Gauteng province has the propensity to be the fiercest
political battlefield in the upcoming South African elections.
While the public’s focus rests mainly with the national outcomes of general elections, the provincial ballot, especially this year, promises to be the closest contest yet. Voter shifts, exemplified by fluctuating provincial tallies, offer us vital insight into the ever-changing political landscape of South Africa.
South African elections: The domino effect
The political swing between urban and rural regions – a phenomenon which has gained momentum in the last decade – illustrates an interesting shift in influence, one which promises to alter provincial outcomes. It’s important to note that elections are divided into numerous tiers, which, when analysed, exemplify a ground-up approach.
Municipal elections, which determine administrations for all district, metropolitan and local municipalities in each of South Africa’s nine provinces, provide parties with an opportunity to prove good governance. In so doing, elected parties, after proving administrative prowess, grow in support and, generally, make inroads into neighbouring municipalities. It’s a political domino effect, which impacts both provincial and national outcomes.
This is most evident in the Gauteng province. Ten years ago, the African National Congress (ANC) dominated the region, governing all metropolitan, district and local municipalities. This monopoly was broken during the municipal elections in 2011, whereby the Democratic Alliance (DA) managed to gain control of Midvaal Local Municipality.
In the 2014 general election, the DA managed to up its provincial tally in Gauteng by 8%, to 30% overall, while the ANC saw a drop of 10%, leaving the ruling party with 53% overall. The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), in their electoral debut, managed to garner 10% of the provincial vote.
Two years later, the 2016 municipal elections saw the ANC lose even more ground in Gauteng. Through strategic alliances with minority parties, the DA managed to secure governance in two major metros, the City of Johannesburg and the City of Tshwane.
The EFF, which also managed to increase its voter share in
2016, is predicted to hold power as kingmakers in the 2019 provincial election.
The DA’s Premier candidate in Gauteng, Solly Msimanga, recently explained that
the DA would be willing to enter into a coalition with the EFF in order to
snatch control of the province away from the ANC.
Voter trends and predictions point to this being a likely scenario. If the ANC’s vote count in Gauteng drops below 50%, the DA and EFF, along with other minority parties, will have the opportunity to oust the ruling party. Another provincial defeat, preceded by the loss of the Western Cape in 2009, would spell disaster for the ANC.
The trouble with coalition governments
It seems likely that no single political party will be able
to attain an outright majority in Gauteng, if this proves to be the case, then
the prospect of a coalition government leans nearer to inevitability. There
are, however, inherent risks and pitfalls associated with coalition
governments, particularly when political ideologies of prospective partners
differ so greatly.
Gauteng ANC head of elections, Lebogang Maile, has already
refuted suggestions of a coalition government, remaining confident that the
party would, in fact, secure an outright majority. Commenting on the current
coalition agreements between the EFF and DA, Maile said:
“We are not thinking about a coalition. It does not work. It is messing up service delivery.”
There is truth to Maile’s claims of troubled coalitions. The
EFF-DA coalition in various metros has proven particularly treacherous, with dire
disagreements over policy effectively destroying cooperative alliances.
Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality (NMB) proved
just how dangerous coalition governments could be. NMB, like Gauteng, was
dominated by the ANC until 2016, when the DA managed to secure 46% of the
municipal vote. Still lacking an outright majority, the DA joined forces with
the United Democratic Front (UDM), the Congress of the People (Cope) and the African
Christian Democratic Party (ACDP).
The EFF, which chose to remain on the side-lines, exerted
its power two years later, when, together with the ANC, effectively managed to
remove the DA from power. In 2018, the UDM betrayed the DA and, in siding with
the ANC and EFF in a motion of no confidence, ousted both Mayor Athol Trollip
and Speaker Jonathan Lawack from the administration.
In the wake of Trollip’s ousting, EFF leader, Julius Malema,
took direct aim at other DA-led municipalities, saying:
“They said Malema is a small boy, Trollip is not going anywhere. Look now. The EFF is unapologetic about its decision to remove Athol Trollip as the executive mayor of Nelson Mandela Bay. The vote must be understood as a serious opposition to the white arrogance of the white-dominated DA.”
Malema went on to threaten the removal of then-mayor of
Tshwane, Msimanga, saying:
“Msimanga allows white racists who are exposed for taking jobs without the necessary qualifications to retaliate and punishes the black city manager for exposing them. We hate corruption.”
Msimanga went on to survive numerous motions of no
Malema has offered to support coalition governments in 2019
but on stringent conditions. Speaking on the EFF’s policy on coalitions, Malema
“At the centre of anyone going into a coalition with the EFF is the land situation. We have to agree on the land situation. To the EFF, the land situation is non-negotiable.”
Gauteng provincial elections outlook
Recent voter surveys have provided conflicted results on
Gauteng’s electoral prospects. A study conducted by the Centre for Social
Development in Africa found that the ANC would grow its support base, at the
expense of both the DA and the EFF, securing a 58% majority.
A survey conducted by Afrobarometer predicts that the ANC
will struggle to break the 50% threshold in Gauteng. The Institute for Race
Relations (IRR), which recently published its own voter opinion poll, indicates
that the ANC will fail to surpass 41% in Gauteng, while the EFF is expected to
increase its voter share to 18%.
All the above polls have one thing in common, a predicted
stagnation, or even decline, for the DA in Gauteng.