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Battleground Gauteng — South Africa’s Waterloo in the 2024 elections


Brutus Malada is a political strategist and consultant. He holds a Master's in Education from the University of Johannesburg.

The 2024 general election will signify an historic epoch for South Africa, the end of an era and promises to become a watershed moment reminiscent of 1994. Gauteng is the battleground where the war will be won or lost.

A watershed moment awaits South Africa in 2024. The ANC stands a chance of losing Gauteng — the biggest province electorally and most significant province economically.

The party that wins Gauteng will shape the political future of South Africa. With the Western Cape completely out of reach for the ANC, losing Gauteng will be a final blow.

Thus, the ANC will have neither the seat of Parliament, the Western Cape, nor the seat of government, Gauteng. It will be a lame-duck party and this will mark the end of it.

Gauteng is, therefore, poised to be the battleground on which the election will be fought, won or lost.

Gauteng is a strategic province. Not only is it the host of our symbol of political power, the Union Buildings, but the province is also an economic hub of South Africa. Gauteng enjoys the privilege of hosting the richest square mile in Africa — Sandton.

The GDP of Gauteng constitutes more than 33% of national GDP. Big monopoly companies have their headquarters here and their skyscrapers decorate our skylines.

As the economic hub, Gauteng has the highest concentration of the middle class and of educated youth. Everywhere in the world, the middle class is the motive force that fosters change.

Seven out of 23 South African universities are located within the borders of Gauteng and some of SA’s best think tanks are found there. This makes Gauteng a hub of intellectual and public discourse, a hive of activism, a breeding ground for youth leadership and popular culture. It should not be surprising, therefore, that Gauteng is a setter of socio-political trends.

However, Gauteng is also the place where our stark inequalities are more pronounced than most places. It is truly a tale of two cities — of the opulence of Sandton and the poverty of Alexandra, the booming of Steyn City and the underdevelopment of Diepsloot, the tranquillity of Silver Lakes and the degradation of Mamelodi, and so on and so forth.  

Yet, having control of Gauteng means a lot for the political party in charge. A party that governs Gauteng has a budget of more than R460-billion to control.

This is significant enough to make a positive impact on the lives of the citizens. Yet, it is also a significant enough budget to dispense patronage, hence political parties will fight tooth and nail to win Gauteng.

It is the smallest of all provinces in land size, but the largest in population size, accounting for approximately 16 million people — more than 25% of the national population.

With such a big population, it also has the largest number of eligible voters and is therefore poised to swing the national election outcome. The party that wins Gauteng will, therefore, shape the political future of South Africa.

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That the ANC may lose Gauteng has become obvious for any pundit to predict. Even the ANC itself admitted back in 2014 that its days were numbered.  “The days of two-thirds majorities nationally are over. The days of winning Gauteng automatically are drawing to a close” the party prophesied in their discussion document.

The prophecy about Gauteng was realised in 2019 when the ANC failed to form a government on its own. It was left hanging on a thread, borrowing 0.71% from the ACDP to achieve the 50+1 threshold to enable it to form a government. Very few people remember that the provincial government of Gauteng is a coalition arrangement of sorts, with the ACDP chairing one of the portfolio committees.

With the trend already set in the big metropolitan municipalities where the ANC lost to opposition-led coalitions, the outcome of the 2024 elections is highly predictable. The ANC will be lucky to get more than 40% in Gauteng.

Panyaza Lesufi, the newly elected Provincial Chairperson of the ANC in Gauteng, is fully aware of the possibility of his party not making it into government in 2024. This is exactly why he couldn’t wait until 2024 to ascend to the premier’s office. It is better for him to be a premier for 18 months than to take a chance and not have the title at all.

The wrestling that we are witnessing in the Gauteng metros must also be understood in the context of parties positioning themselves for 2024.

While a lot has been said about the ANC’s attempts to get back power through motions of no-confidence, little has been said about how the DA’s internal contestations are affecting the coalitions, let alone how its adversarial relationship with ActionSA is part of the game for 2024.

To say ActionSA is the biggest threat to the DA is an understatement. The DA sees ActionSA as its biggest enemy and will stop at nothing to stunt its growth, even if it means collapsing the coalition arrangements and allowing the ANC to govern.

There comes a time when the growth of a political party outside government reaches a ceiling, and it is what a party does in government that enables exponential growth. An ActionSA that stays in government prior to 2024 is a dangerous threat to the electoral fortunes of the DA.

Meanwhile, the intra-party contestations in the DA are also playing a major part in the stability of the coalitions. The position of the federal leader is due for contestation at the forthcoming DA Federal Conference and the premier candidate for Gauteng is yet to be decided.

As the remaining credible black woman in the DA and standing on the big platform of Joburg mayorship, Dr Mpho Phalatse is seen by some in her party as a potential threat for both the Gauteng premier and federal leader positions. Thus, allowing the Joburg coalition to collapse is politically expedient for those in the DA who are eying these positions. Solly Msimanga and John Steenhuisen would not go down without a fight. 

Meanwhile, the EFF’s attempts at mayorship of Ekurhuleni are also part of preparations for 2024. By now the EFF knows that voters do not remember who sponsored a motion for the renaming of a street, they remember who the mayor was when their neighbourhood was electrified. It is easy for a party and its mayor to claim any development, even if the idea originated from the opposition.

It must be clearer by now that both the intra- and inter-political wrestling that we are witnessing in Gauteng makes more sense when viewed through the prism of the forthcoming 2024 election.

This election will signify a historic epoch for South Africa, the end of an era and promises to become a watershed moment reminiscent of 1994.

Without the seat of Parliament and the seat of government, the ANC will be nothing more than a ceremonial head without power and influence in the direction of SA. Such a government will remain a lame duck until one party or a coalition government wrestles the ANC completely out of the Union Buildings.

The end of the ANC is near. The question that remains is whether the opposition parties will squander the opportunity or make history by removing the ANC completely from power in Gauteng? DM


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  • Marilyn Keegan says:

    I would contest your comment that Gauteng is “is a setter of socio-political trends”. The Western Cape was awake to the moral turpitude and venal tendencies of the ANC many years ago and voted them out. I think the Western Cape – not Gauteng – has been at the forefront of setting socio-political trends but of course when we acted we were accused of being racists…..

    • Glyn Morgan says:

      Marilyn, you are correct there. Maybe the media do not think that the Western Cape is part of South Africa! It is way ahead of the rest, but I do wish that they would catch up. They can, they know who to vote for. Now they must just DO IT!

  • Jacobus Cilliers Cilliers says:

    Excellent article and analysis. Yes, what happens in Gauteng in 2024 will likely set the scene for change at national level in 2029.

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