Capr Town - The electorate are divided over President Jacob Zuma’s R246 million Nkandla home revamp, with some set to punish the ANC at the May 7 polls while loyalists will continue to vote for the party, say political analysts.
But analysts say it remains to be seen if the ruling party will be able to persuade voters it stands for good clean governance.
While most political parties are punting their good-news manifestos, the ANC, with its “we have a good story to tell” after 20 years of democracy, has been tied up putting out fires over the Nkandla fiasco.
The working middle class may be fed-up with corruption, but at grassroots’ level many ANC supporters are merely ignoring Nkandla and still voting out of a sense of loyalty.
And the Presidency’s watered down response on Nkandla to Parliament last week has done little to instil confidence.
Zuma’s response that he will await an interim report from the Special Investigating Unit before responding in full on what steps to take, has sparked widespread condemnation.
Political analyst Professor Amanda Gouws from Stellenbosch University said that while some voters might still make their cross for the ruling party based on allegiance, others might be scared away from the polls.
“There are those who have a blind loyalty towards the ANC and they don’t really take the report seriously.
“We’ve already seen this in the response by student organisations like Cosas (Congress of SA Students). It’s the more discerning middle class that has a moral dilemma with this.”
Gouws said some loyal ANC supporters were likely to stay away from the polls instead of voting for another party, adding that confidence in the ANC might be restored if Zuma stepped down.
“If Zuma steps down it will show that the ANC really cares about corruption and dealing with it in order to have a clean government. But I don’t think that will happen. Zuma is protected by his ministers and the ANC executive. If he was an honourable man he would have stepped down, but he’s not, so it’s not going to happen,” she added.
Cherrel Africa, head of the Political Studies Department at the University of the Western Cape, said that while it was hard to say whether the Nkandla report would have a significant impact on voting patterns, it would have a minimal effect.
“The ANC in the past has faced significant challenges, for example in the run-up to the 2009 and 2011 elections, and yet emerged relatively unscathed. Many voters who no longer want to vote for the ANC cannot bring themselves to vote for opposition parties because they simply do not trust them,” she said.
On the other hand, Africa said, the ANC may have reason to worry about the “Nkandla effect”.
“We have seen the consolidation of South Africa’s electoral landscape into ANC and DA blocs with a significant proportion of other voters who do not want to vote for either the ANC or the DA.
“We have also seen a trend where disillusioned voters rather decide to opt out and abstain from voting. On the other hand the ANC may in fact have reason to worry about the ‘Nkandla effect’ – it could be the end point of a series of frustrations culminating in a greater erosion of support for the ANC than was previously the case.”
According to Africa, the ANC had decided it was not in the party’s best interests for Zuma to step down a couple of weeks before the elections.
“Zuma has indicated that he has no intention of doing so. This is therefore at this point a hypothetical question. Stepping down would make a difference to those disillusioned with his leadership,” she added.