A pedestrian is seen walking past election posters in Alberton. Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA)
Voter intentions are notoriously difficult to gauge. Nevertheless, two polls just released give some fascinating possible scenarios once next week’s votes are counted.

Ipsos did a face-to-face poll of 3600 people between the last week of March and mid-April, with a claimed maximum error margin of 2 percentage points on either side of their prediction. The Institute of Race Relations’ (IRR) poll of 2375 voters is marginally fresher, conducted in the week running to 25 April, with a 2.8% margin of error.

Perhaps the biggest single take-away, a grim omen for South Africa’s future, is the vigorous growth of the EFF. In 2014, in their first election, the EFF got 6.4% of the national vote, less than the 7.4% Cope got in 2009 when its supporters broke from the ANC.

But while Cope went on to collapse to 0.67% in 2014 and is predicted to fall further, Ipsos puts EFF support now at 11%. The IRR predicts around 14-15%, depending on voter turnout.

This means that the racist and violent EFF is likely to at least double its vote nationally. That puts it within striking distance of displacing the DA as the biggest opposition party and means that the EFF may hold the balance of power in the Western Cape and Gauteng.

Mari Harris of Ipsos says the EFF is also in the running to be the official opposition in three provinces: Limpopo, North West and Mpumalanga.

Nationally, Ipsos places the ANC on 61%, which would be only a marginal decline from the 62% it achieved in 2014. In contrast, the IRR believes the ANC majority to be in danger at 50-51%.

Were that the case, the romance developing recently between the ANC and EFF would likely be consummated. Together, they would be nudging a two-thirds majority in Parliament, with 64-66% of the vote.

There is less disagreement on the DA’s likely fortunes. Ipsos puts the DA vote at 19% and IRR in the 21-24% range. Such a result would be hugely disappointing for the DA, which got over 22% in 2014.

Given the disarray in ANC ranks, South Africa’s faltering economy, the growing violence and corruption, this would be a textbook case of a leader snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. It is difficult to see how Mmusi Maimane could survive at the helm.

The IRR research specifically looked at two key provinces, Western Cape and Gauteng, using smaller samples and consequently with a higher error margin of 6%.

In the Western Cape, it puts DA support in the 45-51% range, depending on turnout. The ANC has a smaller range of 28-29%. That leaves the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) at 7% and the EFF on 5-7%.

It’s the trajectories that are interesting. The ACDP has doubled its support in the Western Cape since February, while the EFF has rocketed from 1%.

In Gauteng, the IRR gauges ANC support at 39-43%, depending on turnout, which is substantially down from the 54% it got in 2014. The DA range is 32-40% - and trending upwards from February - while the EFF vote is surprisingly low at 12-13%, trending downwards from February. The DA scored 31% of the vote in 2014 and the EFF 10%.

Both polls point to a democracy that is creaking and an electorate that is alienated from its leaders. On the Ipsos trust index, Cyril Ramaphosa scored 45. Maimane and Julius Malema scored minus 31 and minus 37, respectively.

Despite the plethora of parties, Ipsos found that 37% of respondents said no political party represented their views. A staggering 40% agreed, further, that violent protest was the only way to get service delivery.

After 25 years of democracy, it seems that minds remain closed and voting preferences remain tribal.

* Follow WSM on Twitter: @TheJaundicedEye

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.