The ANC and DA are neck-and-neck in the polls among urban voters seven months before next year's general election, a shock Sunday Times survey shows.
Unhappiness with the direction in which the country is headed and with the events of the past week — including the ousting of president Thabo Mbeki — have lost the ruling party a swathe of support in mainly urban areas, a survey by Ipsos Markinor conducted this week shows.
The survey of 1500 South Africans — conducted between Tuesday and Thursday — was intended to gauge public opinion on the political events.
It is representative of the population with landline telephones, according to researcher Mari Harris. There are about 4.6 million landlines in South Africa, including business, according to Statistics SA.
The study also found that:
- South Africans are intending to turn out en masse for the election next year;
- Mbeki is still more popular than his arch-rival, ANC president Jacob Zuma, among urban voters; and
- New president Kgalema Motlanthe is more popular among ANC voters than Mbeki or Zuma.
But the most shocking finding was that fewer than three in 10 respondents (27%) would vote for the ruling ANC if the election were held tomorrow.
About 26% of participants would vote for the opposition DA, while 27% are undecided.
The DA has apparently gained ground in the Western Cape and Gauteng, according to Harris.
Those pledging support for the ANC were:
- Blacks — 55%;
- Whites — 7%;
- Coloureds — 13%; and
- Indians 21%.
Conversely only 4% of blacks would vote for the DA compared with 46% of whites, 36% of coloureds and 15% of Indians.
Close on 10% of respondents said they would not vote. The Independent Democrats and Freedom Front+ garnered support of 1.6% each, the Inkatha Freedom Party 0.8% and a new party founded by disgruntled ANC members only 0.9%.
Despite his ousting, Mbeki is still more popular than his arch-rival, ANC president Jacob Zuma, getting a 5.95 favourability rating out of 10. Zuma scored only 3.89.
Motlanthe was also favourably viewed (5.52), as was former deputy president Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka (5). New deputy president Baleka Mbete has a 4.68 rating.
Mbeki scored slightly higher than Zuma in the popularity stakes among blacks, with a favourability rating of 6.1 against 5.87. Zuma's popularity rating was lowest among coloured respondents at 2.
Motlanthe was the most popular among blacks, with a rating of 6.47. He was also the most popular with ANC voters at a rating of 6.82. Zuma had a rating of 6.74 among ANC voters versus 5.75 for Mbeki.
Most respondents ( 52%) said South Africa was "going in the wrong direction". Only 24% felt South Africa was heading in the right direction, with whites (16%) and coloureds (15%) the most pessimistic.
ANC voters were more optimistic, with 44% saying the country was heading in the right direction against 35% who thought the future was bleak.
Recent political developments have left a majority of respondents wanting to vote in the next election.
More than seven in 10 participants (71%) said they were very likely or likely to cast a vote next year, with whites most enthusiastic at 79%, followed by 66% of black and coloured respondents and 71% of Indians.
Despite the uncertainty of the past week, more than half of respondents — 51% — were still optimistic about the future of South Africa versus 31% who were pessimistic, but 65% said they were "insecure" about the country's political direction.
Close on three in every 10 participants (27%) said they would now consider emigrating.
Seven in 10 respondents (71%) thought the ANC was "too powerful" and 59% thought the sacking of Mbeki was an act of retaliation for firing Zuma. More than eight in 10 respondents — 85% — thought Mbeki should have been allowed to finish his term.
Only 40% supported Motlanthe's appointment while 33% disagreed with it.
An overwhelming proportion of participants — 71% — also felt there should be a commission of inquiry into the arms deal.
However, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said it would be a surprise if the ANC and DA were neck-and-neck, "unless it was in the Western Cape".
Harris conceded that a study conducted in April, involving 3500 interviews with members of households across the country, had indicated that 69% of rural dwellers would vote for the ruling party against 9.5% for the DA.
"The ANC's support is much stronger in the rural areas," she said.
Political analyst Xolela Mangcu disagreed that the ANC and DA could be neck-and-neck: "It's impossible. It will never happen given the racial demographics of this country. "
FF Plus chief whip Corne Mulder agreed: "I think it's a knee-jerk reaction to what has happened in the past week. "
Mangcu and Mulder said Mbeki was benefiting from a perception that he had been treated unfairly.
Mangcu added: "What it demonstrates about Zuma, though, is that even though he may be popular within the party, he may be very unpopular among the general population, which may have implications for how the ANC will perform in the elections next year."
Mangcu predicted that Motlanthe would garner more support as he "gets better known".
But UDM leader Bantu Holomisa said: "These results show that the honeymoon for the ANC is over. The one-party state has no future in South Africa. "
DA leader Helen Zille said the survey was "encouraging".
"It shows there is a new fluidity in South African politics, which opens exciting possibilities," she added
On why Mbeki's resignation sends an egative message:
"The most important reason is that everyone knows the Zuma faction is looking for a political solution to Jacob Zuma's legal problem. So everybody suspects that this has nothing to do with a principle; its got everything to do with the Zuma faction trying to usurp power so that they can get Zuma off the legal hook
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