According to a report by the Mail & Guardian published on Friday, the ANC’s own “closely guarded internal polling data suggests that it will lose both Tshwane and the Nelson Mandela Bay metros” in the upcoming local government elections.
This is in line with polling data collected by other researchers, most notably Ipsos.
The ANC data reportedly suggest that the governing party will just manage to cling on to Johannesburg – but probably without an outright majority.
That makes coalition politics a very real possibility to determine who will ultimately govern some of South Africa’s major metros, as neither the ANC nor the DA are assured of outright majorities in the three contested metros.
According to the weekly paper’s report, which it headlines “Operation Save Jacob Zuma”, the different camps in the ANC are ” already preparing for the blame game” after the elections.
Some will reportedly want to blame Zuma and use that as an excuse to get rid of him at the elective conference in 2017.
However, the paper also alleges that Zuma’s supporters are planning how they will try to limit the damage to the president.
This, it reported, includes a PR campaign to ensure there is a perception that the blame should be shared collectively, a Cabinet reshuffle to oust Zuma’s enemies and even the disbandment of the provincial executive committee in Gauteng, which is overwhelmingly anti-Zuma.
In an interview with The Sowetan, the ANC head of election research and content, Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba, admitted that the party’s “survey showed that although there was an unprecedented number of people who were unhappy with the ANC, they would not dump the party”.
He listed corruption and leaders not connected to citizens as big issues. Slow economic growth was also contributing. He said low voter turnout was the party’s biggest worry.
Gauteng Premier David Makhura, who is understood to be opposed to Zuma, said last week that he was hoping voters would see past the scandal-wracked president.
With publicly available polls suggesting the ANC might very well lose control of key metros in Gauteng, Makhura issued an earnest plea to voters not to abandon the party.
This was in reaction to alliance members reportedly telling him that they remained confident in the ANC at the local level, but did not trust national leadership under Zuma.
According to the Sunday Times, Makhura told a public gathering last week: “If you have an issue with the president of the ANC … my appeal to you is: just appreciate the level of complexity in the ANC. The ANC has had its ups and downs, but it has always been more enduring than its individual leaders. Local elections are always about voting for the municipality.”
The ANC in the province has long been openly opposed to Zuma, and did not support his re-election in 2012 in Mangaung. They have also been opposed to nationally imposed projects such as as e-tolls, which have made the party less popular among provincial voters. The ANC saw support slide during the 2014 national elections, and it would seem that the downward trend is continuing in the lead-up to municipal elections on August 3.
Makhura implored voters not to view the governing party through the lens of Zuma alone.
Makhura told the Sunday paper that the ANC had been working hard to convince the crucial middle-class vote to keep faith with the party. He admitted that he’d never felt as challenged by an election campaign before, partly because of how there had been great anger and division around the finalisation of candidates.
He also expressed concern at the number of ANC candidates being killed. Another one was slain this week.
“It’s not normal.”
When the Mail & Guardian contacted the ANC for comment, spokesperson Zizi Kodwa assured them that the ANC was positive it would still win overwhelmingly with Zuma at the helm. He said they were confident about their prospects of retaining both Nelson Mandela Bay and Tshwane.