South Africa

2024 ELECTIONS

ANC discusses cooperation with other parties as it seems set to lose KZN

ANC discusses cooperation with other parties as it seems set to lose KZN
Gwede Mantashe and Mondli Gungubele examine the election results at the IEC ROC. Richard Stupart

By noon on Thursday, the ANC privately acknowledged it had lost its dominance in KwaZulu-Natal. At 6pm, it reached out to political parties for a chat about cooperation.

The initial reach-outs were made at the provincial level as word came of a possible toenadering between the ANC, DA and IFP, Daily Maverick reliably learnt. It was styled as being in the interest of stable governance in a possible tandem agreement between KwaZulu-Natal and national governments. But nothing will happen until the ANC National Executive Committee meets.

The outlook in KwaZulu-Natal for the ANC looked dim at noon when the uMkhonto Wesizwe (MK) party was narrowly trumping the ANC, while the IFP had 36.8% of the votes counted and the DA 11.4%. By 7.30pm, that provincial outlook had turned decidedly bleak for the ANC, with 21.27% against MK’s 43.4% support from the votes counted, while the IFP stood at 17.9% and the DA at 10.3%.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Elections dashboard

At these percentages, the ANC will need a three-way agreement to govern KwaZulu-Natal, with the addition of a small party. MK said it would not go into a coalition with the ANC, according to News24. It remains to be seen what, if anything, the party headed by former president Jacob Zuma will offer the IFP.

Word late on Thursday of a possible three-way co-governance deal threw into hard light that the ANC looked set to lose its majority, in KwaZulu-Natal and nationally, for the first time since Nelson Mandela led the ANC into government in South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Early surge by Zuma’s MK party in rural KZN shows potential to lead provincial legislature as ANC falters

However, nothing was settled as voting results continued to stream in and a firmer picture was expected on Friday morning. Still, party political representatives on Thursday kept a firm eye on the regularly updated results leaderboards at the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) national results centre at Gallagher Estate.

Things were also not looking upbeat for the ANC nationally. Throughout Thursday, pollsters had the ANC hovering at around 42% at the national level. It recorded 57% in the 2019 elections.

The DA stood at around 22%, the EFF at 9% and MK at around 10%. If those pundits’ calls hold, MK would make an unprecedented national debut, beating the EFF’s 6.35% in 2014.

On the IEC’s declared results from the national ballot at around 7.30pm, the ANC had 42.31%, followed by the DA with 24.6%, MK with 9.3% and the EFF with 9.1%. The Patriotic Alliance was fifth with 3.4%, just squeaking past the IFP.

But with counting completed at only about 30% of South Africa’s 23,293 voting stations by 7.30pm, results could yet change significantly, both nationally and in the provinces. Often the counts from township voting stations come in late, providing a late boost to the ANC, IFP and others.

While the IFP, for example, at 6pm had registered just over 78,000 votes on the national ballot, this was dismissed as not indicative, because tallies from the party’s strongholds had not yet come in. If the votes tally had not moved significantly by Friday mid-morning, an insider said, then that would be of great concern.

‘Shocking’

On Thursday the mood was grim at the ANC desk at the IEC national results centre. Less than 12 hours earlier, long queues of people in KZN, often in the party’s black, gold and green, had boosted expectations that enough had been done in the last days of the hectic campaign trail. 

The results showed a different picture. Number crunchers signalled that even votes from eThekwini, which was slow to get off to a count, would not reverse the ANC’s fall in the province. ANC National Chairperson Gwede Mantashe didn’t mince his words, calling the vote for MK “tribal”. Another insider simply said, “It’s shocking”.

But KwaZulu-Natal was always a headache for the ANC, even before MK, which also ate into support for the IFP and EFF in the province. The ANC in 2019 scored 55.47% in KZN, an almost 10 percentage point drop from the 65.3% it received there in 2014.

With the second-biggest voting population after Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal polling support has a significant impact on the complex seat calculations for the National Assembly that also include the regional ballot for the first time.

Voting concerns

While the IEC determinedly maintained all was above board, particularly over Wednesday night’s queues — voters stood in line until 3am at the city halls in Durban, Johannesburg and Arcadia, Pretoria — concerns over the management of the elections remained.

Among concerns expressed, particularly by opposition parties, were the inconsistencies of handling the three ballots in the counting. Sometimes the regional ballot was trailing behind and at other times only the national ballot results were posted. It proved hard to track results.

At the 4pm briefing on Thursday, IEC Chairperson Mosotho Moepya said the entries on the leaderboards were completed results, and the commission was hard at work to conclude its task.

Sunday looks like the day when the IEC declares the election results and legislature seat allocations, triggering the next steps: swearing in the new MPs, electing the President, the presidential inauguration and a second opening of Parliament.

Read more in Daily Maverick: The ballots have been cast – now what?

But the IEC backtracked on its claims that the voter turnout was higher than the 66% recorded in 2019. That number would only be finalised when results were finalised; the IEC could not do so now.

As Moepya put it, “We are looking at something that is still half-baked — no, it’s still in the oven.”

As Thursday turned into Friday, the election results continued to stream in. DM

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