What Zuma’s power play could mean for the ANC in 2019

While president Jacob Zuma’s muscle flexing over the past several weeks has seen him take control of the ANC, and vital institutions that will grant him the power to deepen his network of patronage – it may cost the party its majority in the 2019 elections.

This is according to research analyst at Nomura, Peter Attard Montalto, who has, to date, accurately assessed the state of South African politics, and the path Zuma has led the ANC down since is inauguration in 2009.

Over the past two weeks, Zuma has directly caused South Africa to be downgraded to junk status by two global ratings agencies after he fired former finance minister Pravin Gordhan and his deputy Mcebisi Jonas, in what is seen as a grab for control of National Treasury.

The move sparked outrage among businesses, civil groups, opposition parties and even officials within the ANC, who criticised the president’s actions, despite knowing the consequences.

According to Attard Montalto, Gordhan’s exit was always on the cards, and was one of the most likely scenarios laid out by Nomura.

Speaking to BizNews, the analyst said that from here, the way has been paved for Zuma’s preferred candidate – his ex-wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma – to take over the reins of the ANC, and continue his legacy of patronage.

Zuma is facing a motion of no confidence  – due to be debated in the National Assembly on Tuesday, April 18 – but is unlikely to step down only in mid-2018, to allow for Dlamini-Zuma to take over leadership of the country.

This scenario, Attard Montalto argued, may see the ANC’s support drop to under 50% in the 2019 elections.

ANC will have a tough 2019

According to Attard Montalto, recent events definitely increase the chances that the ANC will drop below 50% in the 2019 elections – but it’s not as clean-cut as that.

“What I regret really is this notion that it is obvious that the ANC loses power in 2019. I think there are several key factors,” he said.

Most notable is the fact that the marginal vote in the country comes from those ANC supporters who do not vote – meaning it is not likely an increase in votes for alternative parties (DA/EFF), who are ultimately capped.

The Nomura analyst views the DA and EFF support bases capped at 30% and 10% or 11%, respectively.

“The DA is capped, I think, by the fact that they still have issues on policy, they still shoot themselves in the foot with tweets from Helen Zille and stuff like that. Maybe they capped at 30-odd percent,” he said.

“So if you look at it from both sides I think it is quite… it is not obvious that the ANC falls below 50%. If you map forward the collection results you come up with something like 53-odd percent, or maybe take a percent or so off from that from these current events – and yes, you probably get the ANC in 2019 getting just below 50%. Again it is not obvious,” he said.

The ANC has seen a significant drop in voter support since taking power in 1994. In the most recent municipal elections, the party saw its worst-ever performance, managing to get 53.9% of the national vote.

In the most recent national elections (2014), the ANC secured 62.2% of the vote. The DA got 22.2%, and the EFF had 6.4%.

If the ANC dips below 50% of the vote in 2019, the party will be forced into a coalition government, which holds its own set of problems that will need to be overcome.

You can read the full interview with Attard Montalto on BizNews.

Read: South Africa 2016 election results: the predictions vs the outcome

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What Zuma’s power play could mean for the ANC in 2019