South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) party faces its toughest yet General Election come 2019.
Next year’s election will be the sixth since the end of the apartheid system in 1994 as the Rainbow nation will be giving new mandate to the National Assembly and new legislatures in each province.
The ANC faces a stern test from the two main opposition parties – the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).
However, a recent study by Ipsos; Pulse of the People, shows the ANC holding 60 percent support among a randomly selected sample of over 3,000 South Africans.
But the ruling party will be wary going into the contest after experiencing the unimaginable in 2016 when it lost control of three metropolitan municipalities – namely Nelson Mandela Bay, Tshwane and Johannesburg – to opposition parties in the local government elections.
Out of touch
Core ANC voters stayed away, were repelled by the party – or simply gave up on it. Former President Jacob Zuma, who was riddled with scandals, was not the only factor. Attacks on generalised ANC corruption were widespread, party and branch disorganisation (accompanied by disputed candidate lists) were commonplace. The ANC seemed completely out of touch with voters. The electorate were demanding change, the message the main opposition party, DA ran with.
ANC, after apparently spending $70 million (R1bn) on its campaign, came up with “advancing peoples’ power” as its slogan. That was unlikely to galvanise the professional black middle class.
The results came up with ANC being the largest party overall, earning 53.9 percent of the total vote, while DA amassed 26.9 percent and the EFF 8.2 percent.
The outcome spelt doom for ANC as its support base fell to its lowest level since 1994, a shift most pronounced in the urban centres. Despite marginal gains in some areas, ANC lost the three key metros.
The change of leadership after the ANC National Conference held at Nasrec in December 2017, however, brought renewed hope with the new President Cyril Ramaphosa preaching unity.
President Ramaphosa led by example as he hugged his opponent, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who conceded defeat after the incumbent edged her by 139 votes, despite being openly backed by her ex-husband Jacob Zuma.
President Ramaphosa hit the road running and has so far managed uniting the warring ANC factions, a major boost as they look to have the majority vote across the country. That, President Ramaphosa was achieving despite reports of underground plotting against him by Mr Zuma and the current ANC Secretary-General, Mr Ace Magashule.
Mr Magashule maintains that he would never treat former President Zuma as an outcast, despite damning allegations that he met the former ANC leader in Durban last month to plot the removal of President Ramaphosa as the party’s president.
Despite all that, the South African leader emerged calm and urging for unity, while calling for intensified fight against poverty. His stance not only earned him points from the voters, but his party as well. He was proving to be a uniting figure who put the country and people ahead of his personal interests.
“We should not spend time on counter-revolutionary machinations of weakening this ANC. Either in dark corners or wherever. If there is going to be any plot, it is going to be a plot to defeat poverty. That must be the type of plot that we want. We need to unite our people,” said President Ramaphosa.
Ipsos Director of Public Affairs Mari Harris believes the ANC was recovering to a certain extent. She believes Mr Zuma’s resignation pushed ANC in the right direction.
“The Ramaphosa factor is big in there because suddenly there is a leader that people trust and can look up to. There is a lot of trust expressed in the new president and people are willing to give him a chance,” she said.
On his rise to power, President Ramaphosa spoke firmly against corruption, a malice seen by many as a culture of many leaders within ANC. The persistent calls by President Ramaphosa to get to the bottom of the state capture saga seems to be working in his favour. Masses at the grassroots now identify with him and believe he is the right person to steer the country out of the corruption scourge and take it forward.
President Ramaphosa maintains that as the truth begins to emerge from the State Capture commission, government is getting ready to clean up and deal with those who enabled the corruption.
He has vowed that government will correct the wrongs of the past.
“We need to work to correct what has gone wrong in the past, people who’ve been involved in maleficent acts and wrongdoing need to be accountable.”
Already, his call against corruption has claimed a causality – the first one to bite the dust because of the commission was former Finance minister Nhlanhla Nene – who resigned after admitting to lying about his encounters with the controversial Gupta family.
President Ramaphosa has also promised that South Africa will have a National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) who is “slippery” to potential capturers of the state, another welcome move.
“We are not moving forward to appoint the next NDPP, a panel has been put in place. It's going to interview a plethora of people who are possible candidates and in the end they will select a few names which the president will then appoint.
“The appointee will be a person who, one, will not be captured. We want them to be as slippery [in] the hands of capturers as possible.
“One of the challenges we face is corruption. Corruption has become so endemic in our country that it caused us to almost begin to become a failing state,” President Ramaphosa said recently.
Political analyst Mcebisi Ndletyana is convinced President Ramaphosa has made good decisions and that should count, come 2019.
“The parastatals are changing. He has good ministers in key positions who are changing around certain things. But the party remains the problem because the party is a mix of a whole different bunch of people. Some of which are completely dishonourable,” Mr Ndletyana said.
Speaking recently during the Winnie Madikizela-Mandela's legacy to over 500 ANC supporters, President Ramaphosa said, “unity in the ANC is a non-negotiable heading to 2019, whether you like it or not”.
He has urged members to prepare for next year's national election and made a promise the party will dazzle.
Various analysts believe that President Ramaphosa’s persistent calls for unity was working for ANC, as most political parties seem to be divided and fighting factional battles.