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In his column The Big Read in The Times of 13 January 2014, Justice Malala wrote: “The answer to why the party (the ANC) will lose votes, though, is not just in its deeds. It is in its misdeeds, its inability to rejuvenate and shear itself of them, and crucially in its failure to convince an increasingly restless populace that it is the custodian of their future.” 

futurefact recently highlighted the extent to which South Africans have lost confidence in President Zuma  http://www.futurefact.co.za/futurefact-finds/jacob-zuma-becoming-too-much-liability-anc. When the survey was conducted in the latter half of 2013, the main loss of confidence was centred on the President rather than on the ANC. BUT, the signs were already there.

In 2009, 52% of South Africans* and 74% of black South Africans said they were strong supporters of the ANC. By 2013 this had declined to 40% in total and 54% black. Significantly, these declines also occurred within groups who traditionally support the ANC: LSM 2-4(74% to 52%), members of the working class (60% to 52%), township residents (71% to 53%), Zulu (77% to 53%), KZN (47% to 43%), Gauteng (57% to 42%).    

During the same period wavering supporters of the ANC increased from 13% to 21% (12% to 26% among black South Africans). 

74% of strong supporters of the ANC said they voted in 2009 (70% overall). 91% of those of voting age say that they intend to vote this year compared with 83% overall. So the predisposition to vote is there but, this is where things get really interesting: 30% of strong ANC supporters and 38% of wavering ANC supporters (who voted in 2009) said that they intended voting for a “different party than usual” this time (we didn’t ask who) and this amounts to 2,8-m potential voters.

The ANC has always relied upon the loyalty of its supporters but 19% of strong ANC supporters and 47% of wavering ones said they would no longer feel disloyal if they didn’t vote for the ANC (this amounts to 3,6-m potential voters). 

Almost three-quarters of South Africans are concerned that the government is moving away from the democratic principles that they fought so hard to implement when they were a liberation movement. 60% of South Africans would like to see greater co-operation between opposition parties in order to create a strong and united voice in parliament. People are committed to South Africa but worried about the direction it is taking. So, even though we don’t foresee the ANC being voted out in 2014 our results do indicate that they won’t have it as easy as in the past.

“The ANC will continue to run this government forever and ever” said JZ to party faithfuls in Mpumalanga in January 2014. Well, history has a way of dealing with hubris:  we need look no further than the once mighty National Party…

* futurefact has been surveying the attitudes and beliefs of South Africans since 1998. The findings presented above are from futurefact 2013 which is based on a probability sample of 3,025 adults aged 15 years and over, living in communities of more than 500 people throughout South Africa representing 21.6 million adults.  

If you would like to find out more about futurefact and its extensive attitudinal databases please contact Jos Kuper 082 904 9939 or check out www.futurefact.co.za

(Published in politicsweb 20 January 2014)