Ralph Mathekga

DA, EFF failing to capitalise on ANC losses

2017-09-04 08:07
ANC flag at the party's national policy conference. (Video screengrab)

ANC flag at the party's national policy conference. (Video screengrab)

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The polling company Ipsos has release interesting results showing how South Africans would vote if elections were to be held tomorrow. The survey shows that if South Africa were to go into elections now, the ANC would attain 47% of the votes while the DA can expect 21%, and the EFF would have to settle for 5%.

We can all agree that at this point the ANC would indeed struggle to attain over 50% of the votes. The ANC is confronted with negative sentiments that have to do with the spread of corruption and poor leadership within the party, among other challenges. Most of the problems experienced by the ANC however are own goals that the party cannot blame anyone for.

What I found interesting about the results of the polls is how the opposition parties are actually failing to benefit from the demise of the ANC. The polls show that the DA and the EFF are not only failing to grow, but the two parties would actually lose support.

I do not expect the EFF to grow substantially in the next elections, unless the party changes course and becomes moderate on some of the issues they are known to stand for. By retaining the third position after the DA and the ANC, the EFF would become the first party in post democratic South Africa retain the third position in two consecutive general elections.

Consolidating its position as the third dominant party in SA would be a big achievement for the EFF given the fact that in the last three general elections, no political party has consolidated itself as the third dominant party in the country; third position political parties are rotated every election.

The DA actually comes out very badly in the polls, showing a 1% decline in terms of electoral support. The DA moved from just over 12% of electoral support in 2004 general elections, to 16% in 2009, and therefore 22% in 2014 elections. Ipsos's survey is saying the DA is now sitting on 21%; a 1% drop from recent general elections (2014). This shows for the first time that the DA is unable to grow; it’s losing support. What makes a 1% drop for DA a significant shift is that it would be taking place at the time when growth is clearly expected; thus during the highest point of crisis for the ANC. If the DA is polling so poorly at this point, they should be very worried how things might turn out for them if President Jacob Zuma leaves office timeously.

If Zuma leaves office immediately after the elective conference of the party in December, the DA will have serious difficulties holding onto the 21% electoral support that Ipsos is talking about. This situation is worrying; it says despite internal problems within the ANC and corruption scandals the party is engulfed in; the opposition parties are still unattractive to voters. The DA is aware that it would take a great deal of work to stretch Zuma's misdemeanors towards the 2019 elections if he leaves after the ANC elective conference.

If Zuma goes, the DA will find it difficult to keep on lurching on Zuma mistakes. The party would have failed on capitalising on Zuma mistakes even whilst he was busy committing those mistakes.

The question that remains unanswered is why is it that the opposition in South Africa do such a poor job when it comes to converting ANC mistakes into long term political strategies?

As for the EFF, they may use their 5 % as an olive branch to return home to the ANC, it’s not unthinkable, after all Zuma will be gone and the whole thing can be written off as big misunderstanding. This is how one Jacob Zuma would have become a cold case in South African politics.   

- Ralph Mathekga is a Fellow at the SARChI Chair: African Diplomacy and Foreign Policy at the University of Johannesburg and author of When Zuma Goes

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