South Africa heads to the polls today for its sixth democratic elections. News24 and pollster Dawie Scholtz take a trip down memory lane with the most shocking and bizarre stories from this year's election campaigns.
The release of 'Gangster State' by Pieter-Louis Myburgh
The explosive book, Gangster State: Unravelling Ace Magashule's Web of Capture, caused a stir with ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule and his supporter base, with Myburgh receiving threats, insults and experiencing disruptions at his book launch in Johannesburg.
Scholtz said the book had a negative impact on the broader electorate. "It juxtaposed the relative positivity people had with Ramaphosa with the relative negativity that they had with state capture and corruption as it relates to the ANC.
"There were voters who saw that and paused to think about whether they were still happy with Ramaphosa even though he is running on a very damaged party."
The DA's YouTube advert depicts the worst of the country and features the Guptas, government corruption, load-shedding and poverty in South Africa. With over 300 000 views, the video garnered much online praise.
"The important thing here is that it ushered in a new era of political advertising for South Africa because we've never seen anything at that level in terms of production value and quantitative messaging," says Scholtz.
"It's also very interesting that they decided to go that negative, it seems to me to suggest in their numbers talk that they achieved the biggest impact with negative messaging. From the polling that we’ve seen, it seems it did have an impact and probably did have a good effect on the DA."
The Alex blame game
As election campaigns started to heat up a month before South Africa went to the polls, Alexandra residents – and others across South Africa – protested over a lack of service delivery. A blame game ensued between the DA – which governs the area – and the ANC.
"It seems that the ANC and the DA really were at each other's throats with this one and it seems to have damaged [them] in the process with the primary beneficiary being the EFF because they [ended up] looking like the adult in the room," says Scholtz.
"The DA was damaged because there were service delivery protests in the area governed by the DA. The ANC was damaged a little more in that process because if you look at the polling, it suggests that quite a large group of people thought that either the ANC was either actively involved in organising the protests or at least were quite cynically trying to take advantage of the protests."
Hlaudi's 'unconventional' campaign
"A strange and unconventional approach to campaigning," said Scholtz about Hlaudi Motsoeneng's election campaign, including him standing under a tree, talking about his party's manifesto while referring to himself in the third person. "His campaign has been bizarre, to say the least."
Black First Land First vs Freedom Front Plus
While the BLF has felt the heat in its very first electoral campaign, South Africa witnessed the battle of the margins between the BLF and the FF+, who took the BLF to court over its claim that it would not let white people register with the party.
According to Scholtz, the move gave the party the attention it wanted. "This was a clever move by both of these parties to position themselves as the extremes of the…spectrum [who are] fighting the extreme on the other side".
"They grabbed the media coverage…voters who are considering voting for FF+ love to see their leaders fighting someone like the BLF and vice versa…"
Coming out of the woodwork
Former DA leader Tony Leon and former president Thabo Mbeki graced us with their presence this election season to endorse their respective parties and lambaste the opposition.
"Both the ANC and DA were trying to coalesce their traditional voter bases by getting in these old leaders to remind voters where the parties come from, what they've done in the past to try to bring back together the whole coalition," said Scholtz.
"For the DA there were probably a number of white voters who were thinking about voting for FF+ and rolling out Tony Leon is a way to address that potential risk for the DA and the same goes for the ANC… bringing out the big guns is a way to try to bring the family back together again."
The Ace or the Joker?
Controversy has followed Magashule this election season, including accusations that he tampered with the ANC's top six list and his brazen announcement that his phone was tapped – which the party distanced itself from.
"This is a very damaging set of events for a number of reasons; firstly, because in-fighting isn't useful just before an election," said Scholtz.
"Secondly because it's a distraction in a very crucial phase of the election campaign when the ANC really had to push its final message to voters. Instead of having its key message being front and centre, it has these various controversies around phone tapping being front and centre."
Find everything you need to know about the 2019 National and Provincial Government Elections at our News24 Elections site, including the latest news and detailed, interactive maps for how South Africa has voted over the past 3 elections. Make sure your News24 app is updated to access all our elections coverage in one place.