South Africa: Shock poll shows ANC heading towards 2024 coalition

By Ray Mwareya

Posted on Friday, 26 August 2022 15:03
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa in Pretoria, South Africa, July 22, 2022. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

A shock poll predicting the ANC to fall to 42% of votes, and a wave of resignations from the main opposition Democratic Alliance suggests South Africa will see its first national coalition arrangement in 2024. We ask top South Africa poll forecaster David Scholtz and former Democratic Alliance leader Makashule Gana what will happen next.

Both the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party of President Cyril Ramaphosa and its fiercest rival, the Democratic Alliance (DA), have lost public trust, a high-profile insider who quit mainstream politics tells The Africa Report as a poll predicts that the ANC could face a catastrophic defeat at the do or die 2024 national elections.

Makashule Gana, 39, former DA member of parliament and ex-deputy federal leader, dramatically quit the party last week. His departure follows that of high-profile young black leaders – from ex-president Mmusi Maimane, ex-parliament leader Lindiwe Mazibuko, to party presidential finalist Mbali Ntuli – who have quit the DA in the last two years.

In a scathing public letter, he said the DA is moving toward “never regaining public trust”. “We need a new way of doing politics in South Africa. The DA has lost ambition. The ANC has completely lost the moral authority to lead society. The current trajectory leads South Africa to a state of lawlessness,” Gana tells The Africa Report in an interview from Johannesburg.

Grim poll

On Monday, a new poll by IPSOS revealed that the ANC could win just 40% of the votes in 2024. If this simulation comes to pass, the ANC risks being ousted from national power completely or being forced into messy and uncomfortable coalition governance arrangements at the national level. The ANC’s demise, critics say, is of its own making.

“There was so much hope, belief that because the ANC has faced so many years [of hardship] – some of their leaders were in exile, others were in prison – that after democracy [in] 1994, they would look after the interests of all South Africans,” Gana says.

“Unfortunately, they got greedy [and started] stealing from South Africa,” he said alluding to criminality that led authorities to set up an inquiry into ‘State Capture’ over fears that ZAR 57bn ($3.3bn) might have been directly stolen as ANC-connected politicians doled out dubious state contracts to corrupt businesspeople from 2009.

The DA is toxic

One might think that soaring dismay over the ANC’s disastrous handling of South Africa’s public money would mean that the pro-market DA opposition, which governs the Western Cape province, is poised to take over the national office in 2024. Not so.

“After the 2019 elections, the DA lost its appetite, lost its ambition to grow, and tended to […] retain[its] support base [white middle-class, Western Cape]. [The] DA was abandoning the aggressiveness that existed between 2007 and 2019. It began to bleed support,” says Gana of the party he once led.

“That’s one of the main reasons why I quit the DA,” he says. “I completely agree with the view that the DA has decided to focus only on its base of supporters [15%-20%] and that its brand is toxic outside of its base [the Western Cape province],” says Dawie Scholtz, the principal at the Johannesburg office of the Boston Consulting Group who is famous for his largely accurate election modelling in South Africa.

The future for South Africa remains less than positive

There is no credible quantitative evidence to suggest that the DA will be able to oust the ANC on its own in 2024. In fact, warns Scholtz, it is much more likely that the DA loses support in 2024 and other smaller parties – like the upstart, libertarian ActionSA (formed by a DA quitter), and the Black supremacist EFF of Julius Malema – make sweeping gains.

Scholtz sharply criticises the IPSOS poll for overestimating the ANC’s support and underestimating the DA’s. “The IPSOS poll is done poorly, and the numbers are not credible, but that doesn’t mean the DA isn’t in trouble,” he tells The Africa Report in an interview.

2024 likely outcomes and scenarios

While the outcome of 2024 remains uncertain Scholtz gives The Africa Report simulations of how South Africa’s most defining poll might go down.

The most likely outcome is that the ANC’s vote reaches the high 40s or perhaps even the low 50s. “I think there are then numerous scenarios, from most likely to least likely in my view – the ANC gets close to 50, but just below, and works with smaller opposition parties to form a government,” he says.

Alternative scenarios:

  • the ANC gets close to 50, but just below, and doesn’t work with anyone and forms a minority government;
  • the ANC gets into the mid-40s and works with the EFF of Julius Malema to form a government;
  • the ANC gets into the mid-40s and works with the DA to form a government;
  • ANC gets in the low 40s and the opposition, with the backing of the EFF, forms an alternative government.

Professor Stephen Chan, an expert on Africa’s governance and diplomacy at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London, argues that a disunited opposition means essentially a lame duck ANC, could still form a government, but with sufficient compromises with coalition or voting partners to make policy direction and public administration even more indecisive. “The future for South Africa remains less than positive,” he tells The Africa Report.

Outright coup unlikely

There are uneasy feelings in some quarters that a defeated ANC in 2024 could hold South Africa at ransom, fiddle with election results, or threaten violence. Thabo Mbeki, the former South African president, recently warned that South Africa is ripe for a coup as extreme poverty and lawlessness deepen.

“If [we consider] some of the unrest in communities, [which] we have seen when [there is infighting within the] ANC […], it tends to get violent. There might […] be elements that exist within the ANC, also in society, that will want to create mayhem. We never know. We must be prepared, vigilant, and reject them,” says Gana.

Understand Africa's tomorrow... today

We believe that Africa is poorly represented, and badly under-estimated. Beyond the vast opportunity manifest in African markets, we highlight people who make a difference; leaders turning the tide, youth driving change, and an indefatigable business community. That is what we believe will change the continent, and that is what we report on. With hard-hitting investigations, innovative analysis and deep dives into countries and sectors, The Africa Report delivers the insight you need.

View subscription options