Originally published 03 February 2016.
It's not policy or charismatic leaders that will see the ANC triumph again in the upcoming local elections, argues UCT political analyst Dr Zwelethu Jolobe. Instead, it's something rather more banal: the ANC will ensure that its captive audience physically gets to the polls and casts its vote, better than any of its main rivals can.
In Johannesburg in 2011, 1 million of 2 million registered voters opted not to vote. This is a trend in all major elections, said Jolobe. The success of parties at the polls might then depend on their ability to swing this chunk of 'missing' voters; he added speaking at a recent Summer School lecture.
But there was something else to consider.
When one looked closely at the ANC and DA's election manifestos, they weren't all that different. “I don't think that people read election manifestos. When people hear bad news about their party leader, it doesn't [typically] make them change their vote. It makes them not vote. That for me is the big issue,” he explained
The deciding factor had to be something else, then, and Jolobe held that the ANC's greater resources and experience at mobilising its supporters to vote en masse would surpass what its main rivals could muster in that regard.
Before putting his “head on the block” with his predictions, Jolobe ran the audience through the nuances of South Africa's local electoral system. He pointed out some key differences between the local elections and national elections, explaining that in some districts citizens would cast as many as three votes.
Jolobe focused on the ANC, DA and EFF as these parties had either the most potential to win votes or had more “blackmail” power – the leverage to cause a significant change in the political landscape, such as the EFF demonstrated in Parliament last year.
The metros would hold the key for parties looking to maintain or shake up the electoral status quo, said Jolobe.
“The mother of all battles will be Port Elizabeth – this is the core base of the majority party.”
One audience member wondered aloud about any correlation between party selection and “those who pay income tax”. With a wry smile, Jolobe allayed the man's concerns.
Based on some research a DA voter's profile, Jolobe mused, might be a working person who owns property and might pay higher income tax. As for the ANC, its support base ranged from people who looked “like a DA supporter to one who looks the complete opposite of one”.
The EFF was not grounded in the unemployed and working classes either: they were essentially an ANC Youth League shoot and sprang up at Wits University, he reminded the audience. “Julius Malema's party would certainly try to capture the young, urban vote.”
As an aside, Jolobe wasn't convinced they wouldn't consider returning to the ANC, either.
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