Durban – Former Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Tony Leon said on Tuesday that next week’s general election was not yet a done deal, and that politicians had “everything to play for”.
Leon was speaking to African News Agency (ANA) about the latest election polls while on a two-day campaign trail in KwaZulu-Natal to garner votes for the official opposition.
On Tuesday, the influential South African Institute of Race Relations (IRR) released the findings of an opinion poll indicating that the African National Congress would win 51% of the national vote, with the DA and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) taking 24% and 14% respectively. This was on a turnout of 71.9%.
But in its most recent poll, Ipsos put the ANC win at 61%, the DA at 19% and the EFF at 11%. The voter turnout was a 71% projection.
The DA’s own internal polling has placed the party’s national vote at between 24 and 26 percent and the ANC between 56 percent and 59 percent.
Leon, who said he last took part in a national campaign over 10 years ago, said the disparity in polling results was a sign of the times.
“We have seen that a lot in the world, South Africa is perhaps just late in the game. We saw it with Brexit and with [US president Donald] Trump and [2016 US Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary] Clinton," said Leon.
“Seeing it here suggests that the settled convictions of people are much more unsettled, and that South Africa has joined the world of democracies not escaping from it.”
The former South African ambassador to Argentina, who hails from Durban, said there was “a lot of volatility" in the electorate.
“And I think this is why I have been wheeled out, along with [former South African President Thabo] Mbeki for the ANC, because there is everything to play for," he said.
“The deal is not yet settled. When I was the leader of the DA, you more or less knew the results of the polls on the day and it didn’t change very much. I think there is a lot more dynamism now, which is good for democracy, and for multi-party results, and it probably gives the parties sleepless nights because they can’t bank on anything.”
Commenting on the IRR poll results, Leon said it was important to remember that it was a “snapshot”.
“It’s not a moving picture, so it doesn’t pick up what happens tomorrow or the day after, but it does suggest there is more volatility and uncertainty in the outcome here than there has ever been before.”
Leon said the biggest factor influencing the election would be the internal divisions within the ANC. This was centred on those who still supported former president Jacob Zuma and incumbent President Cyril Ramaphosa. The revelations from the on going Commission of Inquiry into State Capture would also play a role.
He admitted that the DA faced the risk of losing voters to smaller parties, but said that much depended on voter turnout. It the DA’s base was motivated to vote and the ANC’s base abstained, it would further play into the hands of the opposition, he said.