Social grants will not win over voters in the elections, study shows

SOUTH AFRICA - Cape Town - People are queuing in long lines outside shops in Kraaifontein. Picture Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA).

SOUTH AFRICA - Cape Town - People are queuing in long lines outside shops in Kraaifontein. Picture Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA).

Published May 17, 2024


With more than 26 million people relying on the ANC government for social grants, more than half of them will not vote for the party in the May 29 elections.

This is according to the Centre for Social Development in Africa, that released research this week revealing that more than 50% of social grant beneficiaries supported opposition parties rather than the ANC.

The party has been on the campaign trail trying to persuade voters that they are the right party for the job despite having been in power for the last 30 years.

Some of their strategies have been the signing of the National Health Insurance Bill by President Cyril Ramaphosa this week, while the country has not experienced load shedding in over 50 days.

Social media has been abuzz with videos and pictures of ANC politicians washing and hanging up voters’ clothes to dry while on the campaign trail.

Previously, Ramaphosa was slammed by opposition parties and civil society for using the social grant system to attract voters, suggesting that social grant beneficiaries would lose their income if the ANC lost the elections.

The two main opposition parties - the DA and the EFF - have taken a similar route in trying to woo voters, saying they would increase the government grant if given a chance to be in power.

The University of Johannesburg (UJ) study found that those who were concerned about corruption were more likely to vote for the opposition.

On its candidates list, many ANC officials vying for public office have been implicated in wrongdoing, including some of its high ranking officials who had been fingered by the state capture commission.

UJ Social Development Studies professor Leila Patel said grant recipients exhibited a different voter behaviour ahead of this year's elections, as the grants would not sway their votes toward the governing party.

She has been studying voter behaviour since 2017, using a nationally representative sample during five surveys.

“We have asked respondents about the reasons for their political party choices … and across all five surveys, we found that receiving a grant did not influence voters’ choice of which party to support.

“What we found in the four waves of the research from 2017 to 2020 was that grant recipients would be more likely to vote for the governing ANC than the opposition party if they feared losing their grants,” she said.

She added that the study found that there had been a change in the 2023 survey conducted.

“We saw a change – the voters didn’t feel this way anymore. Our hypothesis is that this was due to the fact that grants were paid to younger people after an expansion in payouts during Covid. Allegiance to the ANC was not part of this cohort’s make-up,” she said.

Patel said 53% of the people receiving social grants were going to vote for opposition parties.

This was to be attributed to the young age of voters and the rate of unemployment, while they had different party loyalties to older generations.

“The fear that recipients would lose their grants if they voted for an opposition party has abated considerably compared to our earlier surveys, where this factor was highly significant.

“More telling was that the majority of grant recipients in the latest survey were more likely to vote for an opposition party (53%) than for the ANC (47%). This is a major shift compared to 2020 when only 26% of grant recipients selected an opposition party,” she said.

The research analysed a nationally representative random sample of 3 511 respondents using face-to-face interviews conducted in people’s home languages.

The questions included why the respondent would choose a particular political party, with 14 optional responses.

Other questions included if people feared losing their grant if they voted for another party and the level of trust in institutions such as the presidency, Parliament and in the ANC government.

During a SABC interview on Thursday, basic income researcher for the Institute for Economic Justice, Siyanda Baduza, said that signs were there that political parties were listening and responding to what voters were saying.

“What should be considered here is that the country is basically in a crisis level when it comes to poverty or hunger.

“People understand that it’s a basic issue for these elections… and political parties support an expansion in the social protection floor.

“In one way or the other, parties want to increase the number of beneficiaries. Which means they are responding and listening to people,” Baduza said.