So, the day has finally arrived. Today millions of people will decide for whom to cast their vote. In the meantime, every political journalist and analyst in the country will be travelling to the IEC result centre in Pretoria.
From Wednesday night, results will start to filter through and by Saturday (possibly even Friday if all goes well), we will know what our political legislatures will look like for the next five years.
With the flood of information in the coming few days, here are some of the key (and fun) things to look out for if you are interested in politics – or if you want to impress your friends with some election trivia.
Turnout can affect results dramatically. In particular, the ANC suffers if the turnout is low. In the 2014 national election the turnout was 73.48% nationally. Anything below that will impact negatively on the ANC results.
Keep an eye on Limpopo which historically has had the lowest voter turnout in the country. In the 2014 election only 60.72% of registered voters turned up to vote which was almost 13% below the national average. With almost 80% of voters supporting the ANC, Limpopo is a very important province for the ANC – even more so because it is the home province of both Cyril Ramaphosa and Julius Malema.
2. Five townships in Gauteng
Election expert Dawie Scholtz has written extensively about the importance of five townships in Gauteng. With the big battle around control of Gauteng, it is important to watch the ANC support in Soweto, Vosloorus-Kathelong-Thokoza, Soshanguwe-Mabopane, Tembisa and Kwathema-Tsakane, where the party had 76%, 79%, 79%, 64% and 82% respectively in the last national election. If support in those areas falls significantly below these results, the ANC will struggle to get 50% of the vote in Gauteng.
3. The Cape Flats
The coloured vote makes up approximately 48% of all registered voters in the Western Cape. Simply put, they can determine who will rule the province. A big stay away or turn away from the DA can seriously hamper the DA's chances of retaining control of the province.
In particular, keep an eye on the Cape Flats. These areas did significantly better for the DA after Patricia de Lille's Independent Democrats joined the party. For example, the DA's support in Bishop Lavis increased from about 50% to 66% after Auntie Pat threw her weight behind the DA. Now of course she is on a revenge mission, which could cost the DA dearly in the Western Cape and that could in turn impact on their national support.
4. The religious vote
Various polls have indicated a general disillusionment amongst voters in politics and politicians. For this reason, voters might decide to turn to more religious parties so keep an eye on the ACDP and the ATM party. Over the past few days, the DA in the Western Cape has changed their advertising, asking specifically that voters not vote for small parties like the ACDP. This would suggest that they are worried about the support this party is gaining. ATM has been drawing big crowds in the Eastern Cape and could pick up a few seats from there.
5 Kuruman and Upington
The DA is confident that they will win the Northern Cape, particularly in Kuruman and Upington where they have been focussing their efforts. Apparently these two towns will be crucial to get them the majority.
In the previous national elections the DA could not even canvass in Motherwell in the Eastern Cape, after being chased out by angry residents. In 2016 Athol Trollip launched an initiative there. Now, the DA is hoping to make some significant gains in that area with the hope of obtaining a marked growth in black voter support in the Eastern Cape.
7. Southern KZN
This is ANC country and with former president Jacob Zuma's efforts, this part of KZN has had an extraordinarily high turnout in the previous elections. With more than a fifth of registered voters living in KZN, it is an extremely important province for the ANC. The question is whether Ramaphosa can pull the same level of turnout and support. If not, it could affect the ANC's support nationally dramatically.
In America the election results in Missouri and New Hampshire are always closely watched as an early indicator of what the national outcome would be. For many, election results in these two sates have been an accurate measure of the final outcome. Political journalist Jan-Jan Joubert has combed through municipal results, demographics and income levels in South Africa and found our equivalent of New Hampshire and Missouri; it turns out it is Randfontein. So, if you want to get some early bets in on the national outcome, keep an eye out for the results from Randfontein – or so says Jan-Jan.
Happy election watching.
- Melanie Verwoerd is a former ANC MP and South African Ambassador to Ireland.
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