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The ANC is dying – and will lose its parliamentary majority at or before the 2024 national elections, says Frans Cronje, deputy CEO of the SA Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR).
In an article this week, he claimed that the ruling party had entered a period of terminal decline. Cronje said the party’s demise was now inevitable – and it was time for South Africans to start considering a future without it.
“We do not make this forecast recklessly but rather because the evidence points overwhelmingly in this direction,” said Cronje, who leads its unit for risk analysis.
He said ANC support among South Africans was falling rapidly.
“It is true that the ANC won 63 percent of the national vote in 1994 and increased that to 65.9 percent in 2009. However, this figure is misleading as it ignores the growing number of people who are choosing not to vote at all.
“While more than five out of 10 South Africans turned out to vote for the ANC in 1994 that figure had fallen to less than four out of 10 in the 2009 election. In a sense, the ANC, for all its pretension as the ‘will of the people’, is now a minority government.”
Cronje said the general decline in ANC support did not result from another opposition party drawing its supporters, but rather as a result of a growing number of people losing confidence in the ANC.
“Data from the police suggests that they are now responding to three service delivery protests every day.”
Cronje said the reasons for the decline in ANC support and rise in protest action had little to do with alleged failures in service delivery.
“The decline in ANC support has its origins in two other spheres. The first is the overall failure of the public school system. Only one out of every two black South Africans who enter Grade 1 will ever reach matric and only one out of 10 will pass maths.
“Hence black South Africans … have limited means to increase their own living standards outside of what the state, and by extension, the ANC, can give them. It is quite logical therefore that when they are frustrated by their living standards they protest against the same state and ANC.”
Related to the failure of education, Cronje said, was the failure of the labour market to generate sufficient jobs. Instead of addressing SA’s problems, the ANC had tried to place the blame for its failures elsewhere.
Corruption was also contributing to the party’s flagging support. The ANC had, under President Jacob Zuma, placed a number of candidates convicted of fraud and corruption on its election lists.
“What this shows is that the ANC is not serious about addressing the failed education, low growth, unemployment, and corruption that underpins its flagging support.
“If it is not addressing the reasons for its decline, it follows that the party must be in terminal decline,” Cronje said.
“All that remains to be done is to speculate which election will see the party’s national support levels dip below 50 percent, opening the door to a coalition of opposition parties to govern South Africa.
“On current trends, we think that 2014 is too early, 2019 is plausible but uncertain, and 2024 is probable. The truth for South Africa is that it is time to consider what the future may look like without the ANC. “Who will lead the country and what will their policies be? That these questions are not being asked shows how unprepared many businesses and other organisations are for the changes that may grip South Africa over the next decade.”
Political analyst Professor Susan Booysen, author of the book “The ANC and the Regeneration of Political Power”, described Cronje’s analysis as “linear and one-dimensional”.
“It is way out of touch with reality. It disregards the fact that many of the people who have abstained from voting in recent elections, have also shown a vote of no-confidence in the DA. There is zero guarantee that their votes will convert to opposition support,” Booysen said.
Booysen said even the communities that took part in protests had, so far, returned the ANC into power in their communities.
“I call it the dual repertoire of the ballot and the brick. They first do a protest and then they return the ANC into power again. We see many examples of this dual repertoire across the country.
“This could change in the future but so far we don’t see that changing definitively.”
Booysen said Cronje’s “simplistic” analysis also worked on the assumption that the ANC “is not going to catch a massive fright”.
“The ANC is still quite arrogant, still believing that people will indefinitely continue to forgive them for poor governance and poor personal records in governance.
“But we are moving to a point where the ANC is realising it must work on its credibility in demonstrating democratic, clean and accountable governance.
“The article does not take into account that another electoral fright or two will result in a completely different dynamic. I believe the ANC is moving towards a point where the party will cut into its own flesh and take actions to turn itself around.”
Political analyst Dr Somadoda Fikeni said Cronje’s assertion that the ANC would no longer have a parliamentary majority was based on an assumption that there was a linear path of growth of the opposition.
“But, as the opposition parties themselves expand, we will see similar internal tensions to those in the ANC as they deal with the internal dynamics of expansion,” Fikeni said.
“Additionally, it would be a serious mistake to underestimate the ANC’s ability to deal with internal contradictions and to reproduce its power.
“Even at moments when the party has been in a serious crisis and where it has been thought to be at breaking point, the ANC has found a way of bringing together a complex alliance and of renewing itself.”