties do a lot of work in December and the momentum is carried to February/March. Just go back to the past elections.

  • Willem Boshoff says:

    There’s a legit looking video doing the rounds on social media showing Panyaza Lesufi promising he crowd that their Eskom debt will be scrapped (“all those poeple who have been owing Eskom for years… all those debts are now officially scrapped”) and that the Eskom debt of all ANC-run municipalities will be scrapped too; he then goes on about the ANC being serious about winning the election. The level of shameless lying and vote buying boggles the mind.

  • Alan Cargill says:

    So the EFF is going to sort out load shedding for us?

  • John P says:

    We need to encourage everyone we can at work, at home, at church, school, social club and everywhere else to vote and to vote for anyone except the ANC and EFF.

  • Philip Machanick says:

    I don’t understand the ISI analysis. If the IPSOS poll shows ANC support at 33% of eligible voters, why would it be higher among those who actually turn out? For this to be true, opposition voters need to sit at home on election day in bigger numbers than ANC voters.

    • jason du toit says:

      if a large proportion of the eligible voters who support the ANC are also registered, and the a large proportion of eligible voter supporters of other other parties are not registered, it can have that effect.

    • Greeff Kotzé says:

      Note that the first set of numbers include about 20% undecided voters amongst the eligible. Yes, some of those will stay away, inflating the vote share of all the parties by decreasing the total number of votes. But others will also make up their mind and pick a party to vote for. This analysis seems to conclude that the bulk of them will hold their nose and vote for the ANC.

  • John Stephens says:

    I agree, it does not makes no sense.

  • Hari Seldon says:

    Research from the USA is showing that poll results are often quiet different to results on election day – when an interviewer asks a poll respondent who they will vote for, the level of dissatisfaction often biases the result to or away from an actual party they traditionally are voting for compared to what they actually put a cross next to on the ballot paper. Will a traditional ANC voter put a cross next to the DA or RiseMzansi on the ballot paper when the time comes – polls are not great at predicting this, but the by-elections are maybe a better indicator??

  • Cunningham Ngcukana says:

    The problem with Cyril he fritted away the good will of South Africans who supported him to actually deal with the issues and challenges facing the country. He placed the ANC unity above the future of the country and in the process he is sinking with the ANC and the country that he could have saved and created a legacy for himself. He could have dealt with the economic challenges of the country with the urgency that was required as well as corruption. Even if he was a one term President he would have left a lasting legacy and one doubts that he would be a one term President anyway despite the drivel of the margin of win in his party that was bandied around which I consider as drivel. The ANC would be not where it is in terms of the polls had he acted decisively and surrounded himself with competent people and cracked the whip. His Presidency will be part of theses of how not to govern a country and the consequences of suffering from indecision. There will be a lot written on how not to run the Presidency with committees or envoys. The ANC figures largely reflect on him on the question of lack of urgency on electricity from the last elections and the logistics challenge. The challenges that are confronting the country require quick decision making and implementation and we must not fool ourselves that a coalition will easily do these things. If one party could not do a coalition of parties with different solutions to the challenges is not going to make matters very easy.

  • Cunningham Ngcukana says:

    Despite the polls have shown some level of accuracy in the past I doubt that they are going to be as accurate this time. A high voter turnout cannot be a very positive thing for the ANC and the DA. That logic speaks to an organisation with a well oiled machinery and awash with funds like in the past with very active branches but that is not the case this time. Those who go to register have not been moved by the ANC as the Sunday Times alludes to a flat voter registration campaign and rejection of the ANC that has been admitted by NEC members. People who went to register on the evidence went to do so to vote ANC out. The new parties are going to poll higher than the polls indicate with ActionSA not being less than 7% and this goes for other new parties with parties like ATM showing significant growth than the polls suggest. The polls will be decisive by the end of February/March. You have parties like Rise Mzansi that people are interested to know about and we are waiting to see where their campaign will be at the time in terms of visibility as well as Bosa.
    Ace Magashule will be a significant factor in the Free State also but these polls do not show this. For instance we are going to see the ActionSA not only in KZN and Gauteng but significantly in the Northwest and they are very active in the Eastern Cape to my surprise. Even the UDM on the TBVC pensions issue is making strides in the Eastern Cape and will increase its numbers also in other Provinces on this issue.

  • Andrew McWalter says:

    How Cyril and his government have the barefaced gall to continue occupying their offices whilst the country, under their watch, is reeling from the continuing and runaway collapse of state-owned institutions, one after the other, is astounding to me. Their inability and incompetence to even know what their job entails, is obvious to all. How does Cyril not cringe during those half-lucid midnight hours, when his wretched life parades nakedly before his cowering little mind?

  • Based on this analysis and information I don’t believe the full facts or estimates. Yes, not disagreeing with fundamentals of key things that are really have serious impact on the ruling part but deep below 50% is likely to happen. The ANC can correct itself by radically putting focus on these challenges. Service delivery at local government has a direct impact the ANC. At the national level it is about loadshedding, corruption, maladministration and policies implementation. Some of these issues at national do cut across to local government. There are number of achievements realized that benefited the nation and still number of challenges that need to be tuckled.

  • Jennifer D says:

    So we have a party of lazy, corrupt thieves running the country and still voter supported despite all this, with a group of lying, misrepresentative lunatics in strong contention (also supported by voters)? What is it with these voters – do they think they might lose the vote if they vote for the only party that has any intention of delivering? Or are they scared of losing their cushy crooked lifestyles? The latter is most likely. What they don’t realise is the cushy lifestyles are automatically diminishing with the economy in a downward spiral. Soon there will be no job where you don’t have to go to the office and you don’t actually have to work because there will be no money left, no electricity (except for people who actually do work and probably have online international jobs where they are measured by capability and productivity). Wake up – if you don’t do your job and get paid, the place you work will go under!!

  • Rae Earl says:

    The ANC and EFF are masters of idle talk and spouting populist propaganda. This is going to escalate rapidly in the pre-election run-in. Disgusting promises will be made that are light years away from being achievable. Panyaza Lesufi’s promise of the scrapping of Eskom’s unpaid accounts is probably mild compared to what will come. How about promises of increasing SASSA grant payments from R350 to R2000, or 100% free health services and and free education up to university levels and a million new jobs a year? And nationalising all banks including the Reserve Bank. The country is full of voters who have no idea what populist lying is all about. And therein lies the danger and the probable demise of South Africa.

  • M D Fraser says:

    One thing for sure, there will be several coalitions, locally, regionally and nationally.
    So, with immediate effect, all schools should start teaching the correct pronunciation of “coalition”.
    The ‘murdering’ of this word in general and on SABC in particular, is truly horrendous.

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