The ANC is eating its humble pie… now that coalition talks are taking center stage


Lahja Nashuuta

Paheja Siririka

The thirty-year hold of the African National Congress on South African politics is over and the party is looking for coalition partners.

The ANC, which came to power in 1994 after the defeat of the abhorrent and brutal apartheid regime, lost its parliamentary majority for the first time, the results of yesterday’s general election showed.

With 100% of the votes from Wednesday’s election counted, the party once led by liberation icon Nelson Mandela ate a humble pie. They took in just over 40%, a lot less than the 57.5% it won five years ago.

The party also lost its majority in two of the nine provinces, while the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party retained control of a third.

Namibia responds

At home, political commentators followed the hotly contested vote with great interest.

They stated that the ANC’s fall from grace is a rude awakening for other former liberation movements on the continent that voters will no longer swallow their ‘rule until Jesus comes’ rhetoric.

Graham Hopwood, executive director of the Institute for Public Policy Research, attributed this poor performance to high unemployment and poverty rates, which remain widespread in South Africa due to a sluggish economy, corruption, ineffective service delivery, power cuts and water shortages .

He strongly believes that these factors, “combined with generational changes meaning that young people do not take the liberation struggle into account when voting, mean that a large part of the South African electorate has become alienated from the ANC”.


Hopwood hastened to say that Swapo, the ANC’s sister liberation movement, should build on the outcome and have a clear roadmap for tackling the socio-economic problems facing the country.

“Swapo must carefully investigate why the ANC has lost support if it wants to avoid the same fate. Namibian opposition parties are likely to see the result as a confidence booster,” he noted.

Political analyst Ndumba Kamwanyah said today’s voters base their political loyalty on service delivery, rather than a glorious past.

“South African voters are angry about unemployment, inequality and lack of services, especially young people,” he said.

Kamwanyah also believes that the ANC’s shift away from established values ​​and ideologies contributed to its demise.

Similar sentiments were shared by Wade Henckert, a political analyst, who pointed out that persistent concerns about corruption have eroded public confidence in the ANC-led government.

“Many voters are disillusioned by South Africa’s economic stagnation, which is characterized by high unemployment, poverty and rising inequality. The ANC has struggled to implement economic change, creating an image of ineptitude,” he said.

Henckert added: “Regular power outages, poor public services and insufficient infrastructure have eroded support for the ruling party. Many residents believe that the government has failed to improve their living conditions.”

For his part, commentator and journalist Frederico Links said that “a big lesson for regional voters is that even ruling parties that appear to be well entrenched can be ousted by the vote. I think that for many voters in the region, the dominance of the ruling parties seems insurmountable and inevitable. The decline of the ANC should be a clear signal that other ruling parties could also be reduced in size, or even removed from power entirely.”

The Left continued: “The time has come for ruling parties, including Swapo, to stop trading on their liberation struggle credentials. Voters want to see improvements in their lives and living conditions, and ruling parties must respond to these demands. Otherwise, they too will be swept from power.”

Politics 101

While the results confirmed the end of the ANC’s unchallenged grip on political power, they detonated the genesis of the race to strike a deal with one or more opposition parties.

Political parties will then have two weeks to reach an agreement before a new parliament convenes to elect a president, who will still likely emerge from the ANC as the largest party.

While the ANC appears to be the biggest loser in the just-concluded elections, the biggest winners are the uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) Party.

With 15% of the vote, MK’s performance marked the proverbial resurrection of former ANC and South African president Jacob Zuma, whose political career was all but sealed up and buried in the dustbins not so long ago.

Hopwood said messy coalition negotiations in South Africa could convince voters in Namibia that a stable, dominant ruling party is preferable to a “hodgepodge of opposition parties that gain enough support to engage in coalition politics, which could lead to political paralysis and confusion.”

With South Africa and the ANC at a crossroads, the ANC must decide whether to form a coalition with the largely conservative DA, or with the more radical options of MK and/or the Julius Malema-led Red Berets, the Economic Freedom Fighters.

“The decisions made in the coming days will determine South Africa’s fundamental policy direction – either a strengthening of the predominantly pro-capitalist, centrist approach adopted thus far, or a switch to a more aggressive left-wing policy that would could lead to economic chaos,” Hopwood continued.

On the other hand, Kamwayah believes that a coalition is a good thing for democracy, but a slippery one if not handled properly as some “politicians could manipulate the process to serve their own interests.”

“Coalition is good for the government, but can also be problematic because this is an arrangement of political parties and is not based on the legal framework. I hope that the coalition will be in the interests and needs of South Africans and not of individual politicians,” he said.

In contrast, Henckert argued that coalitions can lead to policy impasse because parties with opposing positions may have difficulty reaching an agreement.

This can undermine good governance.

Asked about his observations during the voting process and the post-voting process, Henckert said that although the election process went quite smoothly, the post-voting phase was marked by tension.

“The announcement of recounts in some places indicates likely anomalies, raising concerns about the integrity of the voting process. “While recounts are common in highly competitive elections, the number of challenges indicates widespread unhappiness and distrust,” he said.

Henckert noted that the Independent Electoral Commission’s (IEC) timely response to recount requests signals its commitment to openness. However, it also highlights the difficulties in maintaining public confidence in the voting system.


Now that 100% of the results for the 2024 elections have been recorded, South Africa’s IEC said it will consider objections to them first.

As such, there are opportunities to make edits so that mistakes are corrected, IEC deputy president Masotho Moepya said this weekend.

“The committee has received 579 objections. This number may increase slightly as there may be others we need to work on. Some themes include where the results processes were still not completed when the objections were brought to us,” he said, adding that transparency is such a fundamental value in elections.

The new political kid on the block, the MK, has expressed its disapproval of the election results.

Among other things, they find it ironic that an institution the size of the IEC, while having a service provider like Telkom, suffered a two-hour system outage.

“That’s what we want the IEC to tell us: what happened in those two hours? There are many issues regarding the way the IEC has managed this process, which have raised serious concerns for us. At this point, there’s no confidence in what’s happening on that screen; we are asking for a recount,” said party spokesperson Nhlamulo Ndlela.

Meanwhile, Build One SA (BoSA) leader Mmusi Maimane told the media that looking at governance across the country, they have voices everywhere, and the step that needs to be taken is to increase that support, adding that his party does not object.

“Let the IEC handle that; we must continue the work, after the elections. We, as Build One South Africa, are not contesting this particular election. We will continue the journey and go from there,” he said.

“We have parliamentary representation and we have established a foothold in Gauteng. My focus now is on building BoSA. Our demands are clear: let’s fix Eskom, and let’s ensure South Africans have jobs. We cannot do politics; we have to think about the 60 million South Africans,” he said.

Maimane’s call is to get all political party leaders in parliament to engage in mature conversations rather than political involvement.

“Free and fair is not perfect. There is a threshold that has to be met, and generally I have accepted that outcome, and we have dealt with that. If parties want to increase targets, that is their problem. But what we don’t need is to keep a country in a space where we are constantly embroiled in lawsuits over election results, instead of formulating a government,” he added.

However, Malema welcomed the results of the elections, noting the discrepancies and unprofessional conduct, dysfunctional events and inconsistent results from different parts of the country.

Malema said: “The 2024 elections were not easy for the EFF, which fought not only against the ruling party but also against many puppets of the white, racial, capitalist establishment that existed as political parties and on various media platforms.”

He noted that the impact of the youth was palpable in these elections, and that the party is not desperate for positions.

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