ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa wave to supporters as he arrives during the partys Election Manifesto Launch at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban on Saturday, 12 January 2019. Cosatu, expects the events to unite the movement and erase factions and divisions that have rocked the province. (Photo by Gallo Images / Phill Magakoe)
strategists and pollsters refer to the final days of an election campaign as
"the squeeze". That's when the bigger parties bring the full weight
of their remaining resources and party machinery to bear in a desperate attempt
to try and convince the last remaining undecided voters to support them.
weekend will see the squeeze play out in three stadiums in Johannesburg, with
the DA holding their final campaign rally in Dobsonville, Soweto on Saturday,
the ANC at Ellis Park on Sunday and the EFF in Orlando, Soweto, also on Sunday.
ANC has historically been the best performer in the final stretch of an
election. The party has never shirked to use its position as an incumbent
government to its benefit and its machinery has always been able to grind out
an extra few percentage points before polling day.
target of the squeeze has always been the DA. The ANC has historically managed
to not only increase their leaders' visibility in the final days, but also to
launch painful attacks on the DA. And although these attacks haven't pushed the
official opposition beneath the waterline, it has had a debilitating effect on
the party's numbers in the past.
time around the ANC has some strategising to do. It's not that easy anymore to
target the DA as the "party of whites" as it has done in the past,
even though ANC secretary general Ace Magashule has already invoked the race
card. President Cyril Ramaphosa, unlike his predecessor, does not want to run a
racially divisive election campaign but he needs to attack the DA in some form
EFF however poses a different challenge for the ANC. The red berets have made
inroads into the ANC's support base, mostly because of the ANC's problems with
corruption and the EFF's positioning against it – that notwithstanding its own
issues with graft and malfeasance.
on the backfoot
the past, when the squeeze was on, the ANC has just had to concentrate on the
DA, but this time the EFF also poses a material threat to the governing party.
It will have to squeeze both parties with a message damaging enough to knock a
few percentage points off the both of them. But it hasn't had an effective
anti-DA or anti-EFF message the whole campaign.
the Western Cape Magashule has been campaigning alongside Ebrahim Rasool and
Tony Yengeni and denouncing the DA provincial government as "the worst
racists" and warning against voting for a white party, but there have been
no major national attacks on the DA as in previous elections.
party has also refrained from targeting the EFF, preferring to repeat that
Malema "must return home to the ANC" and eschewing attacks which
might hurt them in return. The ANC has almost handled the EFF like an errant
and temperamental younger sibling, rather than the political opponent and very
serious threat that it is.
ANC's own message has been focused on itself. Wherever Ramaphosa has gone he
has spoken about the ANC's own mistakes and its own faults, citing state
capture and corruption as the party's biggest mistakes over the past five
years. At rallies and when giving speeches, during door-to-door visits and at
sectoral engagements, Ramaphosa has had to explain what went wrong inside the
ANC during the tenure of former president Jacob Zuma and he has had to explain
how he will fix it. He has repeatedly acknowledged that many ANC leaders and
senior figures have become embroiled in corruption but has sought to put the
focus on what the party will do to extricate itself from the morass of
message has played well with the DA and EFF, with some strategists explaining
that the type of explaining Ramaphosa has had to do puts him and the ANC on the
backfoot. This, according to some pollsters, makes the ANC and Ramaphosa look
weak and apologetic, not firm and determined.
2016 the ANC suffered serious losses when it lost control of three metropolitan
municipalities (Tshwane, Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela Bay) on the back of the
Constitutional Court's scathing Nkandla judgment (where Zuma was found to have
violated the Constitution and his oath of office) and the revelations about
in 2019 the party has tried to put all the revelations about capture and
corruption into perspective by portraying itself as responsible and honest
about its mistakes; and the only party that can reasonably take the country
this make a difference, given how the electorate punished the ANC in 2016?
country has over the past year been rocked by revelations of corruption and
poor governance with a series of inquiries and committees exposing the extent
of the rot under the ANC.
it has provided the DA and the EFF with a target rich environment from which to
pick and choose.
portrayed as part of the mess
DA has relished it, centering their campaign on the ANC's corruption, hammering
home the message that a vote for the ANC is a vote for corruption and has
sought to portray Ramaphosa as part and parcel of the party's sordid immediate
past. They've also launched classic television attack ads and on Thursday night
projected some of their slogans on the ANC's headquarters in Johannesburg.
Luthuli House glistened under the words "Growing corruption
EFF for their part has steered away from corruption as a central message
(perhaps because of their own range of skeletons in the closet?) and have
focused on their mantra of jobs and land. Party leader Julius Malema has not
shied away from denouncing the ANC, saying the party is dying, but he hasn't
fired the series of broadsides Mmusi Maimane and his colleagues have.
strategists were apparently flabbergasted by the ANC and its alliance partners'
poor showing on Wednesday during countrywide May Day rallies. There was an
expectation that the ANC would start reverting to type and attack the DA for
being too white, elitist or threatening to bring back apartheid, as has
happened in the past.
Ramaphosa, the SACP and Cosatu steered away from it, with the president
infusing his usual stump speech (mea culpa, the economy, services) with
praising the working class.
every single election, bar the 2016 municipal election, the ANC has managed to
go into overdrive in the last days before polling. It could count on a machine
honed over many years, it had deep reservoirs of resources and it could count
on its history as a liberation movement to dispel any doubters of its
it is yet to kick into gear in 2019.
squeeze is on. The ANC's leadership, including every member of the top six
leadership, is in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and in the Western Cape trying to
corral the last remaining voters. The DA is gearing up for a last effort in
Dobsonville on Saturday and the EFF, with its limited budget and almost no
access to polling (except Malema's gut-feel), is fanning out away from the
prying eyes of the national media.
DA has a clear objective. The EFF has stuck to its message.
it's the ANC that's fighting the uphill battle.
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