Hold tight for a bumpy fortnight


Hold tight for a bumpy fortnight

If Cyril Ramaphosa is still president of South Africa by mid-June, he may need an agreement with the MKP or the EFF to negotiate the challenging political waters the elections have stirred up, writes PIET CROUCAMP.


HERE at the Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) results centre at Gallagher Convention Centre, the nerves are starting to fray. It's Friday morning and we still don't know what the final result of the election will be. Most journalists, IEC officials and political party representatives are suffering from “too tired to sleep" syndrome. Being part of history as it happens is physically and mentally exhausting.

In terms of organisation, Wednesday provided us with the most poorly managed national and provincial elections in 30 years of democracy. Until this week, the IEC managed South Africa's uncompetitive elections freely and fairly. But there can be no doubt that thousands of eligible voters could vote this week only if they were willing to make great sacrifices.

For the 70% of households headed by single-parent women, the risks and costs of participation were much higher than for middle-class and male demographics. Crime and unemployment incarcerate vulnerable people. Large numbers of voters in lines that moved at a snail's pace gave up and headed home in an attempt to avoid the uncertainties of darkness.

The consensus among the media at the results centre is that the  elections were probably free and perhaps even fair, but that the IEC experienced too many technical and logistical problems to escape heavy criticism. Most political parties know the IEC's shrinking budget and the addition of a third ballot played a significant role, but they also blame the ANC for the disorder at some polling stations.

Lees hierdie artikel in Afrikaans:

I am sleeping in my Land-Rover in the Gallagher Centre car park. In the dim illumination provided by the TD5's roof light, I read that President Cyril Ramaphosa signed the Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill on the night before the election. Perfect timing, I think to myself: he's going to need all the help he can get if the ANC doesn't obtain an overall majority at the ballot box for the first time since 1994.

The bright lights in the area never go off and the generators never fall silent. My home in Melville is 30 km from here, too far to drive twice a day, but in all honesty it's  the fear of missing out that keeps me here.

Finally, it's voting day. There is a strange tranquillity on the floor of the results centre in Midrand. The media is still digging in and the IEC holds media conferences from time to time to keep us abreast of events. The fact that this is the first competitive election since 1994 does not escape anyone, not even the ANC representatives.

The already frenetic pace in the results centre gradually increases. Keyboards clatter, cameras roll, interviews take place with all-knowing analysts in cramped spaces, results trickle in, and underpinning it all is the eternal speculation about where everything is heading.

The MKP factor

Right-wingers and liberals are all keeping their fingers crossed that the uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) Party will harm the ANC at the ballot box, something the DA could not or would not manage. A month ago, the Afrikanerbond's Jan Bosman spelt out this strange reality to me in the Not Bread Alone coffee shop in Linden. Even early yesterday, a strange pattern started appearing in the results; the MKP was causing immense political damage to  the ANC and the EFF in KwaZulu-Natal.

Polls by the Social Research Foundation, the Brenthurst Foundation, Ipsos and eNCA (MarkData) have created the expectation that the ANC will get less than 50% of the votes cast. International financial institutions predict that the likelihood of political stability is greatest if the ANC gets about47% of the vote and can form a coalition with smaller parties.

There is consensus that such a scenario exposes South Africa to the merciless consequences of the ANC's destructive economic policy. Deficient economic growth, surging unemployment, enrichment of the elite and entrenched corruption are therefore still less of an abomination for the financial markets than a country that is ablaze. Yes, that's where we are now.

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) does not conduct polls but uses a “predictive tool" and feeds data (results) as they become available into an AI program to forecast the final result. The algorithm's complex array of variables and extrapolations are too complex to explain here.

But when 5% of the voting districts' results are known, the system can function quite accurately, and after 10% the forecast becomes very close to an accurate prediction of the final result. The CSIR has used this method with great success during previous elections and it is widely regarded as the most reliable predictor of election results.

Just after 8am yesterday, the CSIR's model forecasts that the ANC will end up with 41.65% of the votes cast and the DA with 21.62%. The MKP has had a destructive influence on the EFF, especially in KwaZulu-Natal, and the CSIR's model forecasts that Julius Malema's party will end up at 8.98%. Disbelief spreads throughout the results centre. Have South Africans finally lost faith in the EFF and the ANC?

By the way, there is a difference between the terms “forecasting" and “predicting". “Forecasting" presupposes a degree of scientific uncertainty, while “predicting" makes assumptions about inevitability.

KZN and Duma

The scoreboard on the wall still shows the unrealities of the moment. In KZN, the ANC's likely premier candidate, Siboniso Duma, is being forced to consider a coalition agreement for the sake of his own political survival. But there are several other parties that could establish a coalition that excludes the ANC. Duma is no friend of Ramaphosa and there can be little doubt that he blames the president's leadership for the ANC's decline; nationwide, but specifically in KZN. In Luthuli House, there is a realisation that Duma cannot be managed.

On Saturday evening, another representative of the ANC in the Eastern Cape, Lunga Dyantyi, was murdered near his home. Competition for positions within the ANC, the government and the state ferments into violence. The executioners were not interested in his money, mobile phone or the food he had with him. His elected position was in his killers' crosshairs. The murder is strange in the Eastern Cape, because most political murders normally occur among ANC members in KZN or Mpumalanga.

Like endemic corruption, political murders will only be stopped by removing the ANC from legislatures. But that is clearly not necessarily going to happen as a result of this election. It is astonishing that a completely transparent and democratic election cannot produce a result that would leave the country's 62 million people better off.

If the CSIR's prediction is correct in terms of the ANC's national support, and if KZN's political landscape splinters further under the corrupt and paramilitary management of Jacob Zuma's MKP, centrifugal forces within the ANC may emerge, the consequences of which are difficult to predict. This need not necessarily lead to social violence, but the power relations within the party will be redefined.

By Sunday we will finally know if the MKP has indeed provided South Africa's “black swan" event. And the following two weeks could be as tense as the first months of the 1990s.

Ramaphosa's presidency will certainly be exposed to new challenges — that is, if he is still the president of the country by mid-June. Because he might just find out that the new seventh administration's first session could be challenging political terrain without a political agreement with Malema or Zuma.

♦ VWB ♦

BE PART OF THE CONVERSATION: Go to the bottom of this page to share your opinion. We look forward to hearing from you.

Speech Bubbles

To comment on this article, register (it's fast and free) or log in.

First read Vrye Weekblad's Comment Policy before commenting.