South African Elections: ANC Votes Crash below 42%, Big Threat to Business

Senior members in the African National Congress (ANC) are confronting the party’s dramatic vote crash below 42 per cent in the latest South African general election, raising significant concerns for both the party’s future and the business community.

With more than half the votes counted from Wednesday’s poll, the ANC’s support has plummeted to below 42 per cent, far lower than expected and stripping the party of its governing majority. This poor performance complicates the ANC’s efforts to find a coalition partner to continue its uninterrupted rule since the end of apartheid in 1994. It also casts a shadow over President Cyril Ramaphosa’s leadership, who assumed office six years ago with promises of rejuvenation but now faces the party’s worst election outcome in history.

Mavuso Msimang, a respected party elder, acknowledged the growing uncertainty around Ramaphosa’s tenure. “If the vote remains close to 40 per cent, there will be serious calls for him to step down. There’s considerable discussion about this,” he said.

Msimang suggested that if Ramaphosa retains his position, a coalition with the market-oriented Democratic Alliance (DA) is a plausible option. The DA currently holds second place with 23.5 per cent of the vote. However, should Ramaphosa be ousted, Msimang noted, it could pave the way for an alliance with Jacob Zuma’s Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) party, which has secured just over 11 per cent of the vote despite being established only six months ago.

“Business seeks certainty, which an ANC-DA alliance could provide,” Msimang stated. However, he acknowledged that many within the ANC would vehemently oppose a deal with the DA, viewing it as both white-dominated and reactionary.

As of Friday morning, with 56.3 per cent of the vote counted, the ANC was at 41.9 per cent, significantly lower than the mid-40s projected and a steep decline from the 57.5 per cent garnered in 2019. “The leadership is in a state of shock,” Msimang said. “But we should have seen this coming.”

Political analysts agree that given the ANC’s substantial losses, forming a viable coalition without the DA or MK will be challenging. Most smaller parties received only 1 or 2 per cent of the vote.

Paul Mashatile, Ramaphosa’s deputy and a potential successor, is believed to favour a coalition with MK and possibly the radical Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). Led by firebrand Julius Malema, the EFF currently stands in fourth place with 9.5 per cent of the vote.

ANC Chair Gwede Mantashe told the Financial Times that there had been no internal calls for Ramaphosa’s removal. “I would resist this with everything I have. You don’t discuss removing a president in the midst of an election,” he said, dismissing the resignation talk as opposition rhetoric.

When asked if the ANC would reconsider Ramaphosa’s position post-election, Mantashe replied, “This is not going to be discussed.” He argued it would be wrong to view the election outcome as a “bad result,” noting that the ANC still secured over three million votes amid a shifting political landscape.

Lawson Naidoo, executive secretary of the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution, said Ramaphosa needed to swiftly negotiate a deal with the DA or risk being ousted by his own party. “If they remove him, they’ll likely strike a deal with MK,” he said. “Once the ANC starts mobilising against Cyril, he could be out very quickly.”

William Gumede, chair of the Johannesburg-based Democracy Works Foundation, remarked, “Ramaphosa’s head is on the block. They’re going to look for a scapegoat, and he’s the most likely candidate. He must use all his negotiating skills to stay in power.”

Independent political analyst Ralph Mathekga added that the ANC’s disappointing result would place any incumbent leader under significant pressure. “Ramaphosa can expect intense pressure, given his vulnerability. It’s hard to see him surviving this,” he said.

Samuel Bolaji

Samuel Bolaji holds a Master of Letters in Publishing Studies from the University of Stirling, Scotland, United Kingdom, and a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Lagos, Nigeria. He is an experienced researcher, multimedia journalist, writer, and Editor. He is currently the Editor of Arbiterz.

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