Zuma Party Could End ANC Dominance of South Africa, SRF Says

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(Bloomberg) -- A new political party in South Africa backed by former president Jacob Zuma may end the dominance of the African National Congress, which has ruled the country since the end of apartheid, the Social Research Foundation said.

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Polling by the foundation suggests the new party could pick up 24% of the vote in Zuma’s home province of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa’s second most populous. South Africa is due to hold national and provincial elections this year but a date hasn’t been set. Zuma’s party is expected to draw support from former ANC voters.

Garnering that level of support in the province would slash the ANC’s national tally by about five percentage points, reducing its share to just over 40% or even below that, Frans Cronje, chairman of the SRF, said in comments sent to Bloomberg. That’s below the 45% of the national vote an earlier SRF survey predicted.

“These numbers are likely a game changer,” Cronje said. “The ANC house is now on fire and whereas a few weeks ago the most plausible political scenario for South Africa was a steady decline of that party, leading first to a national coalition with smaller partners and later with larger ones, the prospect is now rising that the roof may come crashing down very much faster.”

Polls to date have mostly predicted that the ANC will win 45% to 50% of the national vote. The SRF and Standard Bank Group Ltd., Africa’s biggest lender by revenue, have forecast it will form a coalition with a small party and that the decline in its support will have little impact on policy.

Zuma, who ruled South Africa for almost nine years before being forced to step down by the ANC in 2018 after a series of scandals, declared in December that he wouldn’t vote for the ANC and would instead back the new uMkhonto Wesizwe party. The party is named after the armed wing of the ANC, which fought against the apartheid government. Zuma was expelled from the ANC last month.

As recently as mid-January, before it carried out its survey, the SRF had predicted that Zuma’s party, also known as MK, would get just 1% to 2% of the national vote.

The results of the survey are more evidence of the ANC’s calamitous decline amid corruption scandals, severe power outages, rampant crime, and the collapse of basic services such as water provision. In the 2019 election the party won 57.5% of the vote, its lowest share since taking power in 1994.

The SRF poll forecasts that with turnout of 66% the ANC would capture 25% of the vote in KwaZulu-Natal compared with 54.2% in 2019. The Inkatha Freedom Party, a Zulu nationalist party, would advance to 24% from 16.3%, while the country’s second-biggest party, the Democratic Alliance, would see a small increase in support, to 15% from 13.9%. The share won by the populist Economic Freedom Fighters would almost halve, to 5%.

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Zuma’s party “has the potential to secure 20%+ in KwaZulu-Natal and become either the official opposition or leading party,” Cronje said.

The SRF poll of 820 people has a margin of error of plus or minus 5%. The public-policy organization was founded in 2021. Cronje, a former chief executive of the Institute of Race Relations, has consulted for South Africa’s biggest political parties, companies and richest people.

Separately, Johannesburg’s City Press on Sunday predicted that Zuma’s party would win 9% of the national vote, citing a poll it described as “secret.” City Press said it had been provided with the results of the survey of 1,820 people, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1%, without saying who had conducted the poll and on whose behalf it had been done.

Under South Africa’s constitution Zuma cannot serve in parliament because he spent time in prison for refusing to testify to a judicial inquiry into state corruption.

South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, has said he will announce an election date by Feb. 23.

(Updates with detail about election announcement in last paragraph)

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