Busy political year ahead

Henry

As usual, South Africa’s political landscape was eventful this year – on the local and international stage. Several controversial bills, such as the National Health Insurance (NHA) and amendments to the Schools Act (Bela) have been accepted, ex-pres. Jacob Zuma was finally arrested and released again, and Pres. Cyril Ramaphosa was brought to court by Zuma himself.

What experts describe as “political missteps” also runs like a golden thread through 2023’s international politics, with South Africa openly siding with so-called “mouse countries”. 2024 promises to be just as busy a year in politics.

Experts believe that local politics will be completely dominated by the national and provincial elections in 2024.

Prof. André Duvenhage, political analyst attached to the North-West University, believes that this election will be an important one, because South Africa is currently in a political watershed phase comparable to the late 1980s.

Although the exact date of the election has not yet been announced, experts expect the election to take place between May and August.

Dr. Theuns Eloff, independent political commentator, says he initially expected a later election, “because the ANC wants to buy as much time as possible to get Eskom right. Now that it is becoming clear that this is not possible, perhaps they can choose the earlier date instead”.

He predicts that political parties’ rhetoric will intensify, and that parties such as the ANC and EFF in particular will take racial polarization to even greater heights.

As for the results of the election, Eloff predicts between 45% and 50% votes for the ANC.

He believes that fringe figures like Zuma and Ace Magashule “will not achieve much in this election”.

Earlier this month Zuma pledged his support to the newly registered party Umkhonto weSizwe.

However, the EFF can benefit the most from the ANC’s decline and unite as much as 15% on itself, predicts Eloff.

“This means that the other opposition and center parties will have a hard time reaching 40%, but end up in the high 30s. The Multiparty Pact can reach 35% together.”

Duvenhage and Eloff agree that the ANC may lose its provincial power in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.

“This is the first phase of our political transition over the next five years,” says Eloff.

However, Duvenhage believes that the ANC will not simply settle if it loses political power.

“The ANC is not just a party in government, but a total regime of vested interests, so when access to government is lost, the regime steps in to stabilise.”

According to Duvenhage, the ANC has shown in the past that it supports this type of behaviour, such as when Zanu PF lost at the polls.

However, Eloff does not foresee large-scale unrest before or after the election, “only isolated cases in certain areas”.

However, both experts are concerned about the freedom and fairness of the election.

“The Independent Electoral Commission’s (IEC) budget has been severely cut and their employees are not all competent (especially at ground level),” warns Eloff.

According to Duvenhage, the ANC will not hesitate to interfere with unfavorable election results.

This is why the role of the IEC is so important, emphasizes Duvenhage.

“Here, civil society and the business sector will also play an important role in enforcing a new dispensation. Political parties are not going to win this battle alone, precisely because next year’s election forms part of a dispensation upheaval.”