Within a few months of assuming the highest office in the land, President Cyril Ramaphosa’s star is rising, with his popularity among South Africans shooting up and close to 70% believe he is doing a great job, a new survey has shown.
According to the South African Citizen Survey released this week, by June, 68% of adults believed Ramaphosa was doing his job well.
The survey further indicated there appeared to have been a decrease in the number of people who said they “didn’t know”. Those who didn’t know stood at 30% in March but the figure dropped to 15% in June.
The number of those who believed he was doing his job well rose from 64% in March to 68% in June, a substantial growth, considering he was only sworn in as president on February 15.
Even political analyst Lesiba Teffo said he was not surprised by the survey’s results because the changes Ramaphosa had implemented in his short period in power would not have happened had he not been the head of state.
“So far, so good, the start is encouraging, the people are happy, things that happened could not have happened if he was not there.
“He was able to drive the country to a positive mood – and that’s what citizens want,” Teffo said.
Reacting to the survey, the analyst said even the recent fuel increases could not affect Ramaphosa’s standing in the immediate term because they were beyond his control.
“The petrol increase is a systematic thing and VAT increase was meant to address certain things,” Teffo said.
This view was echoed by another analyst, Somadoda Fikeni, who said it was not surprising Ramaphosa’s popularity had increased because he had achieved so much in a short period of time.
“He inherited deep problems not of his [own] making but showed a willingness to address them, balancing ANC divisions with national responsibilities,” he said.
As the new president, Ramaphosa faced a multiplicity of challenges, including having to appoint new boards for most state-owned enterprises, and implemented a Cabinet reshuffle to get rid of ministers suspected of being corruption facilitators.
Within a short period, he initiated multipronged investigations into corruption, including state capture.
Citizen Surveys is a full-service research consultancy that specialises in research on social issues and conducts a monthly tracking study that surveys the opinions of South Africans on current events and hot issues.
This particular survey started in July 2015 and uses a monthly sample of 1 300 which is nationally representative of the South African adult population aged 18 years and older across all nine provinces, and in metro, urban and rural areas.
The survey examined topics such as Ramaphosa’s job, the favourability of the top three political leaders in South Africa, including the Economic Freedom Fighters’ Julius Malema and the Democratic Alliance’s Mmusi Maimane.
It also surveyed whether people trusted state-owned enterprises such as SABC, Sars, Eskom, SAA and the SA Post Office and revealed that levels of trust in these enterprises stood between 53% and 64% in June, which is surprising given these institutions have been beset by allegations of corruption and state capture.
Generally, Ramaphosa is credited for having dealt state capture a serious blow and forced the National Prosecuting Authority and the Hawks to act against culprits, something they failed to do under former president Jacob Zuma.
Those surveyed responded to a question about whether they had a favourable or unfavourable opinion of Ramaphosa. They were asked the same question about Malema and Maimane.
In 2015 and 2016, Ramaphosa was favourably viewed by less than 40% of the respondents. That rose above the 41% mark in July 2017. In January and February 2018, his favourability reached 57% and in June it hit 66%.
When compared with leaders of the EFF and DA, Ramaphosa left them far behind in the popularity stakes, although Malema’s favourability rating had risen to its highest since 2015, at 35%.
Maimane’s rating has been higher than Malema’s during tracking years and was 35%, putting him on par with his EFF counterpart.
According to Fikeni, people understood Ramaphosa could not have achieved everything in his four months in office. They also knew criticisms levelled against him were part of electioneering and therefore not important.