Over the past few weeks, South Africans across South Africa and the world have been following every news event related to the elections. In many ways, these elections can be described as the point of rebirth for South Africa. They come at a time when our collective moral has been low. The Jacob Zuma years marked by corruption, maladministration, state capture and mediocre economic growth and development, has made these upcoming elections a matter between life and death. We as a people have a choice to make between different paths and now more than ever before all of us who are eligible to vote must do so and cast a path of hope and economic liberation in our lifetime!
In this special report, it is important to cast of eyes to how each of the main political parties is likely to fair and moreover, this report will seek to highlight the three different scenarios that could occur and how this is likely to impact South Africa’s trajectory in the next 5 years.
Bet on the green, blue and red horses
Since 1994, South African politics has always been shaped by at least three parties. In 1994, the last-minute agreement between the ANC, the National Party (NP) and the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) saw the last threat towards a democratic dawn crushed and the three parties went on to form a government of national unity after winning enough seats to make up the ANC-led government under President Nelson Mandela. While the NP left the government in 1996, the IFP continued its marriage of unity until 2004. As South Africa’s political environment changes, so too did the makeup of the top three parties change. The NP, which later became the New National Party (NNP) joined the ANC and while IFP remained the third largest party until the 2009 elections when it was replaced by the Congress of the People (COPE). The successor to the NNP was the Democratic Alliance (DA) which had as its base liberal white voting base who supported its neo-liberal policies but did not support the political structure of apartheid.
COPE, on the other hand, was formed after the 2007 ANC elective conference that saw Thabo Mbeki lose to Zuma in his quest for a third as ANC president. The former ANC chairman, Mosiuoa Lekota and former Gauteng Premier, Mbhazima Shilowa, formed COPE in protest of what they saw as the ANC losing its way. The party was formed not based on providing a contending ideological or policy position but was formed because of the ANC’s deep-seated factional divisions. I stated that in many debates with friends and COPE, supporters, that while it was likely to make some electoral dent in the 2009 elections, 2014 would see COPE non-existent in relation to its 2009 election result. My view was that a party born out of being “sore losers” could not in the absence of solid policy proposals, last the test of time and so it was, as COPE moved from getting 7.4 percent in 2009 to only getting 0.67 percent in 2014.
However, rather than ANC gain from the COPE’s loss, it was replaced at number three by the Economic Freedom Fighters, led by Julius Malema. The EFF was formed after the Malema and many he led with at the ANC Youth League were expelled from the ANC. It is at this point that Malema chose to stick it to the ANC by starting a new party waged on presenting a more radical left-leaning ideology that would challenge the ANC’s centre-right ideological stance. EFF did well in 2014 managing to get about 6% of the vote and is pinned this time around to do better, with some polls putting the EFF at 12% and a possible official opposition in several provinces.
EFF like its number three predecessors knows full well that the number three party has always gone on to lose seats. However, the EFF (the red horse) has managed to that which the IFP and COPE could not, they balanced the dependence on Juju and exposed new talent in the party, that underscored that EFF was more than one man, it could be a movement.
Speaking of a movement, EFF unlike COPE has a strong ideological message that resonates with many frustrated young people. Given that this frustration is not only found in the cities but also the rural areas-means that EFF’s message has a national interest that cuts across the rural areas and township streets. However, beyond this, its message of economic freedom for millions of black resonates even with a black middle class, that has become frustrated with the rising living costs and the business sector that remains largely the joy of a white minority.
The party’s antics in parliament has left South Africans entertained and their legal victories against the government have shown that the party knows how to use the legal framework to fight political battles and keep the ANC on its toes.
While the EFF’s rise may not have hurt the ANC in 2014, EFF has managed to still the ANC’s ability to steer the national narrative. Moreover, the EFF has managed to capture the ANC’s left-leaning political soundbites about land expropriation, free education and nationalisation. Malema’s loud and charismatic mouth, with EFF’s love for detail, has seen the ANC respond to and EFF political agenda rather than an agenda whose roots lie with ruling ANC. All you have to is look at how ANC supported the EFF’s motion on land expropriation without compensation, the EFF’s threat to ANC left-wing tv soundbites forced it to call for the nationalisation of the reserve bank, with no other reason but to give the perception that the ANC supports the need for radical economic transformation.
Lastly, the EFF was so effective as the ANC broke precedence and decided that if push comes to shove, the ANC would support an EFF vote of no confidence motion against President Jacob Zuma. Furthermore, the EFF has managed to be kingmakers in 2016, following the local government elections. The rise of the EFF, DA ability get out its base and the ANC supporters staying away led to the ANC losing Nelson Mandela Bay, Johannesburg, Mogale City and Pretoria. Given that none of these cities were won by an outright majority, it lay to small parties, especially the EFF to decide the fate of these metros.
