/ 12 April 2023

Can the Eastern Cape deliver the ANC two election landslides?

Anc Supporters 3357
The official opposition has accused the ruling party of playing for time after it was ordered to release the record of decision-making on public service appointments. (Photo: Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

As South Africa gears up for the 2024 national and provincial government elections,

one question on people’s minds is whether the ANC can retain power. The Eastern Cape is an ANC stronghold, and voter turnout is likely to be a key factor in determining the outcome of the election.

Recent polls suggest the ANC remains the most popular political party, with support ranging from 50% to 60%. But the party has been beset by internal divisions and allegations of corruption, and its support base has eroded somewhat in recent years.

In the Eastern Cape, the ANC has been the dominant political force for decades, winning more than 70% of the vote in the 2019 national election. But voter turnout in the province has been lower than the national average in recent years, with just 64% of eligible voters casting their ballots in the 2019 election. This is in contrast to the Western Cape, which has consistently had the highest voter turnout in the country, and where the opposition Democratic Alliance has traditionally been strongest.

One factor that may influence voter turnout in the Eastern Cape is its young people. It has one of the youngest populations in the country, with more than 40% of residents under the age of 25. This demographic group has traditionally been seen as more likely to support the ANC, given the party’s role in the struggle against apartheid and its history of delivering social services to disadvantaged communities.

Recent years have seen a rise in youth activism in the Eastern Cape, with young people organising around issues such as unemployment, education and housing. Some of these activists have been critical of the ANC, arguing that the party has failed to deliver on its promises to improve the lives of South Africans.

The high rates of unemployment, poverty and inequality, as well as the minimal support for rural and township youth in business, are major problems the ANC needs to address if it hopes to maintain and grow its support among young voters.

To win over these voters, the ANC will need to focus on policies that address the specific difficulties facing young people.

One of the major issues in the Eastern Cape is the high rate of unemployment, which is above 30% according to Statistics South Africa. The ANC will need to focus on creating more job opportunities, especially in rural areas, where unemployment is often higher than in urban areas. The party will also need to ensure that young people have access to the training because they need to be competitive in the job market.

Another issue is many young people in these areas have innovative ideas and entrepreneurial spirit, but they lack the support and resources they need to start and grow their businesses. The ANC will need to develop policies that provide funding and support for young entrepreneurs, such as the ongoing initiative by Minister of Small Business Development Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, which focuses on spaza shops. The initiative needs to be tailored for the benefit of Eastern Cape rural and township youth.

The ANC will also need to address social and cultural issues that include addressing the high levels of poverty and inequality, as well as access to education, healthcare and other services. If the ANC is able to address these issues effectively and develop policies that speak to the concerns of young people in the Eastern Cape, it is possible that the party could see a greater majority in the province. But this will require a concerted effort on the part of the party, as well as a willingness to listen and talk to young voters.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Mail & Guardian.