Early results show that the ANC did indeed lose much support, but it lost almost none of it to the Democratic Alliance.

It is risky to pen an editorial about election results when only 20.43% of the vote has been counted, but deadlines are deadlines.

While much can still change as the count continues, one thing is already clear: the South African electorate is not very interested in change. It is happy with socialism and corruption and seems to want more of it.

On several occasions in recent years, commentators associated with the Institute of Race Relations have pointed out that support for the African National Congress (ANC) varies with the performance of the economy. That is, people vote not purely out of party loyalty, but to some degree they vote their material conditions.

Rising support for the ANC, from 62.6% in 1994 to a peak of 69.7% in 2004, as material conditions improved, followed by declining support in each of the subsequent national elections down to 57.5% in 2019, seems to support that idea.


In truth, the decline in 2009 isn’t entirely explained by this thesis – and is better explained by the breakaway of the Congress of the People (COPE). South Africa grew fairly strongly – and unemployment was declining – up until 2008, when the impact of the global financial crisis rolled ashore. The true decline into corruption and stagnation only started in 2009, which one might expect to see reflected in the 2014 election results.

Conversely, the Democratic Alliance (DA) came off a miniscule base of 1.7% in 1994 to reach 9.6% in 1999, 12.4% in 2004, 16.7% in 2009, and 22.2% in 2014, before slumping back to a disappointing 20.8% in 2019 under the leadership of Mmusi Maimane.

Consistently rising support for the DA suggested that the party’s liberal values and track record of relatively clean and effective governance were gaining increasing support among South Africans.

One thing that emerges from the 2024 election’s early results, however, is that the advance of liberal values appears to have stopped, and a large part of South Africa’s population just isn’t interested.

In 2019, the combined vote for the ANC and the EFF was 68.3%, not far off the ANC’s all-time-high of 69.7%. In 2014, the ANC and EFF together received 68.5%, again in the same ballpark. In 2009, the combined share of the ANC and its spinoff, COPE, was a mighty 73.3%.

End of dominance

It is true that the long-awaited end of the ANC’s outright majority appears to have arrived. At the time of writing, the ANC had 43.4% of the vote according to the IEC, while News24’s election analyst, Dawie Scholtz, projected a final result of 42.3%.

If something like that projection holds, that would be a staggering decline of 15.2% from the ANC’s 2019 result.

The EFF appears to be on track to lose a little ground, with an actual vote share of 8.8% and a projected total of 9%, down from 10.8% in 2019.

The DA’s share of the vote doesn’t appear to be moving all that much, either. The IEC has it at 24.8% at the time of writing, and Scholtz’s projection put it at 21.8%, which is only a marginal improvement from its 20.8% result in 1999.

The bulk of the damage to the ANC’s support is being caused by the MK Party, which has the great villain of state capture, Jacob Zuma, on its posters. The IEC gives it 8% of the vote at the time of writing, while Scholtz’s projection gives it a massive 13.6%. (By comparison, COPE could only manage 7.42% of the vote in its first rodeo, and the EFF won 6.4% its first time out.)

Inescapable conclusion

If Scholtz’s projection holds – and I reiterate: I write this on the afternoon of 30 May, with only 20.43% of the vote counted – one inescapable conclusion emerges.

The ANC, plus the EFF, plus MK, represent about 65% of the vote, close to the two-thirds support that the ANC (or ANC+COPE, or ANC+EFF) has always had.

Journalist Tom Eaton put it well: ‘So it turns out that about 64% of South Africans still want the ANC in power. The only changes are that (based on current projections) 42% want the bit that’s owned by Ramaphosa, 13% want the bit that’s owned by Zuma, and 8% want the bit that’s owned by Malema.’

South Africa’s electorate might not be loyal to the ANC proper, but it certainly is loyal to the politics of liberation socialism, and doesn’t seem to be deterred by corruption and stagnation at all.

It is hidebound. It has fixed opinions and habits and is unwilling to change or be influenced by new ideas.

Dispiriting evidence

The other side of that coin is the dispiriting evidence that the ideas of classical liberalism are not making much headway, even though they offer a clear ideological alternative to the mire of socialist stagnation and corruption in which South Africa finds itself.

Not only does the DA not appear to be attracting support beyond 20% to 25%, but a phalanx of new parties that were supposed to inject new political ideas into the mix also appear to be stillborn.

Again, much of the vote has yet to be counted, but as it stands, Herman Mashaba’s ActionSA has only 0.8% of the vote, while Mmusi Maimane’s Build One South Africa (BOSA) and Zongeso Zibi’s Rise Mzansi each have 0.32%. Scholtz’s projection puts them at 1%, 0.3% and 0.4%, respectively.

That would give ActionSA a mere four seats in the National Assembly, while the other two are on track for only a single seat each. At R91.8 million in large-donor funding for ActionSA, R32 million for Rise Mzansi, and R16.8 million for BOSA, these must be the most expensive seats ever bought in Parliament.

Of the small parties, only the xenophobic opportunists at the Patriotic Alliance appear to be doing better than expected, with 4.1% of the vote so far, though its projected total is only 2.2%.

Plus ça change

Ultimately, it looks like the vote share for liberal values will only end up one or two points higher than the share of the vote the DA wins. Conservative parties (not counting the ANC itself, which is both conservative and socialist) account for perhaps another 5%, at most.

South Africa, then, remains divided along ideological lines, with 65% support for socialist ideas, and between 25% and 30% support for growth-friendly values like the rule of law, limited government, property rights and free markets.

As exciting as it is to see the ANC fall below 50% support in the 2024 election, upon reflection, all we can say is plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The views of the writer are not necessarily the views of the Daily Friend or the IRR.

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Image: Divided country, a composite image based on ‘Red VS Blue’ by lostERROR on deviantart.com, a map from southafricamap360.com, and a background by rawpixel.com.


Ivo Vegter is a freelance journalist, columnist and speaker who loves debunking myths and misconceptions, and addresses topics from the perspective of individual liberty and free markets.