Rural voters turn their backs on the ANC

President Jacob Zuma and the ANC should not bank on rural voters continuing to overlook the scandals swirling around the party, political analysts caution. 

CLEAN BREAK: Residents of water-starved Malamulele in Limpopo use Luvuvhu River to do their laundry, wash cars and fish. Support for the ANC in most rural provinces, such as Limpopo, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal, has been on the decline because of nondelivery of services Picture: MOELETSI MABE

The Times visited rural communities in Limpopo, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape to ask voters their opinion of the ruling party and the concerns they would like to place on the national agenda.

Growing dissatisfaction with the ANC began to manifest at the polls during the 2016 local government elections, with the party’s support plummeting more than 8 percentage points to 54.5%.

In Limpopo the party garnered 78.60% in the 2014 national elections but took a knock in the 2016 local government elections, declining to 69.10%. In Mpumalanga the ANC scored 78.23% in 2014 but dropped to 71.03% in 2016. In KwaZulu-Natal, its support was 64.52% in 2014 and 57.79% in 2016.

Ralph Mathekga, a political analyst at the Mapungubwe Institute of Strategic Reflection in Johannesburg, commenting on the 2016 voting patterns, said: “We can attribute this to parties, such as the EFF and the DA, who have made their presence felt. The ANC should not expect to see the same support it saw before [in rural areas]. It experienced losses in urban areas and it can no longer count heavily on the rural vote,” he said.

Professor Lucky Mathebula, research associate at Tshwane University of Technology, however, believes the party remains powerful in rural areas as this is where the party was seen to have delivered the most, with increased access to running water and electricity.

“[Zuma’s leadership] is a significant factor in the party’s decline but also the councillors, who are the face of the party in local government in terms of what they do on the ground,” he said.