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Readers' Election Questions Answered

We polled DM readers, asking them to share their top questions about the elections that they’d like our newsroom to address.  We’ve tried to answer as many as possible and to guide you to articles and collections containing all the information you need. What is clear is that there is a lot of anxiety about violence in this campaign. South Africa has always had relatively peaceful election campaigns but the rhetoric is ratcheting up this time. After the ANC’s provincial chairperson, Siboniso Duma, grabbed the mic from the amaZulu prime minister Thulasizwe Buthelezi, people were hurt in clashes between the ANC and the IFP.  Click on the drop down below to view answers. 

I want to compare party manifestos. I want to know about policy. I want to know what happens in the voting booth. I want the party manifestos laid out clearly so I can make an informed choice.

Our hub here is your go-to spot. We have drop-down manifestos as they come out. Watch out for our election cards which will summarise different policies for easy comparison. 

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Zuma cannot stand for office, as Rebecca Davis found here. 

Small polls, such as those by the Brenthurst Foundation and the Social Research Foundation, show that MK is growing quickly. It’s certainly one of the big stories of this campaign. I (Ferial) would wait for what the latest Ipsos poll shows because it’s a much bigger, in-person poll. It will be out soon. 

That said, Daily Maverick’s election analyst, Wayne Sussman, has been tracking MK’s performance in by-elections (see his latest report) and it is doing well. 

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At a glance, here you go: 

🔹 In graphics: The Big Eight funders of South Africa’s major political parties.

🔹 Muhammad Hussain of News24 did an excellent interview with the country’s biggest individual donor, Rebecca Oppenheimer.

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Illustrative image | MK; ANC. (Photo: Gallo Images/Fani Mahuntsi | Wikimedia)

There are fabulous young people putting up their hands for leadership across parties, especially in Rise Mzansi (the newcomer led by Songezo Zibi), the DA and the EFF, among others. We’re drawing up a list for you. The ANC, unfortunately, has had to accommodate many old cadres so young talent is thin on the ground, as far as I (Ferial) can see. That’s part of the governing party’s problem.  

If an election were held tomorrow, the ANC would emerge as the largest party likely to be able to form a government, according to all polls. The Multi-Party Charter (a coalition of nine parties with the DA, IFP, Freedom Front Plus and ActionSA the largest partners) is a significant entrant but the partners fight too much in public to display coherence to possible voters. Its current share of the vote is just more than 30%, according to various polls.

Polls such as those from the Brenthurst Foundation are good but small. You have to read them with the bigger polls and with the by-election direction set out by our election analyst, Wayne Sussman. I would not attach much credibility to news reports about confidential polls for reasons ActionSA national chairperson Michael Beaumont set out here. The South African National Editors Forum issued a caution about polling here. Also, read with circumspection when pollsters or the institution that commissioned the poll write up their own results. The best practice is for reporters to write up polls with built-in safeguards and multiple sourcing. Most pollsters have a line, client or product to push.

Our rule of thumb at Daily Maverick: When our reporters write up polls they put the results to parties for a second look. The poll I trust most is Ipsos because it’s the largest, is independent and has a long history. The DA, the EFF and ActionSA do not trust Ipsos polling because they say it undercounts their support. The DA has its own polls and takes a daily pulse of its support. Where we report on these, we will tell you that it is a party poll. 

Professor David Everatt polled the largest number of people for the defunct Change Starts Now movement of Roger Jardine and I found it a useful indicator. Statistician Dr Mark Orkin re-ran Everatt’s numbers to attribute undecided voters – a more common way of reporting polls. Here’s his view which puts the ANC at 47% and ties in with where the governing party sees itself right now. David has the ANC at a lower outcome and he knows a thing or too as he has polled for years. 

🔹 IFP trounces ANC again in KZN, sweeping three Newcastle wards, while ruling party defies Gauteng naysayers.

🔹 Zuma’s MK Party takes votes from ANC, EFF in Mpumalanga debut on back of strong KZN showing.

🔹 Zuma’s MK party snatches votes from ANC, IFP in fierce Zululand contest as it gives big parties another huge fright.

The only broadly Marxist manifesto I’ve seen is the EFF’s and I’ve been through most of the larger pledges with a fine-tooth comb. The EFF’s 244-page tome is also free market in places. Given that the party is opaquely funded by private capital, I wouldn’t be too concerned about its rhetoric. The most libertarian or business friendly is the ActionSA manifesto, as well as the DA’s.

Rise Mzansi is running nationally and in every province. It is starting to come up. Its own polling puts its support at about 7% nationally, which means it could take more than a score of MPs to Parliament. That can be pretty impactful.

No. Other than the ANC and the DA, no party manifesto I’ve read grapples with the trade-off costs of their promises or factors in the macro economy and South Africa’s stratospheric debt. Populist parties like the EFF, and even the sensible IFP manifesto, make big spending promises without thinking through the necessary budgeting.  

We have an eligible voting population of 43 million and just more than 27 million registered to vote, which suggests 16 million people don’t see the value of voting. I do hope there will be a high voter turnout on 29 May. 

This is a common question and concern and we will be reporting on it properly for you.  

See Rebecca Davis’s first take here on dangerous patterns and her call for the IEC to be more active and activist in the face of threats of violence.  

Our elections hub is your go-to spot where we have drop-down manifestos as they come out. Watch out for our election cards which will summarise different policies for easy comparison.

The 29 May election is a national and provincial election. The next local government election will be in 2026.

These Q&A’s were initially published as a free newsletter for subscribers of the Your Questions Answered newsletter with Ferial Haffajee and Sahra Heuwel.