By Nicholas Woode-Smith
The Brenthurst Foundation’s recent poll in anticipation for the 2024 General Election places the ANC at 47.6%. While still the most popular party in the country, the symbolic blow of going below 50% is devastating to a party so used to total dominance over the country.
Yet, things may not be so hopeful. The further the ANC loses its majority, the more desperate it will become to enter into coalitions. And its possible coalition partners may prove to be worse than an ANC-majority government.
The Brenthurst Foundation’s polling results are not carved in stone, but they do suggest the current feelings on the ground among voters and could act as a great resource to spur opposition parties into action.
As it stands, the ANC could secure its power with the EFF’s projected 10.7%. This would not be good for South Africans. The EFF could use its new position to cause chaos, disrupt good governance, and advance terrible policies.
But that is if the ANC even needs to form a coalition in the first place. At 47.6% of the projected vote, the ANC is still the largest party, with the DA coming second at 24%. For an opposition coalition to win, it would need to unite the DA, EFF, IFP, ASA, FF+ and a myriad of stragglers to secure more of the vote.
The track record for such a coalition has not been good. The EFF is a bringer of chaos and not someone who should be dealt with under most circumstances. But even without them, other opposition parties have proven to be bad actors in existing local government coalitions.
ActionSA, for instance, seems to exist just to sabotage and oppose the DA. Rather than focus resources on unseating the ANC and becoming a viable opposition party to the government, they seem more obsessed with fighting a vendetta against their leader’s ex-party.
As it stands, a coalition of reasonable parties that are willing to work together would contain the DA, FF+, IFP and a few other stragglers. The EFF is a big no. They are completely incompatible with the sort of government that needs to form to usher South Africa into some semblance of stability and prosperity. ActionSA also can’t seem to contain its need to bicker and self-sabotage. But working together with them may be unavoidable.
That leaves 40.2% to oppose the ANC’s 47.6%.
36.2% if ActionSA continues to misbehave.
That leaves the opposition two options: Make a deal with the devil and bring in the EFF’s 10.7%, possibly dooming the coalition and any possibility of a stable government.
Or: use these projected numbers to encourage new vigour, creativity, and co-operation to bring the ANC even lower and the coalition parties even higher.
As I said, these projected numbers are not final. More can be done. More must be done. And there are plenty of opportunities for the opposition parties to further damage the ANC and prove themselves a better alternative.
First, the opposition parties need to stop bickering and start co-operating. There must be no repeats of the drama in Johannesburg, where minority coalition partners attempted a coup to oust the DA mayor at the behest of ANC bribes and ActionSA vindictiveness.
South Africa is at the cusp. There is no more room for jostling for petty positions of power. Opposition parties must accept that they must work together for the good of themselves and the entire country.
Second, the parties must confidently and intentionally raise themselves up as not just opposition parties, but as superior alternatives. Presidential candidates. The cult of personality around Cyril Ramaphosa and other ANC officials must be met with that of charismatic individuals from the opposition.
Co-operation doesn’t mean that every party just needs to give up trying to win. But what it does mean is stopping sabotaging each other and the local governments that they were elected to govern together.
Not only will co-operation help stem the damage to these parties’ brands in the eyes of despondent voters but will also help to spread their political resources and capital more effectively. Parties shouldn’t be trying to win the entire country. They should figure out their strengths, divvy up constituencies, and focus on the primary goal: replacing the ANC’s government of corruption with a coalition of competence.
No party alone can oust the ANC and give this country a chance at redemption. It will take a unified, joint effort to convince the voting public that the time has come for a new government. And it will take maturity, competence, and a focus on the importance of the greater picture for the new government to address all the wrongs the ANC have caused and allowed to fester for so long.
* Nicholas Woode-Smith is a political analyst, historian, fiction author and author of the upcoming South Africa: Unconscious Empire.
** The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of IOL or Independent Media.
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