Cape Town - New research suggests that “mathematical
trickery” has disguised weaknesses in the ANC’s election victory.
Gwede Mantashe, the party’s general-secretary, said the
ANC’s win was “rock solid”, after receiving 62% of the votes.
Indeed, at first glance the ANC may appear very stable, but
separate research by Dr Collette Shulz-Herzenberg, post-doctoral fellow at the
University and Cape Town, and by Jonathan Faull, elections consultant at the
Institute for Security Studies (ISS), both show that the party cannot afford to
Shulz-Herzenberg points out that a steady decrease in the
election participation since 1994 continued into the 2014 election and
“actually obscures significant losses” for the ANC.
According to official figures from the Electoral Commission
of South Africa (IEC), 81% of the Voting Age Population (VAP) registered to
vote this year – that is 25.3m of a potential 31.4m voters.
But the IEC’s figures are based on the 2011 population
census. If you take latest census estimates from 2013, the VAP has actually
grown to 32.7m.
This means that actually 78% of the VAP registered this
year, Shulz-Herzenberg said, and that almost 8m people did not register, a
figure far higher than the 6m put forward by the IEC.
What’s more, if you look at the voting turnout as a
proportion of VAP – a measure more commonly used by other countries than
straightforward turnout numbers - it has dropped from 86% in 1994, to 57% this
‘Expect to see desperation’
For Shulz-Herzenberg then, the apparent steady success of
the ANC ignores the rise in the VAP, allowing the ANC to claim a much larger
victory thanks to “mathematical trickery with the voting turnout”.
A spokesperson for the IEC said it used the 2011 census data
as the official available data when voter registration targets were generated
before the election. She added: “The Commission is thus, satisfied that the
Census 2011 data as released in 2012, was an acceptable measure on which it
could place reliance on its VAP calculation.”
Yet for Shulz-Herzenberg, politicians cannot afford to
ignore the more up-to-date 2013 consensus estimates.
She said: “We would expect to see perhaps even a little bit
of desperation as politicians pay attention to the data”.
Big gains ‘are not so’
Faull also argues that the ANC’s success is not as solid as
it may appear. His research, which is separate to Shulz-Herzenberg’s, looks at
the increase in the number of people that registered to vote between 2009 and
This year, the ANC lost 213 827 votes or 1.84% of the number
of votes it won in 2009. “That’s no train smash by any account,” he said.
However, accounting for the new voters added on the
electoral role between 2009 and 2014, the ANC actually suffered a real loss of
10.41%, he said.
Critically for the ANC, the vast majority of the newly
registered voters are concentrated in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal – the two
provinces that the ANC receives almost half of its votes from. Together these
provinces accounted for 44% of all ANC votes in 2014.
“So what appear to be big gains (nationwide) are not so,”
Support ‘running dry’
This year, 370 851 of the newly registered electorate voted
for the ANC – and just under 75% of them came from KZN.
If you look across the other regions, the ANC actually
“haemorrhaged on turnout”, Faull said.
The ANC cannot rely on the ongoing support of KZN, because
support there is “running dry”, he added.
In 2009 there was an astronomical rise of 93.54% in the
rural vote for the ANC in KZN. In 2014 there was a growth of 18%.
The rise directly correlates with President Jacob Zuma's ascension
in the party and it has “disguised problems elsewhere for the party”, Faull
argues - because over the same period, the ANC has lost ground everywhere else.
The party’s majority was the smallest it has achieved since
1994, while support for the Democratic Alliance has grown from 2% to 22% in the
past 20 years.
Faull said it was interesting that the DA clearly took some
of the ANC’s provincial votes – noting that the party will be “salivating” at
the prospect of winning some ground outside the Western Cape in the local
government elections of 2016.
Shulz-Herzenberg also noted a decrease in the turnout in
provinces – where there are large rural populations.
She said that for the first time in rural areas,
disillusioned voters appear to be staying at home, succumbing to a “What’s the
Meanwhile, urban areas are experiencing a growth in the
discerning voter, where people are more exposed to political competition
through the media. Shulz-Herzenberg said: “Political competition seems to be
strengthening, perhaps only in urban metropolis.”
The DA, for example, is gaining some traction in African
cultures – claiming to have won 20% of black South African votes.
Speaking at the ISS seminar presenting the research, Nic Borain,
independent political analyst, said the ANC will be conscious of this data.
“They will have their own strategist grinding through this
data,” he said. “We are not dealing with a static political ecology here. I
imagine the ANC’s going to do some serious introspection now.”
Though he added: “I’d counter that with saying: though you
wouldn’t think it looking at the Cabinet.”
Borain said he was very upbeat about this year’s election
results. “It was a perfect result,” he said, “because it set up a really good
contest for 2016.”
Rural future for the ANC?
Faull argues that the turnout dynamics for the local
government elections in 2016 favour the DA – because local government issues
are usually felt in urban areas where the DA does better – for example, residents
will care about traffic lights, rubbish collection and service delivery issues.
In rural areas, local government measures have less of an
effect than in urban areas – many rural concerns are controlled at a national
level – for example, the provision of electricity.
Faull said: “If you live in an Eastern Cape homestead,
electricity is a revolutionary occurrence. You change someone’s life."
He added: “The ANC has been able to deliver more effectively
in rural areas than in urban.”
Equally, the impact of government social grants for example
will be felt keenly in rural areas – where the money goes further and could be
the primary source of income.
Looking ahead, Shulz-Herzenberg said she expects to see a
“competitive election” in 2016 – particularly in urban areas.
But this shift in urban and rural voting now poses the
question, she said, of whether the ANC will in the future be forced to rely on
the rural vote – which appears to be shrinking.