Post-Election Analysis: The Results, The Rand And The Rage
The elections have come and gone and strangely, despite a dismal voter turnout the hullabaloo is waning for the most part.
The stark difference, of course, compared to our previous election, is that the country no longer have a common enemy and shared outrage given that former president Zuma is no longer on the throne.
Nevertheless, there is real cause for concern, and we’d be wise to take a closer look at the state of our nation. Rand Rescue gives you the breakdown.
Then and now: what has changed
The most noteworthy changes between the 2014 and 2019 national elections are the voter turnout and distribution of votes across the spectrum.
The voter turnout had fallen a great deal, which speaks volumes about South Africans’ confidence in their country. In fact, the only voting population which saw a growth from 2014 to 2019 was the expat group of South Africans, but given the number of South Africans living abroad, it’s still rather shocking to see that of the millions living in foreign countries there were only close to 20 000 votes cast abroad. And yet many South African expats complained that it came down to a lack of voting stations overseas or that they felt their status as expats mute their voices within country borders.
Below is a comparison of the voter turnout per province from 2014 to 2019:
• Eastern Cape: 2 278 555 to 2 052 818 = -225 737
• Free State: 1 051 072 to 918 313 = -132 759
• Gauteng: 4 638 981 to 4 580 286 = -58 695
• KwaZulu Natal: 3 935 771 to 3 715 985 = -219 786
• Limpopo: 1 543 986 to 1 530 837 = -13 149
• Mpumalanga: 1 408 269 to 1 290 908 = -117 361
• North West: 1 147 786 to 1 012 250 = -135 536
• Northern Cape: 443 714 to 417 248 = -26 466
• Western Cape: 2 188 236 to 2 133 062 = -55 174
• Out of Country: 18 446 to 19 909 = +1 463
We’ve created an infographic to show the election comparison for the top 10 parties from 2014 to 2019.
The change in voter distribution
Despite much protest from South Africans within country borders against the corruption and mismanagement which has hounded the ruling party in the past few years, it seems investor sentiment did not quite agree with ANC critics.
It’s a bit of a conundrum, for although the world had been highly vocal about its outrage at former president Zuma’s antics, their new commander in chief is deemed most suitable to lead the country from an investor standpoint.
Zuma’s slip in the elections, although a win for non-ANC supporters, is deemed a matter of great concern by economists.
To put it in perspective, the ANC vote which dropped 4.65% from 62,15% to 57,50% has broader implications. Editor and former journalist Riaan de Villiers states that, should one take into account voter turnout, the ANC’s share of the vote drops to 35% and when considering the registration rate, they hold a mere 27,9% of South Africa’s vote as a whole. Furthermore, given that the previous votes were cast at a time when Jacob Zuma still ruled the country with a less than honourable hand, foreign outlook on SA may become less than rosy. Foreign investors had been looking keenly on President Ramaphosa as the one who would break the wheel of injustice and sway the masses.
On the upside, many believe it a good thing that some opposition parties have gained traction while smaller parties have been rooted out of government. 2019 saw a total of 34 parties miss out on a seat in parliament compared to 16 in 2014. In fact, the biggest winner in the elections seems to be the IEC or South African Revenue Fund, which gained R16,7 million in forfeited deposits for parties who failed to secure seats.
A different concern is the fact that those parties who lost the greater part of the vote — the ANC and DA — are arguably more centralist, with parties who are further right and left wing oriented gaining increasing popularity among South Africans. This is particularly true of the EFF and FF+ who saw exponential growth in support in the 2019 elections — two parties who have been bumping heads for years. The radicals versus the nationalists. It may not be the no.1 fight as yet, but it seems we’re bound to see both parties grow in coming years.
Though this may theoretically create a parliament which is fairer and more balanced, it could also spell trouble for SA in the future. We’re already seeing a rise in extremist and nationalistic political views throughout the world, with an increasing polarisation in governments. Given South Africa’s fragile democracy and economy, an accelerated loss of votes by the two major parties to those parties with more extreme views on things like economy, land ownership, broad based black economic empowerment, gender equality, religion and service delivery could create even more strife and unrest in the country. Perhaps the message from South Africans of all creeds is that they’re tired of feeble promises and long term solutions; South Africans want action, and they want it now!
The ANC seems to be of the mind that Ramaphosa had not cost the ANC its vote but had, in fact, staved off defeat by taking over the reins. This is possible given that he’s not had much time to correct the impact of his predecessor, but it’s also likely that voters who have traditionally voted for the ANC have not forgotten Marikana, or that they don’t trust a president who is so far removed from his people.
