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ANC losing support in its KZN heartland

By Crystal Orderson, in Durban
Posted on Friday, 17 May 2019 15:23

Support for the African National Congress is fading in KwaZulu-Natal Province. REUTERS/Rogan Ward -

The African National Congress (ANC) in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) has put on a brave face following the 8 May election that brought a sharp drop of more than 10% of support for the governing party in the region.

Former president Jacob Zuma’s home province has the biggest ANC support base in the country, and the 2019 result showed a big decline for the party. It made mistakes that alienated both rural and urban residents of the province.

The Numbers

  • Overall, voter turnout dropped to from 72.4% in 2014 to 66% in May 2019.
  • The ANC received 57.5% of the national vote – a decline from the 62.1% it achieved in 2014.
  • In KZN, the ANC went from 65.31% in 2014 to 55.47% this time around.
  • The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) is the opposition that took the highest share of the KZN vote, 16.34%.
  • The Democratic Alliance, the country’s biggest opposition party, had to settle for third place. It received just over 13% of the vote in KZN.

The ANC said it accepted the KZN outcome, with the party’s secretary, Mdumiseni Ntuli, telling TimesLive that it would now be focussing on delivering to the electorate: “We have heard and internalised the concerns raised by our people during the elections campaign and the government will ensure that the interests of our people are pursued diligently.”

Political analyst Benedict Dube tells The Africa Report that there is a disconnect between the ANC leadership and its rural and urban constituencies in the province:

  • “They lost the election in a way – they can spin it whatever way they want.”
  • “This is not a very stable province. The new leadership that occupies the ANC are people not known or even active in the urban centres. There is a disconnect, hence you see the ANC losing its historical urban centres.”
  • “The ANC is no longer appealing to youth or urbanites – and there is no trust.”

Dube says the issues of land expropriation and the Ingonyama Trust played a role. The Ingonyama Trust was established in 1994 by the KZN government and “holds all the land that is owned or belonged to KZN government.” The trust holds land for “the benefit, material welfare and social well-being of the members of the tribes and communities” living on the land.

King Goodwill Zweletehini is the sole trustee of the land. Last year, former president Kgalema Motlanthe proposed that the trust and the land be given to municipalities. This possibility angered the monarchy and people in KZN. President Cyril Ramaphosa had to put out the fire, saying this will not happen.

Dube says KZN is a highly rural province. “The role and power of the amakhosi (traditional leaders) – they yield so much influence – when you rattle the nest and make it uneasy for them, you are going to lose a huge chunk of voters. Land expropriation goes to the heart of the royal family,” adds Dube.

The JZ factor

But the ANC had one more ace up its sleeve, the Zuma factor. The former president remains hugely popular there. Dube says that without Zuma, the ANC would “have lost the province”.

“The party needed JZ and, frankly, I believe they are on borrowed time. Yes, I am saying this might be the last time ANC will win this province. In 2024, it might be a provincial unity government – a coalition government – and they will be forced to run the province with the help of other parties.”

Dube says the ANC not is improving and in areas like Ethekweni which includes Durban, they failing to deliver.

“There’s been a fall in social services, and the ANC factions are only interest in their own material interest. People are becoming aware and the ANC is losing support.”

Corruption and choices

“People are so tired of seeing corruption, they see people eating too much and not seeing the changes,” Thandi, a mother of one daughter who lives in Durban North, tells The Africa Report. “People are just so tired of it all and our areas are not improving.”

And judging by comments like Thandi’s, many voters ditched the ANC for the IFP, which has long had a stronghold in KZN.

Addressing the media in Durban following long-standing IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi said he was “eager to see what the party can achieve in the legislature”.

“Our voice is strong because it’s backed by South Africans. I think I can be forgiven for borrowing that trite phrase: “Watch This Space”. Great things are coming,” Buthelezi said.

Meanwhile, president Cyril Ramaphosa appointed the youthful Sihle Zikala as the new premier of the province.

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