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ANC in 2030: splintered and out of power or still going strong?


Political pundits have been slow to predict whether the ANC’s support would fall below the psychologically important 60% threshold in the May 7 elections. But what about more than a decade from now?

There are four possibilities, ranging from splintered and out of power to still going strong with over 60% of the vote, according to a forecast done by Jakkie Cilliers of the Institute for Security Studies and launched in Cape Town today.

It sets out three possible political and economic scenarios for South Africa in 2030, according to a special model designed with its partner organisation at the University of Denver, the Frederick S Pardee Centre for International Futures.

Scenario 1: Mandela Magic

There are two alternatives that could lead to better governance and a 5.1% economic growth rate. One of these is great for the ANC, the other, disastrous.

Alternative 1: The future is ANC and the party retains close to 60% of the electorate in 2024 and even 2029

» After the death of former president Nelson Mandela, the ANC starts a process of introspection and those who had worked with Mandela starts a campaign to reclaim his legacy.

» It has little impact on the bruising result of the 2014 election, but afterwards a reinvigorated ANC “resets its moral compass and asserts its leadership within the alliance”.

» The party puts an end to slates – where party members vote according to factions instead of merit. Better quality leaders are elected to internal ANC structures.

» The ANC’s national executive committee deploys a strong executive deputy president to deal with policies, like the division of work between Mandela and his then-deputy, Thabo Mbeki.

» Despite turbulence in its ranks, Cosatu survives without metalworkers’ union Numsa, remains united and in support of the ANC. In a policy trade-off with the ANC, it allows greater labour-market flexibility.

Alternative 2: Genuine multi-party democracy, and the ANC loses its 50% majority in 2019

» Under assault from all sides, and seriously weakened by factionalism, the ANC does worse than expected in the May elections, while voter apathy among potential ANC supporters and lack of support from key Cosatu member unions result in a greater decline in ANC support than anticipated.

» After the elections, the ANC has to enter into coalitions in two provinces (presumably Gauteng and Northern Cape, although the forecast doesn’t stipulate this), and loses the Western Cape to the DA again.

» Opposition parties flex their muscles and the ANC responds by improving governance, for example ending cadre deployment and improving service delivery.

» Scenario 2: A nation divided, with the ANC vote dropping to 47% in 2029

This scenario is characterised by instability and divisions in the ANC and its alliance partners, and business is still broken after the crippling mining strikes in 2013 and beyond. Economic growth is 2.6% per annum.

» The unemployed and disaffected voters are mobilised and the Economic Freedom Fighters win a few seats in Parliament after the May elections.

» Numsa abandons the ANC and aligns itself with more radical formations to the left, which has a debilitating outcome for labour. Various union federations split into smaller, competing unions and the number of non-unionised workers rise.

» Ahead of the 2019 elections, the ANC adopts policy measures that restrict majority foreign ownership and imposes minimum black ownership quotas in business. Most prominent among these are measures to appropriate and redistribute land, which place unsustainable demands on the fiscus.

» The ANC also ramps up social grants at the expense of investment in infrastructure and education, and remains the largest party in government in the 2029 elections, with 47% of support.

» Cronyism and corruption increase, and poverty is entrenched through policies that serve elite interests.

Scenario 3: ‘Bafana Bafana’, with the ANC losing its majority after 2024

This scenario is about a South Africa that strives to break free from its current cycle of inequality and unrest, but doesn’t quite manage to do so. Economic growth is at 3.8% per annum.

» Support for the ANC declines moderately in the May elections as voter apathy and opposition parties eat away its support.

» The ANC contemplates political alliances after the 2019 elections, which it wins with more than 50% of the vote.

» After the 2024 elections the ANC emerges as still the largest among the political parties in power, but thereafter it governs in coalition with other parties, having lost its majority in Parliament.

» Government doesn’t settle on a clear growth plan, and although the ANC remains nominally committed to the National Development Plan, it does not coordinate its implementation. It is relegated to the bookshelf after 2019.