ANC hangs onto Gauteng, but it’s a whole new political world

ANALYSIS

The ANC has retained the Gauteng province.

In a nail-biting finish to the most hotly contested election since 1994, the party has managed to obtain over 2-million votes which ensured it 37 seats in the provincial legislature.

This is just enough to obtain the majority to elect the premier and the speaker.

The narrow ANC win in Gauteng, with just 50%, has implications for the party in the province and nationally as well as opposition parties.

READ MORE: A nail biting finish for the ANC in Gauteng

Firstly, while claiming the 2019 victory, the ANC in Gauteng remains at risk with the next local government election taking place in just two years time.

The Mail & Guardian understands that the party believed it would have to begin campaigning for that election as early as possible in order to ensure that it can reclaim ground gained by opposition parties in the 2016 local election.

Secondly, the ANC cannot afford disunity and ill discipline in its provincial caucus — the party’s chief whip would have to ensure 100% attendance in the legislature for all key votes.

Lastly, the party in the province itself will have to ensure that it is working toward a common vision to reclaim the province.

This may be a tall order given that the provincial leadership is comprised of slates from the two factions who contested the election, a “unity” arrangement mirroring that elected at national level at the Nasrec conference is also at play in Gauteng.

The leadership includes a grouping led by Mzwandile Masina, who himself is aligned to ANC secretary general Ace Magashule, who has positioned himself as the face of the fightback against President Cyril Ramaphosa in the party.

Bruising factional fights would intensify the already very high risk of an outright loss of the province in 2024 for the ANC. It’s own research showed that infighting is a stark turn-off for Gauteng voters.

The ANC retaining Gauteng without requiring a coalition partner dampens the ambitions of the Economic Freedom Fighters, who were adamant that they would be entering government posts through coalition agreements in this election.

The ANC win effectively prevented the EFF from obtaining government posts through a coalition arrangement to govern Gauteng and with it, access to government resources.

However, there is another opportunity for the EFF, who still holds significant sway in both the Tshwane and Johannesburg municipalities. The party could negotiate to return one of the metros, most likely Tshwane, to the ANC in return for it obtaining posts in the municipality.

The relationship between the EFF and the DA has grown hostile, with leader Julius Malema saying he will not enter a coalition with Maimane’s party. Whether this extends to the cooperation arrangement with the DA in Tshwane and Johannesburg remains to be seen.

The 2019 election result could still bring with it a massive shake-up in the two key metros.

The DA is the opposition party facing the largest risk after its failure to increase its share of the vote in Gauteng enough to reduce the ANC to below 50%. It’s support actually declined in Gauteng from 31% in 2014 to 28% in 2019. Aside from losing control of Tshwane and potentially Johannesburg through the EFF shifting out of the cooperation agreement it held with the party, it has to grow its support in the province which regressed in this election. While the DA declined, the EFF posted strong growth in support in Gauteng from 10% in 2014 to 15% in 2019.

The 2019 election has ushered in a new era of politics for the Gauteng province, an era of scrutiny and accountability not witnessed yet – how the ANC responds could make or break the party, not just in Gauteng, but nationally, given that the province is home to the highest number of registered voters.

The make-up of the provincial legislature as well as Premier David Makhura’s incoming government is its first test.

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