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When Jacob Zuma replaced Thabo Mbeki as President of South Africa in 2009, 80% of South Africans had confidence in him.  He had a confidence score of 258 overall and even among white South Africans Jacob Zuma had a score of 47.  He appeared to be an asset to the ANC and it seemed, to the country.

Confidence starting diminishing quite early on in his tenure. By 2012 his score declined to 153 and went rapidly downwards thereafter even among black, working and middle class South Africans.  A decline from 123 in 2008 to -247 among coloured South Africans very likely mirrors the growth of the DA in areas such as the Western Cape.

Confidence scores Jacob Zuma race and class

Confidence has also fallen among ANC supporters.  Strong supporters have remained more faithful but clearly Zuma is a major deterrent if the ANC wishes to retain wavering supporters or keep potential new supporters. As confidence in the President waned there has been a corresponding increase in people agreeing strongly that the president should be chosen by the people and not by the party, from 47% in 2012 to 78% in 2015. In 2015, 89% said that: ”The president has too much power” with  68% feeling that political leadership is bad and getting worse.

Confidence scores for Jacob Zuma among ANC supporters

Three quarters of strong ANC supporters are in favour of President Zuma paying back the money for Nkandla, and the figure is even higher for wavering ANC supporters with more than 8 in 10 feeling he should do so.

However, shoring up the ANC is the dilemma facing wavering supporters 54% of whom  would feel disloyal if they didn’t vote for the ANC, though it is also true that 43% would NOT feel disloyal if they DID NOT  vote for the ANC.  Plus, half of wavering ANC supporters do NOT believe that black people who vote for the DA are traitors, considerably more than a few years ago.  This essentially means there is more tolerance for individual voting choices and less of a blind loyalty to the ANC.  It is also true for strong ANC supporters though not as convincingly as for their wavering brethren. 15% of strong ANC supporters indicate a potential to move to the EFF, and a further 12% to the DA.  This is even higher among the wavering ANC supporters with 19% showing the potential to move to the EFF and a further 18% to the DA.  A reverse swing to the ANC from either the DA or the EFF is at far lower levels, even among their wavering supporters.  

 Looking at party support bases, in 2009 strong ANC supporters were firmly entrenched within the party (83%) with only 17% showing some potential to swing to another party.  The former has dropped to 67% in the latest survey and the potential swing has increased to 32%.  The existence of the EFF has contributed to this to some extent, with Nkandla and other Zuma issues having an impact.  

The ANC’s ‘Struggle Credentials’ have given the party a very loyal support base. But these results show that the breakdown in confidence in a tarnished president could well be rubbing-off on the party.  Is it time for the party to choose a new leader before the people choose a new party? 

futurefact has been surveying the attitudes and beliefs of South Africans since 1998. The findings presented above are from the futurefact survey conducted in late 2015, based on a probability sample of 3,015 adults aged 18 years and over, living in communities of more than 500 people throughout South Africa and representing 22,8 million adults living in 9,4 million households. 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