Manifesto rallies, polling research raising the temperature

Political parties are campaigning ahead of the elections. Picture: Henk Kruger/Independent Newspapers

Political parties are campaigning ahead of the elections. Picture: Henk Kruger/Independent Newspapers

Published Feb 17, 2024


Prof. Bheki Mngomezulu

SOUTH Africa is in the election mode. All that is left is for President Cyril Ramaphosa to announce the date of the election. Rallies to launch election manifestos have started.

Songezo Zibi launched the manifesto for his party, Rise Mzansi, in a packed venue. On February 10, the EFF filled Moses Mabhida Stadium in eThekwini to launch its manifesto. Many promises were made – some of which were deemed too bold and unrealistic by some commentators. Among them was the promise to end the load shedding menace within six months.

In the coming weeks the electorate will be confronted with more promises. On Saturday, the DA will launch its manifesto at the Union Buildings. The governing ANC is set to hold its Mayihlome rally at the Moses Mabhida Stadium on February 24.

While it is true that the venue was chosen last year, this will be interpreted as the ANC’s attempt to test its might against that of the EFF. Should it fail to fill the stadium in the same manner that the EFF did, this might confirm the general view that the ANC’s support will be significantly reduced in this year’s election.

On March 10, the IFP will also converge at the Moses Mabhida Stadium to launch its own manifesto. Traditionally, the ANC and the IFP have been the main political players in KwaZulu-Natal. It does not come as a surprise that both parties have planned to launch their manifestos at the same venue. They will be watching each other’s moves as though they were playing a chess game.

While the parties mentioned above are among the big parties, there is a new kid on the block which has reconfigured the political landscape in South Africa, the Umkhonto weSizwe (MK) party. This new party is currently facing litigation from the ANC. Depending on the court’s decision, MK could decide to launch its manifesto at the Moses Mabhida Stadium to test its might and to send a clear message to its political competitors.

All the other parties, which form part of the more than 350 parties currently registered with the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC), will launch their own election manifestos in which they will make their promises to the electorate. South Africans will be spoilt for choice.

As for the independent candidates, we shall wait and see how they will sell themselves to the voters. Having this group of people contesting an election is unprecedented in the country’s new political dispensation. This development makes this year’s election more exciting.

As preparations for the election get under way, various polls have started emerging. These are produced by both independent organisations and political parties. Standard Bank concluded that the ANC would have its majority reduced to between 45% and 50%. However, the bank held the view that Ramaphosa could still come back to lead the seventh administration even if that might be through a coalition government.

There is consensus among the different polls that the ANC will lose its majority. This means that such a view is not only held by a specific group of people or polling company. Surely, the ANC holds a different view because it believes that it will still get an outright majority.

Looking at the poll results, Professor David Everatt from the Wits School of Governance invoked a statement once made by Antonio Gramsci, an Italian Marxist philosopher. Gramsci observed that, “The old world is dying and the new world struggles to be born”. This observation was premised on the observation that while it was clear that the old rulers were on the verge of collapse, there was no certain successor to take the baton.

This statement was true then as it is true now. The ANC’s support is evidently dwindling. But at the same time, there is no political party that can immediately replace the ANC. The DA is the official opposition. Like the ANC, the DA’s support has been on a downward spiral. Again, the DA does not enjoy support in all nine provinces of South Africa. Therefore, it cannot replace the ANC operating alone. That is why it introduced the Moonshot Pact, which later became known as the Multiparty Charter for South Africa.

Coming third is the EFF. While this party has been on an upward trajectory, its support base has been predominantly young. Many of these youths have not been voting. The number of registered youths seems to be increasing for this year’s election. But this too does not guarantee the EFF an absolute majority. Some have not yet reached the voting age. Therefore, the EFF will not replace the ANC on its own.

Published polls show that the DA and EFF attract a fifth or sixth of voters. The ANC is projected to get about 42%, according to a survey of 9,000 respondents. Noticeably, the ANC is projected to get 26% in KZN and 24% in the Western Cape. By contrast, the ANC is projected to register 59% in Limpopo and 57% in the Eastern Cape.

Therefore, rallies and polls are being used to assess the strength of individual political parties – both nationally and in individual provinces. The results might be slightly different, but the bigger picture is being painted by the rallies and the polls.

The onus is on all political parties to study the political mood and act accordingly.

*Professor Mngomezulu is director of the Centre for the Advancement of Non-Racialism and Democracy at Nelson Mandela University

**The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of Independent Media or IOL