ANC Losing Grip on South African Cities as Discontent Mounts

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President Jacob Zuma delivers a speech during the Gauteng ANC manifesto launch in Johannesburg.

Photographer: Foto24/Getty Images
  • ANC has 31% backing in Johannesburg, DA 36%, eNCA Poll Shows
  • Poll results not conclusive, Ipsos analyst Harris says

With just four weeks to go until South Africa holds local government elections, the ruling African National Congress continues to lag its main rival in three key municipalities that it currently controls amid widespread discontent over high levels of unemployment and poverty, the latest eNCA public-opinion survey shows.

QuickTake South Africa

The ANC had the support of 26 percent of respondents surveyed July 4-5 in the Tshwane municipality, which includes the capital, Pretoria, a gain of 3 percentage points from the previous week, while the Democratic Alliance declined by the same margin to 39 percent, according to the poll, which was compiled for the broadcaster by research company Ipsos.

In Johannesburg, the commercial hub, the ANC had 31 percent backing, a rise of 1 percent, and the DA 36 percent, a 3 percentage-point increase. In the southern Nelson Mandela Bay municipality, which incorporates the city of Port Elizabeth, the ANC had 21 percent support, down six points to half that of the DA, which saw its backing rise by 3 percent.

The poll is the fifth commissioned by eNCA that shows support for the ANC is slipping, as a 27 percent unemployment rate, a lack of basic services and a succession of scandals embroiling party leader President Jacob Zuma takes its toll. The ANC has won more than 60 percent of the vote in every election since white minority rule ended in 1994.

Job Needs

“I don’t think I’ll vote next month, unless if they give me a job,” Lucky Maseta, a 22-year-old unemployed resident of Hammanskraal, a township on Pretoria’s outskirts, said in an interview. “Maybe we need different people to run the council, people who will give us jobs. There are many jobs available through the council in the area, but they are controlled by the ANC comrades and the politicians.”

The outcome of the vote could differ markedly from the polls, which gauge the opinions of about half of a pool of 3,000 potential voters across the three cities by phone each week, according to Ipsos political analyst Mari Harris.

“This is definitely not a a prediction of the poll results,” Harris said by phone on Thursday. “The purpose of this is to give an indication of the political climate week by week.”

Public Anger

The gain in support for the ANC in Tshwane from a week earlier indicated that public anger abated over the ruling party’s choice of lawmaker and former agricultural minister Thoko Didiza as its mayoral candidate. Five people died, shops were looted and 270 people were arrested last month after Didiza’s candidacy was announced.

“If we get a new candidate, it should be someone from around that area who understands the basic needs of the people,” Mark Mphafudi, a 38-year-old ANC supporter who owns a chain of liquor stores and restaurants in Tshwane, said in an interview. “Thoko Didiza, I think she is a good comrade. She knows what is expected of her to deliver.”

The third-biggest party, the Economic Freedom Fighters, which was formed in 2013 and advocates the nationalization of mines, banks and land, garnered 12 percent support in Tshwane, and 10 percent in both Johannesburg and Nelson Mandela Bay.

Undecided Voters

Sixteen percent of respondents in all three cities said they were undecided about who they would vote for. The margin of error was 1.6 percent to 3.7 percent in Tshwane, 1.2 percent to 2.8 percent in Johannesburg and 2.5 percent to 5.7 percent in Nelson Mandela Bay.  

The August vote is being contested by 200 parties and 61,014 candidates. The ANC won control of 198 of the 278 municipalities, including seven of the country’s eight biggest metropolitan areas, in the last municipal elections in 2011. The DA secured an outright majority in 18 councils, including Cape Town, the second-biggest city, which wasn’t covered by the eNCA poll.

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