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South Africa’s Elections and the Twilight of the ANC

Updated: Jun 24

What the 2024 Results Say for the Rainbow Nation's Future



South Africans went to the polls on Wednesday (29th May) for the country’s most consequential election since the end of apartheid. In the midst of elections, the ruling party of the continent’s largest economy is facing a growing crisis - the ANC (African National Congress), once a symbol of the struggle for freedom and social equality, is now synonymous with corruption. While polling is ongoing, the ANC is expected to clinch just 42% of the national vote, a far cry from the clear majority the party has consistently held since Nelson Mandela was president.

While significant reforms had been undertaken since Jacob Zuma was ousted and Cyril Ramaphosa took the helm in 2018, they have largely failed to address the multifaceted economic and political woes of the country and the corruption within the party itself.

The DA (Democratic Alliance) serves as the primary opposition to the ANC. However, its vote share is expected to stay largely unchanged at 22%, owing to its perception as a “white party” and inability to expand its voter base to the majority black population. The party espouses moderate and liberal politics, and was formed from the liberal opposition to the Nationalist party’s apartheid regime.

Most of the voters disillusioned with the ANC have favoured either the EFF (Economic Freedom Fighters), a radical far left party that advocates for forced redistributions of wealth or MK (uMkhonto weSizwe), a new Zulu nationalist party led by Jacob Zuma that is attempting to abolish “Western judicial systems”, ostensibly as leverage in his bid to stay out of prison for graft and corruption. Any coalition deal with the EFF or MK will likely result in the scrapping of many of Mr. Ramaphosa’s reforms, and he is understood to be vehemently opposed to any such deal.  

However, the ANC may hold him accountable for the humiliating electoral defeat, and his deputy Paul Mashatile may attempt to replace him. Fears of political instability and that Mr. Ramaphosa might be deposed have caused currency and stock markets to tumble ahead of the final results. The uncertainty has also impacted the government bond market, with prices of the country's main internationally traded bonds down as much as 1.3 cents on the U.S. dollar. 

John Steenhuisen, the leader of the DA, has indicated that he may be willing to enter a coalition with the ANC to create a government of national unity. However the DA fears that it would, like junior partners in political coalitions globally, be held responsible for the government’s failures and is sceptical of tarnishing its reputation of efficient administration by allying with a party that has become synonymous with corruption. 

Policymakers are expected to begin negotiations this week to determine the future of the nation.

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