PODCAST | The Story: 2021 elections - voters strike back

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Local government elections
Local government elections
  • Low voter turnout characterised the 2021 municipal elections.
  • The ANC's support fell to below 50% for the first time since 1994.
  • There was also a record number of hung councils across the country.

Record low voter turnout characterised the 2021 municipal elections, with a resultant significant impact on the fortunes of some political parties.

More than 13 million eligible voters did not even take the time to register. It was the lowest voter turnout in the history of the country's democracy.

The ANC's support fell to below 50%, also a first since 1994.

In this week's episode of The Story, we speak to News24's political editor, Qaanitah Hunter, and independent elections analyst Dawie Scholtz to find out the implications of low voter turnout, how it affected the big metros, and what it all means for South Africa's future.

Hunter and Scholtz spent the week at the results operation centre in Pretoria, updating News24 readers on all the developments and election results as they came in.

Hunter said coalition talks would be top of the agenda for political parties in the coming days, and smaller parties would be "kingmakers" in hung municipalities.

She added in many areas, both the ANC and DA's support declined, while the EFF's support plateaued, saying she believed low voter turnout was the result of voter apathy, but also because South Africans were "fed-up" by the way municipalities were being run.

Hunter said the ANC "really nose-dived" in Soweto.

Not only did many voters not turn up, many of those who did voted against the ANC, with ActionSA benefitting on that score. The other "big shocker" was the eThekwini metro in KwaZulu-Natal where ANC support dropped significantly.

Scholtz said it was "an election of surprises" - highlighting the low turnout of voters in strong ANC areas.

But, he added, "the big elephant in the room is the fact that the ANC was under 50% nationally".

The ruling party got 54% of the vote in the last municipal elections. 

Scholtz said he believed turnout really drove the results in these elections, and cautioned it would not necessarily be the case in the general elections in 2024.

"The ANC suffered a lot of losses in their core demographic, over and above people staying away, just within the black electorate people shifting away from the ANC towards other parties, losing huge amounts of votes in the urban townships and Gauteng, in eThekwini and just all across the country," he added.

"I do think those underlying demographic trends are important and predictive for 2024, however, there's a long time to 2024, the turnout context is likely to be totally different, so I would caution people saying the ANC got under 50% in this election, so it is likely they're going to be under 50% in 2024, that is not to say. We have to wait and see."

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