How big South Africa’s black middle class is – and why the ANC are concerned

 ·7 Jun 2017
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African National Congress (ANC) Secretary General Gwede Mantashe has again lamented the loss of support from black middle class South Africans as a major concern for the ruling party.

Speaking at a Bloomberg-hosted event on Wednesday, Mantashe said the party needed to engage the urban middle class more to “make them understand us”.

“We are victims of our own success and we must manage that more carefully,” he said, citing an example of middle class e-toll protest in Gauteng.

Mantashe said that e-tolls had cost the party in the municipal elections.

“You must remember when you talk of the middle class, the lower end of the middle class are young professionals who’ve just bought a house, bought a small car and when you add any additional costs it talks to the pocket and they react to that,” he told EWN in 2016.

In a discussion document ahead of its policy conference scheduled for the end of June, the ANC questioned how it can remain relevant to an educated middle class in the country.

“How does the ANC communicate with middle class, academically realised groups and how does it show such groups respect?”

“Modern organisational design principles dictate that old organisations falter and die because they cannot adapt,” the party said.

“There is an emerging threat to the ANC’s influence and appeal to young intellectuals and the black middle class.”

Data published in 2016 pointed to a surge in South Africa’s black middle class which has more than trebled over the past 12 years.

City Press reported that the black middle class is up to 5.81 million, citing University of Cape Town marketing professor, John Simpson.

In a column for the Guardian, political commentator Justice Malala said that urban dwelling black intellectuals, dubbed “the clever blacks” by Jacob Zuma, had exacted their revenge on the president following the results of the 2016 elections.

Malala said that voters were angry over a lack of jobs, poor service delivery and scandals that have plagued Zuma.

The term ‘clever blacks’ was coined back in 2012, when Zuma insulted urban blacks “who become too clever”, saying: “They become the most eloquent in criticising themselves about their own traditions and everything.”

Bloomberg meanwhile reported that the municipal elections had left the ANC with an absolute majority in just three of the eight main metropolitan areas, down from seven in 2011.

It won 54.5% of the popular vote, and lost its majority in Tshwane, the industrial hubs of Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni, and Nelson Mandela Bay in the Eastern Cape capital.

In 2014, the ANC picked up 62.15% of the total vote representing 11,436,921 people.
The DA garnered 4,091,584 votes, while the EFF picked up 1,169,259 votes, or 6.35%.

Read: ‘Clever blacks’ exact their revenge on Zuma – analyst

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