The ANC is retreating, but is the opposition advancing?


The ANC is retreating, but is the opposition advancing?

The crucial question about this year's general election is whether Rise Mzansi, Change Starts Now, the EFF and Jacob Zuma's MK Party will be able to attract a significant number of voters who previously supported the ANC, writes MAX DU PREEZ. And how scared should we be that Zuma will again launch a campaign of destabilisation?


THE election results might surprise us but one thing is certain: the coalition of the DA, ActionSA, the IFP, Freedom Front Plus and a few smaller parties, the Multiparty Charter, will not win.

Recent opinion polls vary in their assumptions but it seems safe to predict that the Multiparty Charter will garner somewhere between 30% and 35% of the votes.

If the ANC is to be unseated, Songezo Zibi's Rise Mzansi and Roger Jardine's Change Starts Now (CSN) will need to secure 20% or more of the vote and be willing to govern in coalition with the Multiparty Charter.

The parties in the Multiparty Charter are competing for votes from minority groups and black voters who have already turned away from the ANC — plus the IFP with its predominantly Zulu-speaking voters.

There is a risk that the DA and ActionSA may lose some of their expected voters to Rise and CSN, while the IFP's anticipated growth may be challenged by Zuma's uMkhonto we Sizwe Party (MK).

Due to its perceived support for Israel, the DA has forfeited any chance of significant support among Muslims, potentially benefiting the tiny Al Jama-ah party, closely aligned with the ANC. Gayton McKenzie's (Patriotic Alliance) populist focus on the coloured vote could further harm the DA.

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I am aware of discussions among ANC stalwarts, some of them well-known figures, about aligning themselves with Jardine's CSN before the election. Jardine is a UDF-ANC veteran, as is his co-leader, Murphy Morobe.

CSN is said to have substantial funds and could launch a significant marketing campaign but it lacks on-the-ground structures. If the election takes place at the end of May, as political rumours suggest, there may not be enough time for proper mobilisation.

Rise has been involved in mobilisation for a more extended period since its inception from the Rivonia Circle. Zibi recently stated that he believes the party can secure 7.5% of the vote.

Rise will unveil its “people's manifesto" in Pretoria on January 20 before 4,000 leaders, organisers and members, based on the “people's declaration" drafted after deliberation in October.

Rise announced the appointment of seven prominent individuals to assess candidates for the party's national and provincial lists. At the head of the list is Brigalia Bam, former chairperson of the then Independent Electoral Commission and former general secretary of the South African Council of Churches. Other members include Neeshan  Bolton of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, the political scientist Dr Sithembele Mbethe and Prof Richard Calland of the University of Cape Town.

Rise's national coordinators are all black.

Former DA leader and leader of Build One South Africa, Mmusi Maimane, bravely presented himself as a “presidential candidate" this week but opinion polls do not indicate significant support for his party on the ground. He is not part of the Multiparty Charter.

Recent opinion polls and local by-election results suggest  the EFF is growing and could secure up to 18% of the vote. New EFF voters are likely to come mainly from the old ANC support base.

Then there's Zuma's MK Party, established in September at his behest. (If the ANC successfully claims the name of its former military wing in an application to the Electoral Commission of SA, MK may need to find another name.)

The 81-year-old Zuma is the sole focus of MK, with no leadership structure or policy documents yet. It appears to have support mainly among traditional Zulu speakers and churches. Some members of the disbanded MK Military Veterans Association (MKMVA), previously fronted by Carl Niehaus, now an EFF member, aligned themselves with Zuma this week.

It is not possible to credibly predict how much support Zuma will garner, but my instincts tell me MK may barely reach 5% national support (Zuma predicts a two-thirds majority). However, it could contribute to pushing the ANC's already shaky support in KwaZulu-Natal below 50% and handing control to an IFP/DA coalition.

It remains suspicious that Zuma did not involve two of his staunchest supporters, Mzwanele Manyi (still the spokesperson for the Zuma Foundation) and Carl Niehaus, in the MK Party. Both switched to the EFF after the formation of MK.

Zuma's outspoken daughter, Duduzile, who lives with him in Nkandla, actively promotes MK and the EFF in her social media campaigns.

Duduzile's twin brother, millionaire and former Gupta lieutenant Duduzane, has previously announced himself as a “presidential candidate" in the election. However, he is also not part of the MK Party.

Could Zuma's party be a Trojan horse for the EFF?

Something to be more concerned about than support for the MK Party is the potential for a repeat of the nine days of anarchy and looting, especially in KZN, in July 2021, which was incited by the Zuma camp.

Zuma recently referred to the original Umkhonto we Sizwe's declaration of war on December 16, 1961, and said: “That statement was true on December 15, 1961, and it is also true on December 16, 2023. The new people's war starts from today."

Equally dangerous was his suggestion that the election results cannot be trusted because votes are supposedly counted secretly. This is, of course, false.

Columnist Justice Malala wrote this week in Business Day about Zuma: “He is preparing the ground for violent protest in case of electoral defeat."

The ANC national executive committee must now decide whether to continue working with the EFF in local governments, which would be an indication of the likelihood of the ANC considering a coalition with the EFF if it receives less than 50% support.

If it seems the ANC is open to such an option, it may lose more voters to parties such as Rise, CSN and the IFP.

Meanwhile, things continue to go awry for the ANC.

There are problems and an ugly scandal surrounding the National Student Financial Aid Scheme, new delays in the disbursement of social grants, secretary-general Fikile Mbalula's controversial admission that the ANC lied for Zuma, and the public feud between him and the national chairperson, Gwede Mantashe.

And load-shedding is back.

Perhaps it is the only positive aspect of our energy crisis.

*Someone posted a video on Twitter/X this week in which FW de Klerk predicts a split in the ANC. 

♦ VWB ♦

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