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SA election: ANC weakened but remains in power

By Crystal Orderson, and David Whitehouse
Posted on Friday, 10 May 2019 16:29

Support for the ANC fell in the 9 May national election in South Africa. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

Despite pre-election polls putting the African National Congress (ANC) at below 50%, the governing party won South Africa's sixth democratic election with just over 58% of the vote as of 10 May.

This result is likely to change as the vote counting continues throughout the coming days. The ANC will govern the country, albeit with a smaller majority. The ANC also won eight of the nine provinces. In the Western Cape, the Democratic Alliance (DA) maintained control of the province.

Nationally, the DA was ing second place, with more than 22% support. The leftist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) just more than 10%, continuing its growth path since the 2014 election. The surprise so far has been the increase of support of the Freedom Front Plus (FF+). The Afrikaner nationalist party is now the fourth place of 48 parties that contested the election.

Small-party complaints

South Africans have yet again chosen the big three political parties and seemingly ignored the array of smaller parties. But these smaller parties are unhappy. More than 30 smaller parties signed a petition saying South Africans have denied the right to a free and fair election. They are demanding a re-run, calling the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) corrupt. Those parties include Black First Land First, the Socialist Revolutionary Workers and the Land Party. Many of these parties received less than 2,000 votes.

The DA’s Mmusi Maimane has come out in support of the IEC to say a re-run is not necessary. The EFF’s deputy president Floyd Shivambu says the smaller parties should not be bitter and should accept the results.

There is no doubt that credibility and integrity of the IEC have been bruised in this election. But the IEC’s Sy Mamabola has been at pains to explain that the election process is credible and has called on all South Africans to be calm. He says: “We are assuring all South Africans there is integrity in the electoral process.”

Troublesome issues: Double voting and the indelible ink

Activists pointed out cases of alleged double voting and other irregularities. Others noted the indelible ink, used on people’s fingers to show they voted, could rub off. Mamabola said the IEC was conducting an urgent sample audit for double voting. Several people have already been arrested in connection with double voting.

With regards to the indelible ink, the investigations will be done with the Council for Scientific Research.

Political Parties React

Fikile Mbalula, head of elections for the ANC said on SABC TV:

“The result so far – is a long way from the 62% we received in 2014 – but we are delighted because we conducted a very difficult campaign against the backdrop of heavy losses. And we had to answer to the people – we had to go door-to-door and make voter contact, which is actually giving us this result. Our research had shown that our people are not interested in divisions in the ANC, but we do know unity is a process. And getting our leaders out showing confidence in the new ANC leadership was positive, but it also shows we have a lot to build unity in the ANC.”

The DA leader Maimane said:

“All over the world, there are parties that are going to stand up and say they are a party for one race or another. What I am most happy about is that the DA stuck to its guns. We refused to be a party for one race. We are working to build South Africa.”

The EFF’s Shivambu explained:

“We are still at the early stage of the vote with more than half of Gauteng is not been counted and we have big support there and we will double the results from 2016. The EFF is a growing organisation and the only one that has been growing significantly compared to the other smaller parties. The EFF is going to record emphatic growth and redefine the politics in the country.”

Mkululeko Hlengwa of the Inkatha Freedom Party said:

“We are positively happy with the fact that we have made strides of growth. We are still waiting for results from our strongholds.”

Newcomer party GOOD made a good showing despite only being on the political scene a few months.

GOOD leader Patricia De Lille said:

“It’s a victory. We only had four months and we are busy to build a foundation for 2021. We live in a multiparty democracy and contestation is there. We have put our ideas of building a good country and good people that are not racists and our plan for SA.”

Turnout tribulations

People came out to but with the lowest voter turnout since 1994. Voter turnout is estimated at around 65% and election watchers say this is the big shocker of the election.

  • In 1999, the final turnout was 89.3%.
  • At the 2004 election, turnout was 76.73%.
  • Five years later, in 2009, voter turnout increased to 77.3%.
  • The decline resumed in 2014 when turnout dropped to 74.48%.

Collette Hartzenberg-Schultz political analyst from Stellenbosch University:

“In 2014 we had 74% and we have dropped it is a 9% drop and its significant. What we see is a normalisation of politics to some extent, but it was a significant drop from one election to the next. Young people make a bigger part of the electorate and we seeing lower levels of turnout. We have to ensure that a big chunk of people is interested to want to vote.”

“The electorate is changing and it is not the same as the electorate of 1994. People do not feel close to the ANC anymore and this will impact on the ANC support in the future. Party loyalty doesn’t drive support – people are now looking at issues and parties.”

“Regarding the DA’s support, there is a lot of evidence to suggest that very little changed from 2014 for them. It’s held its vote share but there was a vote shift. We know the DA has shed support to the FF+ on the one hand, but it has attracted support from the ANC. The DA is going through some sort of transformation, and the transformative agenda has shed some votes.”

University of Johannesburg’s professor Mcebisi Ndletyana:

“The ANC is lucky to get the result they received. They will never get this gift again. It’s been a terrible campaign. The electorate might give them another five years, but this might be the last time.”

“We knew the EFF will grow. They have a constituency that will grow, and they continue to grow. The EFF is appealing to a particular constituency – they are a populist party. They have a bitter constituency who feel marginalised and they have a gripe against the ANC – the disgruntled voters – there is however a limitation to their growth.”

“FF+ increased well. Their supporters were scared off by the EFF taking their land without compensation. They were looking for a defender, someone that will stand up to the EFF. The FF+ is a defender of white privilege. The DA wasn’t standing up for their rights.”

“The DA is the most wounded party […] and they did not firm on their support base. Are they conservative or do they want a black constituency?”

What now?

The IEC has until Tuesday 14 May to announce the final results, but it say it is on track to announce final results on Saturday 11 May. With smaller parties calling for a re-run and questioning the legitimacy of the election, the IEC will have to address these negative sentiments to ensure South Africans believe it conducted a free, fair and credible election.

Indigo Ellis, Africa Analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, set out the stakes to The Africa Report:

  • Looking forward, cabinet formulation will be the big question. We expect [President Cyril] Ramaphosa to ring true on his promise to reduce the cabinet’s size from its bloated 33 positions to something more modest.
  • A reduced majority means the President will likely need to offer [former president Jacob] Zuma loyalists key cabinet positions to protect his standing with the National Executive Committee and Top 6. This includes the possibility of Ramaphosa bringing in Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as deputy president, sidelining David Mabuza. Allegations of corruption against Dlamini-Zuma pale in the face of other claims levied at other senior ANC figures, but she is undoubtedly tarnished by association with those responsible for ‘state capture’.
  • Bringing in NDZ would deliver a further blow to Ramaphosa’s reputation amongst investors, calling into question his ability to secure $100bn in investment in five years and weed out the roots of corruption with the party.
  • Despite the imperative for a slimmed-down cabinet, the rumoured merging of the mining and energy ministries remains unlikely. Ramaphosa has made the case for unbundling mining and oil and gas regulation from the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act. A merger would further complicate regulation and spook mining investors. AngloGold Ashanti’s 9 May announcement to divest from South Africa should be sufficient to dissuade Ramaphosa from such drastic changes.
  • The risk of labour unrest looms over plans to restructure Eskom – a necessary though unpopular measure. The prospect of Ramaphosa returning to office with a slimmer mandate will only invigorate opponents of reform, particularly those fearing retrenchments. Labour militancy continues to be linked to the South African election cycle, but even plans to deregister the most militant of the unions, AMCU, will provide little breathing space for Ramaphosa’s if ANC losses are confirmed.
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