Former president Jacob Zuma. (Getty)
President Cyril Ramaphosa may have to rely on his political foes in KwaZulu-Natal — including former president Jacob Zuma, who tried to privately prosecute him — if he wants to reclaim the province.
The ANC Youth League has already declared that as the KwaZulu-Natal heavyweight, Zuma must be roped in to ensure a decisive victory in the 2024 elections.
A recent poll by the Social Research Foundation (SRF) sampling 2 434 registered voters across KwaZulu-Natal demonstrated Zuma’s popularity in the province despite being cast into the wilderness by the ANC.
According to the poll, Zuma was favoured at 80% in the party while Ramaphosa was favoured at 54%.
The poll also found that Zuma was still popular among all races, polling at 63.1%, while Ramaphosa showed 31.6% popularity.
But Zuma was, at 75%, more popular among black people, than Ramaphosa at 31.6%. The president was better favoured by white people (33%), Indians (20%) and coloureds (29%).
The poll suggested that 46% of all races felt Zuma was treated unfairly by the ANC, the majority of those black people (53%). But 31.7% of those polled from all races believed that Zuma had been treated fairly by the governing party.
When asked whether the ANC’s treatment of Zuma has affected how they would vote for the ANC, 28.4% said they would no longer vote for the party while 36.2% said it would not make a difference.
The ANC is likely to focus its 2024 election machinery in the KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, where it stands to lose its majority to coalition governments.
According to the SRF’s research, the ANC will dip to 42% in the event of a 66% turnout. But this decreases to 39% on a voter turnout of 59% and reduces further to 38% if the turnout is 52%.
In the provincial ballot, the ANC is unlikely to reclaim its majority in KwaZulu-Natal with or without a high turnout of voters, the poll found. It suggested the ANC would lose its majority, receiving 40% with a 66% turnout and 41% with a low turnout of 49% of voters.
KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng account for the lion’s share of the ANC’s voters. In 2021, the ANC received 5.25 million votes, with more than two million of them coming from the two provinces. This translates to 37.7% of the ANC’s national vote.
In 2019, the ANC received a little over 10 million votes, of which 4.44 million came from Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, the equivalent of 44.3% of the voter share.
According to the Electoral Commission of South Africa, Gauteng has the largest registered voter block, with 23.45%, while KwaZulu-Natal comes a close second at 20.79%. The Eastern Cape has the third-largest voter registration numbers (12.42%).
“If you do badly in those two provinces and, of course, traditionally badly in Western Cape, you’re really going to struggle to get over 50%,” political analyst Richard Calland previously told the Mail & Guardian.
“If the ANC can’t get its act together in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, if there’s a hung parliament in KwaZulu-Natal, what that does is it gives the IFP [Inkatha Freedom Party] quite a bit of leverage in terms of negotiations.”
The IFP and Democratic Alliance in KwaZulu-Natal have signed a cooperation agreement regarding by-elections, which has seen them win crucial wards. Just last month, the IFP’s Sibusiso Ndunakazi won ward 13 in uMhlathuze local municipality, which covers Richards Bay and Empangeni, in a by-election in which the DA did not field a candidate and backed Ndunakazi instead. The ward was previously held by the ANC.
As reported by the M&G, the strategy has also paid off in eThekwini, Mthonjaneni and in other KwaZulu-Natal municipalities and has helped change the balance of power at local government level away from the previously dominant ANC.