ANC takes massive hit in latest election poll

 ·10 Apr 2024

Support for South Africa’s ruling African National Congress is plunging, and a party backed by former President Jacob Zuma may become the country’s third-biggest after next month’s election, a new opinion poll shows.

The ANC, which has ruled South Africa since the end of apartheid, may garner just 37% of the vote on 29 May, while Zuma’s uMkhonto weSizwe Party, or MKP, may get 13%, the Social Research Foundation said in comments sent to Bloomberg on Wednesday, citing a poll it carried out this month.

In the 2019 election, the ANC won 57.5% of the vote, its lowest share since taking power in 1994.

Such a result may mean the ANC has to form a coalition with a large rival to retain control of Africa’s most industrialized economy and have to make concessions on policies and appointments.

The ruling party may also force President Cyril Ramaphosa from office before the end of his term — a prospect that has caused angst among investors.

The rand fell as much as 0.9% against the dollar on news of the poll findings and traded 0.4% lower at 18.5391 by 11:57 a.m. in Johannesburg.

The SRF stressed that the poll doesn’t constitute a forecast of the election outcome and that support for the MKP — which launched in December — still needs to settle.

“A lot can still change before May 29,” said Frans Cronje, the head of the SRF. The ANC may get a “late-stage surge” that may add two to three percentage points to its tally, he said.

Zuma Support

Zuma ruled the country from 2009 to 2018 when the ANC forced him from office after a series of corruption scandals started to erode electoral support.

While his decision to back the MKP has hurt the ANC, particularly in his home province of KwaZulu-Natal, the ruling party has been drawing big crowds to its election rallies and has a campaigning machinery that dwarfs that of all of its rivals.

Steven Friedman, a politics professor at the University of Johannesburg, questioned the methodology used in polls that indicate support for the ANC has fallen below 40%, saying they don’t take into account those people who refused to express an opinion or didn’t intend to vote.

“I track municipal by-elections, which is real people casting real votes,” and they show ANC support in the mid-to-high 40% range, he said.

“There are so many things that can distort poll outcomes.”

The SRF poll of 1,835 registered voters across the country also found that the main opposition Democratic Alliance would win 25% of the vote, the Economic Freedom Fighters 11% and the Inkatha Freedom Party 5%.

The Freedom Front Plus and Action South Africa would both get 2%, it showed.

As recently as mid-January, before it carried out its surveys, the SRF had predicted that the MKP would get just 1% to 2% of the national vote.

The results of the survey are another indicator of the ANC’s decline amid corruption scandals, severe power outages, rampant crime and the collapse of basic services such as water provision.

The poll was based on an estimated turnout of 66% and has a 2.2% margin of error.

The SRF, a public-policy organization, was founded in 2021. Cronje, a former chief executive officer of the Institute of Race Relations, has consulted for South Africa’s biggest political parties, companies and richest people.

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