With only less than a year and half before the national elections, the declining support of the ANC over the past three decades has not only affected the party but also badly affected the country's economic growth levels, which have slumped since the second era started in 2008.
The ANC has paid a heavy political price as its national electoral support levels have slumped by 12 percentage points since 2008.
In its latest research report for January 2023, the Social Research Foundation indicates that economic growth levels started to collapse in the same year as when former president Thabo Mbeki was recalled as the party and the country’s president.
During former president Nelson Mandela and Mbeki’s terms in office, between 1994 and 2007, the escalating levels of economic growth enabled rising income and employment levels while financing the rollout of both an expansive social welfare system and significant concomitant increases in living standards broadly.
But after Mbeki was recalled and replaced by Jacob Zuma, things quickly deteriorated for both the party and the country's economy. Though Zuma became president in 2009, Kgalema Motlanthe could not do anything to arrest the decline during his brief stay as the president of the country.
The foundation compared the dominant social and economic trends behind the ANC support in South Africa between the eras from 1994 to 2007 and the second era from 2008 to 2022.
The report indicates that the collection of economic and social indicators is reflective of the shifts in South African living standards broadly for the nearly three decades that have passed since the country’s first democratic election in 1994.
The report read:
What is of great concern is that the proportion of households without electricity decreased from 49% to below 20%. Despite the decreasing number of households without electricity, many South Africans continue to experience problems with electricity with the introduction of rolling blackouts.
On Monday, President Cyril Ramaphosa called an urgent meeting between the power utility’s board, government and opposition parties in a bid to resolve the problem.
According to the foundation, the number of social welfare grants being paid monthly rose from nearly 2.5 million to over 12 million. This is attributed to the growing high rate of unemployment and the slump in gross domestic product.
The research used indicators ranging from economic growth to disposable income levels, employment numbers, welfare payments and access to electricity compared within the context of ANC national election support levels.
However, the ANC secured for itself a political dividend that saw its national electoral support level lift by around six percentage points from the near 63% majority Mandela had led that party to in South Africa’s first free national election in 1994 to peak at just shy of 69% under Mbeki in the election of 2004.
The second era began in and around 2008 and saw economic growth levels slump and then stagnate, causing disposable income and employment levels to falter as slowing revenues braked welfare and service delivery rollout, causing living standards to stagnate and then, in many respects, decline.
The report shows that there has been an increase in the number of people employed in the country from nearly 14.6 million in 2008 to just 15.6 million in 2022.
Based on the research, the foundation concluded that the ANC’s electoral fortunes have for nearly 30 years been tied to the party’s ability to ensure economic growth rates sufficient to enable and finance rapid and substantive improvements in the living standards of South Africans broadly and that this single factor will remain the lead indicator around which that party’s future electoral fortunes turn.