The EFF made a smart move. They decided to vote in favour of the DA without going into direct coalition with them. This was smart, as it allowed it to maintain an independent status from the DA but gave it, the EFF, leverage against the DA if it concludes that the DA is not governing or behaving in the manner they see fit. In many ways, EFF has taught us the power of doing so much with so little. The party lacks any governmental experience but through the noise in parliament, legal victories and the control of the storyline, the red horse is a dangerous player.
However, the EFF has been without scandal, as the Bosasa scandal may have its connection with the Shivambu. In addition, Malema and co have at times been found wanting on their conduct against those who oppose them or those they feel threaten the “revolution”. Their radical stance may scare away moderate voters who disagree with the way ANC has governed in the past 10 years but who are not ready to buy into EFF’s radical vision. Moreover, the EFF will need to build a sperate identity from the Malema or find itself fall the same fate as UDM and IFP.
The red horse may meet the blue wall, The DA is the only party, besides the EFF, to have grown with each election. The 2014 elections saw the DA score 22% of the vote, while also extending its control over the Western Cape and pushing the ANC support in Gauteng below 54%. The DA also managed to replace IFP as the official opposition in KwaZulu Natal. The party’s electoral climax came in 2016 after it took over the cities, with the support of smaller parties.
Like every marriage, the honeymoon stage ends and so It did in all but two of metros led by the DA under coalition conditions. Parties like the EFF and the UDM, challenged the DA’s posture as the leader in the coalition when they accused of planning without consulting junior coalition politics. Moreover, the DA’s run in the metros has been frustrated by the conflict of its ideological stance vs. the EFF’s socialist ideology, has led to constant threats of removing the DA as the head of the three metros.
As a result, given the complexities of coalition politics, it is not hard seeing why the DA may have not succeeded to stamp their brand of politics in the metros it now runs. Nonetheless, why did it fail to deal with the water crises in Cape Town and how does it account for the factional battles in the party and the corruptions scandals that have rocked it in the past 3 years?
The party’s mismanagement of the water crisis and the failure to accountable for its part in the water shortage, highlights that like any other party in power, the ruling party will duck and dive and so how different really is the DA from the ANC and what guarantee do we have that the party will behave any different should it win the national vote?
What the party has been smart in doing is diversify their base and ensure that they bring a plurality of voters. However, with this expansion, comes the pain of developing an ideology that will meet the interests of a diverse and complex base. On the one hand, the DA must be seen to promote neo-liberal ideas that promote free enterprise and property rights. However, this may clash with the need to meet the demands of its black supports, who call for transformation driven policies. How will the DA balance these two contending paths? How much is Maimane willing to promote a more social leaning capitalist policy front in order to gain new supports at the cost of irritating the traditional power brokers in the DA?
In many ways, this question is really a question about how far can and will the DA go in ridding itself of the tag- “White Party”. Their position on land reform and their failure to deal decisively with Helen Zille and the hypocrisy of how they dealt with Patricia de Lille, has cast a shadow of doubt in the DA’s ability to capture the feelings of black people as with regards to race, transformation and economic empowerment. The DA has an identity crisis that runs deep and may see it fail to grow for the first time since the 1994 elections.
However, while the DA may fail to grow, it does not mean that they will not be relevant in the upcoming administration and they will continue to offer a contending option to the ANC and the EFF. They may well become more important in urban areas as the country’s path of the urbanisation is likely to continue.
By implication of the last statement, the green horse, the ANC, is likely to become a rural party, as evidenced by the loss of support in key metros. The party is likely to move in the same trajectory Zanu-PF went and this means that the party is likely to see a decrease in its urban support. However, while the party may look to towards its rural base for support, the townships remain largely the ANC’s playground and while the townships had a low turnout, the ANC’s ability to energise its base may see the townships like Soweto come out in support of the ANC. It is to the townships that ANC’s electoral hopes for 2019 and 2024 will lie.
What then is the significance of a Ramaphosa presidency? There can be no doubt that removal of Zuma was popular but even more popular in a township like Soweto was the election of its own resident, Ramaphosa. Ramaphosa maybe what the ANC needs to build a new chapter and repair the breach. However, ANC failure to promote solid new policy proposals as answers to challenges we face and factionalism in the party may threaten his ability to lead effectively.
Moreover, the scandals surrounding the Zuma years cast a shadow of doubt on the ANC’s so-called new dawn. How can a party where half of its leadership core is under some form of investigation truly be trusted to lead the country into a new path and more so, how can a party that has failed to produce a new leadership cadre system, really assume its role as the party of the future?
