It’s not much of a surprise, but the blow is tough. For the first time since 1994, the African National Congress (ANC), Nelson Mandela’s party, did not cross the 50% mark. In the municipal elections which took place on November 1, South African voters expressed their anger and disappointment first by shunning the ballot box. The turnout did not exceed 48%, compared to 57% in previous local elections.
The ANC won only 46% of the vote. In the last municipal election, in 2016, the movement obtained 54%, and 62% in the previous one. But rival parties have not been able to capitalize on dissatisfaction with the ANC. Its closest rival, the Democratic Alliance (DA), is still viewed by many as a party for South Africa’s economically privileged white minority. The DA won 21% of the vote, also down from 27% in 2016. Julius Malema’s party, the Economic Freedom Fighters, fails to channel discontent either despite a speech populist and racialized by not exceeding 10%.
“An unambiguous signal”
“They no longer vote ANC but neither do they vote for another party,” remarks the president of the Democracy Works think tank, William Gumede. At the same time, the feeling of loyalty is eroding with the new generation of voters, who “grew up with the ANC as the only alternative, but also with corruption and Zuma”, he continues, alluding to the judicial vicissitudes of the ex-president and the financial scandals that affected many ANC officials. Fikile Mbalula, the transport minister who oversaw the ANC campaign, assures us that the outcome could have been worse. “We are not politically annihilated … It could have happened,” he reassures himself.
In fact, for years, Mandela’s party has had to face the disillusionment of a population faced with record unemployment (34.4%), electricity shedding, lack of basic services and disgusted by the multiple corruption scandals. “It is an unambiguous signal to the ANC from the electorate, (…) people are disappointed by the ANC,” acknowledged the deputy secretary general of the party, Jessie Duarte. A result which also shows that the recovery and the new image that the current president of the country and of the ANC, Cyril Ramaphosa, wants to give, are slow to bear fruit.
Legislative elections in 2024
The question of alliances to lead the municipalities is already raised, in most cases no party alone holds the majority. “The ANC will consider an approach with like-minded parties, including affirming the principle accepted in many countries that the party that receives the most votes in a given election should have the opportunity first. to form a government, ”said Jessie Duarte. But in reality, all eyes are on the legislative (and therefore the presidential) of 2024. If the ANC does not cross the 50% mark, it will be forced to form a coalition. It also remains to be seen whether this result will weaken Cyril Ramaphosa and whether it will turn to the left wing of the ANC, that is to say mainly the Communist Party (SACP), or on the contrary to the fringe la more liberal in economic terms. The ANC is affected but not sunk. Now it’s time to get the ship afloat.