ROAD TO 2024 ELECTIONS
New poll confirms ANC slide – desperate South Africans want new options
A new survey has found that voters’ interest has been piqued by the Multi-Party Charter, an 11-party agreement to form a coalition after the 2024 election.
The largest poll yet of voter sentiment shows South Africans want to vote in this year’s general election and are looking for options in numbers not seen since 1994.
Like three previous polls, it found that the governing ANC was waning in popularity and would garner only 39% of the votes if the elections were held tomorrow. The national and provincial elections must take place by August.
The ANC is campaigning for 51% or more and has a powerful election machinery, it said last week. An analysis late last year by the Inclusive Society Institute, an independent think-tank that advises the ANC, gave it 48% of the vote in a medium turnout of voters.
Voters’ interest has been piqued by the Multi-Party Charter (MPC), an 11-party agreement to form a coalition after the election.
The latest poll, which interviewed 9,000 people, is a baseline survey by University of the Witwatersrand Professor of Urban Governance David Everatt for Change Starts Now, Roger Jardine’s start-up political movement.
It found that 61% of those surveyed face to face in a language of their choice had not heard of the MPC, but interest was high among those who had.
A robust 38% of respondents who had heard of it said they would vote for the MPC, which surveyors defined for the people they interviewed.
“If I’ve heard of it, I want to vote for it,” Everatt said, summarising a key finding. This, he said, was a strong outcome for a new formation. “The idea of all these parties coming together has real appeal,” Everatt said.
The survey also found that five of SA’s nine provinces could be run by coalition governments after the elections — more than the five major parties have pencilled in.
The five provinces are Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Free State, Western Cape (the DA disagrees) and possibly the Northern Cape. Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal are wide open at this stage.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Dramatic decline in electoral support of ANC clear from new national poll
A desire to vote
Eighty percent of those surveyed said they want to vote, but many have yet to register. By Friday, before the registration weekend, 27 million people of a potential voting pool of 43 million had registered.
“People are desperate for change, but no party is mobilising their imagination,” Everatt said. “No parties are doing as well as they want to.”
This suggests an outcome that fractures rather than consolidates the political landscape unless the MPC can capture the imagination of voters who want change.
One in five of those surveyed said politics is a waste of time.
Those who did not say who they would vote for are not ANC voters, Everatt said. “There is a hunger for something that excludes both the ANC and EFF.”
Jobs are at the top of the pile of voter priorities by a long shot, followed by the cost of living, crime, poverty and load shedding. The MPC parties only released their economic policy (which includes employment) last week, while the baseline survey was done late last year.
MPC is ‘unlocking enthusiasm’
“Where people know about the MPC, it is unlocking enthusiasm,” said the DA’s head of strategic communications and MP Leon Schreiber. “It gives voters a sense that there is something bigger, [with the] potential to achieve a majority.”
He questioned the poll’s findings, saying a better way to test MPC support was by adding up the possible support for each of the 11 parties in the pact. Using this tally, he said, the parties would get more than the 32%% they notched up in 2021.
“I wouldn’t say the job is complete. If more opposition voters register, then we pull the voters’ roll in our [the MPC’s] favour. We are up above 2019 [national and provincial elections] and 2021 [local elections].”
Schreiber said that the latest survey underestimated support for the DA, while overestimating that for the EFF. The DA’s internal polls, which are done constantly, gave it between 25% and 30% of the vote, DA leader John Steenhuisen told Daily Maverick’s Queenin Masuabi.
Read more in Daily Maverick: How the Multi-Party Charter could make history at the 2024 polls
ActionSA’s national chairperson, Michael Beaumont, said the MPC would hold eight more national events as the election campaign gathers steam.
The events would help to build its brand and increase public awareness. The parties had the tricky task of collaborating and competing while presenting as a joint force.
Everatt criticised the MPC parties for constant bickering, notably between the DA and ActionSA. He said this alienated potential voters.
While agreeing that the MPC parties should not badmouth one another, Beaumont said differentiation and independence were essential.
Last week, for example, he lambasted Steenhuisen for calling Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi’s insta-police “drunkards” with “Pep uniforms” who had been pulled from a shebeen. The statement went down like a lead balloon in race-conscious South Africa.
ActionSA has a stricter immigration policy than most other parties. Its message to voters is: “If you want immigration at the centre, make us stronger.”
His modelling showed the MPC parties were heading “squarely for victory”, Beaumont said. He said ActionSA was growing countrywide and would surprise people in the Eastern Cape, where former Nelson Mandela Bay mayor Athol Trollip is consolidating in Buffalo City and elsewhere.
Asked if ActionSA would give the role of MPC leader to Jardine if the pact was successful in the election, Beaumont said, “Roger who? You must be joking. We have confidence in the leadership here.”
Beaumont said either ActionSA leader Herman Mashaba or the IFP’s Velenkosini Hlabisa should lead the pact if it succeeded in the elections.
This final chart shows that both men have work to do on their likeability and name recognition among voters. Jardine has a high mountain to climb if he is to succeed in persuading the MPC leaders that he can rise.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has a vastly higher positive score than other political leaders. He has consistently polled higher than the ANC.
For more on Jardine’s strategy, see Rebecca Davis’ interview here.
Baseline survey 2023 details:
- 9,000 respondents, all SA citizens 18+;
- The sample was stratified by province, area and race, with secondary stratification by cluster (increased allocation to smaller groups);
- Face-to-face interviews were conducted in November/December 2023 by 280 enumerators;
- The survey was weighted to be representative of SA’s adult population; and
- The simple margin of error for the total sample = <1%.
ANC spokesperson Mahlengi Bhengu-Motsiri said the ANC is expecting a decisive victory in South Africa’s 2024 national and provincial general elections.
“Our job of transforming the country and deepening democracy is not complete. We have rolled out a massive programme on voter registration, engaging with all sectors to ensure that our people participate in the democratic process. Our alliance partners and our leagues have supported the voter registration campaign in their numbers and the ANC has engaged with all sectors as part of our programme.
“Over this voter registration weekend, we have had party agents and information tables at every voting station in every region across the country. Our leaders have gone door to door, engaging with citizens, and the response has been generally positive with South Africans interested to hear what the ANC has to say.
“The NEC at its recent meeting noted the proliferation of small parties wishing to contest the 2024 elections. The NEC views this trend as an attempt to divide the vote. We are confident this strategy will not succeed.
“Generally, the ANC does not comment or respond to various polls, although the bona fide ones are considered and to some extent inform our strategy.” DM