One thing is certain, the end of Zuma’s presidency stopped the electoral bleeding the ANC was headed for. The question now is with the threat from the EFF, Ramaphosa’s leadership of split ANC and prolonged economic woes, can the ANC maintain a 60% + majority or the national picture highlight an ANC in electoral regress?
SA election Scenarios
ANC’s Dawn shines bright:
The most likely scenario according to Joburg Post is that Ramaphosa 60% popularity will help lead the ANC to a 60%+ victory in the 08 May elections. The DA is likely to see their support drop from 22% to 20% and the EFF will likely grow from 6% to 9% in the upcoming elections, with only the IFP among the smaller parties that could register some growth in votes.
As a result, the ANC will once again receive a strong mandate to rule and pass much-needed reform. Ramaphosa will especially be helped by a strong popular mandate, which will allow to further build his control over the ANC and policy formulation and including moves to reduce the size of the cabinet. The period will be marked by greater policy certainty and with the right policies, confidence in the South African economy and the government will improve. This will lead to gradual improvement investment inflows into the country as the markets’ man, Ramaphosa is trusted to promote business-friendly policies, while also being able to bring unions into the fold.
The reduction of the trust deficit will improve the demand in rand-denominated assets and the ability of the government to manage its borrowing. As a result, South Africa’s chance to regain its positive grade credit ratings will improve. We believe that South Africa’s economic growth will improve from the current 0,7% to grow at an average of 2.5% a year, with 3% economic growth projection set for 2029.
The standards of living will improve as government corruption and maladministration are dealt with by the Ramaphosa administration and those who were instrumental in state capture are arrested, charged and prosecuted and the government recovers some of the lost money used in state capture.
Same old, same old:
Our middle ground scenario is that ANC wins between 55% and 59% of the vote. While this may be enough to govern South Africa for the next 5 years, the loss of by then 2% of voters to other parties, will plunge the ANC to a deeper factional war as a Ramaphosa receives a weak mandate to rule. As a result, his path to cleaning up the ANC and government is frustrated by Zuma loyalists who accuse Ramaphosa of having failed to maintain the ANC’s 60%+ majority in national elections.
Ramaphosa will be forced to make certain compromises in the bid to maintain party unity and his presidency. The consequence of that would be the need to adopt more radical policy positions that move the ANC away from the centre in terms of ideology and more so, Ramaphosa would need to keep some of the rotten fruits in his party and this will cast doubt at his ability to pass much-needed reforms in the economy.
Consequently, while they may be some improvement in policy certainty as a result of an improved political environment, the failure of Ramaphosa to remove key Zuma allies from power, will lead to investors, especially local investors hesitant to invest in the South Africa economy and as a result, economic growth will remain sluggish between 0.5% and 1.5%.
This week growth will mean unemployment will remain high and the real GDP per capita will continue to fall. This prolonged economic climate will threaten the project of nation building and may fuel the rise of populist and radical parties that will use race and class In order to attack the fabric of our political system and this may come back to bite the ANC in later elections where coalition politics may come to define the order of the day.
The last scenario is that the ANC will lose the 08 May election. However, neither the DA or the EFF will win a majority and this will mean that South Africa has a hung parliament. The next few weeks after the elections will see the three main parties negotiate with the smaller parties in order to form a new coalition government. Parties like the UDM, IFP and the EFF will likely benefit in bring to the fore their policy demands in exchange for their support for either the ANC or the DA.
The challenge is that a hung result may increase policy uncertainty and political uncertainty in the country and among investors. Assume the DA and EFF come to some agreement, how will these two parties in opposite scales of ideology agree to such a marriage and will they be able to work together and present a united national agenda and policy framework. The conflicts in the metros must worry us and make us question whether coalition politics is really the way to go when it could lead to the paralyses of the state, should the coalition movement not agree on key legislation that needs to be passed in Parliament.
As a result, instability is likely to see investor sell rand-denominated assets and this will see the rand depreciate and the rise in inflation. The failure of strong macroeconomic management may see our credit rating reduce to junk by Moodys and the country could expect to fall into a recession. Another cycle of negative economic growth would fuel a political and social crisis, with protests the rise of poverty and cost of living is likely to worsen the security environment in South Africa and may see us approach the IMF and the world bank for assistance.
No matter which party you support there is no doubt that these elections will be critical to determine the road we take. Whether the ANC wins or loses, South Africa must come first and all of us must play our role. It is a role that starts yet is not limited to with the next week’s election. As Joburg Post we stand by these forecasts and ask you, the voter, to decide!