I predict that in May the ANC will get…


I predict that in May the ANC will get…

What does PIET CROUCAMP see when he gives the political tea leaves a stir?


POLITICAL analysts who venture into the realm of astrologers and predict the outcome of elections based on opinion polls might get more invitations to speak at farming days, but it's more a question of deception than being right. With this fundamental truth in mind, here is my prediction…

The ANC will get between 48% and 53% on May 29. And if it gets only 39%, as some opinion polls claim, Julius Malema will derive more joy from removing the ANC from power than the post of deputy president could possibly mean to him. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

This is also the argument with which I try to undermine two pervasive public conversations that rely more on fear than reality. First, the optical illusion that the ANC's support could drop to 39% is derived from a thought error — also referred to as the “snapshot" effect — of opinion polls. Second, the pessimistic assumption that an ANC/EFF coalition is necessarily in our future if the ANC ends up at 39% is based on primitive fear rather than reality.

Both of these “predictions" are based on primitive fears that are sensationally elevated by the media and political commentators to a necessary political end. However, it is also true that, as with all random predictions, these political fears can indeed materialise. But statistically, the probability is negligible. In fact, these are among the most unlikely scenarios.

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The main reason for my argument that the ANC at 39% is wishful thinking is that Luthuli House and Cyril Rampahosa's cadres will freely abuse the National Treasury over the next few months to fight the election. Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana's R200 million windfall to political parties in the 2024 budget is nothing but the Treasury funding the ANC. In Gauteng, Panyaza Lesufi employs thousands of people in the public service and installs dozens of transformers in poor communities,  in turn enabling local predators to illegally connect poor households to Eskom's power grid.

No other political party, apart from the DA in the Western Cape, has the same control over state funds. Although I listen to RSG in the mornings and Alan Winde's paid-for talks on this radio station make me wonder. Isn't this the same practice as when the SABC broadcasts television programmes — funded by the taxpayer — to propagate the alleged success stories of the ANC government?

Last week, in a shameless display of power and in the presence of his president, Bheki Cele misused a police helicopter to attend the launch of the ANC's election manifesto at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban. From Ramaphosa and his cabinet to provincial leaders such as Lesufi — “whether you like it or not", your tax money will be used to fight back against the morbid 39% opinion poll predictions. The fantasy that Ramaphosa is not yet another enabler of corruption has long since been forgotten. The state coffers and the fact that the ruling political elite's logistics and security are the taxpayer's responsibility give the ANC a budget that dwarfs the already generous contributions of Chancellor House and Russian oligarch Victor Vekselberg.

Another phenomenon that opposition parties do not want to learn from is this: you and I know the ANC's election manifesto is the political lies of a corrupt party that makes false promises, but these are still lies that ordinary South Africans would like to see materialise. Opposition parties' lack of credibility lies in the fact that they have not yet developed a competing narrative for this reality. Opposition parties' manifestos are imbued with what they think will be good for South Africans, while the ANC's manifesto is rooted in what ordinary people would want if things went well with South Africa. The difference is more important than many of us think.

But let's conform to our primitive fears and assume that the deep, dark scenario of an ANC at 39% becomes a reality. The sinister possibility of an ANC/EFF coalition haunts economic players and the financial markets for good reason. The prospect of Deputy President Julius Malema is quite rightly terrifying to some of us.

This type of logic obviously ignores the presidential ambitions of Paul Mashatile. It also does not take into account that the ANC elects a deputy president during its leadership conference who more often than not represents a rival faction within the party; and it will not easily concede that this elected representative could be replaced by someone from an opposition party. A complex network of patronage relationships can be destroyed in the process.

This is also the main weakness in the 39% scenario logic. This is not a compromise that any president of the ANC can make unilaterally without serious political consequences. And it is extremely unlikely that the national executive committee of the ANC will be able to reach the necessary consensus within the span of less than two weeks — between the results of the election and the first session of the National Assembly — for such a drastic step to become reality.

Should a situation arise where the ANC has to give up control of the National Assembly and is therefore unable to appoint the executive, some distressed leaps of the dog are possible. However, this thought is not currently a point of discussion in any ANC forum. And as things stand, the resentment between the ANC and the EFF is so deep that a permanent coalition outside Gauteng is almost impossible.

However, a much more attractive permutation and power base is at stake for Malema and his Fighters. There is nothing on God's earth that will give Malema as much joy in life as uprooting Ramaphosa's ANC at the ballot box, but it will not happen easily. The second prize is equally attractive, and that is to be able to stay out of the vote as a kind of “kingmaker" in the National Assembly, which gives opposition parties the opportunity to elect the president with a minority of votes.

A cabinet position or the position of deputy president will never make up for the political satisfaction it will bring Malema  to bring down the pillars on the ANC. He followed this strategy in several metros and local councils and he can do the same under certain circumstances in the National Assembly.

Malema's real power base would then be that for five years he can play off the two dominant political configurations in the legislature against each other for whatever opportunistic reason he likes and can introduce or support motions of no confidence when it suits the Red Berets to be destructive. The unsustainability of the situation is that no opposition coalition or the ANC can promote policies in committees and the legislatures without the EFF's support, and Malema then decides who the president of South Africa is, as and when he wants. This is the worst possible scenario and also the one that — as “black Twitter" likes to say — will cause the most “chest pains" for local and international capital owners.

The problem with the scenario in which the EFF refrains from voting is that opposition parties must eventually be able to put together a larger coalition than the ANC can manage. This is also extremely unlikely. For this to happen, the IFP must get at least 10% national support, or Rise Mzansi or any other political group must get between 12% and 15%. Now, three months before polling day, this sounds like wishful thinking.

This situation may force the EFF to vote with opposition parties in the National Assembly when the president is appointed. It can do this without officially becoming part of any coalition. But in such a case it would be important that the presidential candidate does not come from the second largest party, the DA. The EFF can vote for the IFP's Velenkosini Hlabisa or even Rise Mzansi's Songezo Zibi as a presidential candidate without suffering much damage to its reputation, but not for a candidate proposed by the DA. That will be the one day that John Steenhuisen has to sit still and sharpen his pencils in the national interest.

In his testimony before the Equality Court in Johannesburg in AfriForum's Dubul' ibhunu case about hate speech and the incitement of violence, Malema prophetically spelled out his political ambitions by using the authoritarian expression in which Ramaphosa also takes pleasure these days: “I going to be president of this country whether you like it or not." With these words in mind, I can now admit that my application for asylum in Syria is ready for the market.

♦ VWB ♦

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