The DA’s loss of voters has been ascribed to a lack of direction and political dithering on matters important to the populace. Many believe Mmusi Maimane’s campaigning before the elections to have been insincere and confusing. In an effort to retain and grow the primary opposition party, the DA seemed to have sought diplomacy and political correctness to such an extent that their following don’t quite know what the party represents anymore. On the other hand, though political badmouthing and drama is acceptable and even lauded in some camps — especially among more radical groups — for the habitually mild and diplomatic DA follower, a campaign built primarily on the criticism of the ruling party did not seem to cut it; such a campaign does not enhance the credibility of the opposition and merely makes them appear petty and inept. Add to that the squabbling within DA ranks and Maimane truly had his work cut out.
On the slow and steady sits the IFP, a party which has also seen renewed interest with a slight 1% growth from 2014. The outcome is surprising given that its leader, Dr Mangosuthu Buthelezi, had announced his intended resignation from parliament in the runup to the election following the death of his wife, Princess Irene Buthelezi. This resignation was swiftly recanted, or perhaps the media had been deliberately obfuscating — what transpired was that Buthelezi would no longer be a candidate for reelection as IFP leader, but eager to remain in parliament. It is therefore not clear what prompted the voter gains for the IFP, as some attribute it to a walk-over from the ANC.
Nevertheless, the Rand has remained relatively steady in 2019, despite a big event like a national election now done and dusted, standing at 14,1691 to the US Dollar compared to 14,3693 on 1 January 2019. If one gazes back a bit further, however, the rand was much stronger a year ago, at ZAR 12,4380 against the USD and it’s inconceivable that we’ll reach the ZAR 6,250 against the USD that we enjoyed thirteen years ago anytime soon.
The problem, therefore, is not necessarily that we’ve maintained some stability, but that the country has not managed to rise from the ashes. This had been the hope of many when president Ramaphosa took the steer, but despite his undoubted acumen, it seems almost impossible that any one man will be able to weed out the rotten apples and treat the festering wounds which are hampering our economy. On the one hand his cadres are expecting much of the same from him in the ANC, while the voters are looking to him to clean out the closet. It’s a political tightrope where balance is key, and yet also hard to manage. Given the outcome of the elections, the presidency will find it increasingly difficult to remain mum on issues he’s managed to tip-toe around for a while. And the outcomes will, perhaps
What about South Africa’s economy?
The greatest concerns for South Africans are undoubtedly the persistent misappropriation of taxpayer monies, lack of service delivery and mismanagement of State Owned Enterprises (SOEs).
With Eskom having announced exorbitant price hikes to curb its 420-billion debt crisis, South Africans are quite dumbfounded at the energy regulator’s announced that will assist Zimbabwe in its energy crisis, given that the regulator itself is prone to energy generation losses of up to 40%. Of course, it is not South Africa’s purported generosity which quells South Africans, but the generosity at the expense of its countrymen.
Then there is the steady and unabated fuel price increase which seems to conflate all our other troubles. Such increases affect each and all, from businesses who need cover transportation and delivery costs to workers and students making their way to their destinations. This also hikes up the cost of supplies and sundries.
Another compound disaster which came to light this week is Gift of the Givers’ announcement that they are withdrawing from Makhanda. The municipality in the Eastern Cape was given a ray of hope earlier this year after a water crisis which saw the area flagged as a disaster zone. The charity was approached to assist the municipality and struck a ‘good faith’ agreement with the government — offering immediate assistance in exchange of a promise that funding would be reimbursed at the soonest. The NGO had, within a few days, restored water supply at a cost of R15 million (with the projected cost for the completed project set at R23 million). Yet before the project had even been completed, the Department of Water and Sanitation had informed Gift of the Givers that only companies in the Grahamstown area are allowed compensation for drought intervention. Even more absurd — the funding for the project would still be paid, but to companies who had not even been part of the project. Approximately R10 million in taxpayer money is to be given to organisations who had not taken part in the intervention but were awarded due to their proximity alone.
It is the type of corruption one might expect under Zuma’s reign, but sadly it’s clear that such behaviour is par for the course. Not only has the government halted drought intervention, but it has paid public funds to businesses who had performed no work and furthermore left one of our greatest non-profit organisations with a R15-million loss.
These are but a few examples of the calamities which continue to hound South Africa, and sadly it’s our future leaders who are feeling it the most. Among the most vocal abstainers in this election were the youth, with the lowest voter turnout in twenty years. Many youths have stated that none of the political parties have their concerns at heart or follow through on their promises. With the unemployment rate at 27,6% the country has the third lowest youth employment rate (ages 15 to 24) in the world.
Daily Maverick reports that there is a great mismatch between skills distribution — we don’t have the skills our economy needs and furthermore that we would need to compete with extremely cheap labour in large-scale operations on a global scale which is not feasible for such an unequal society.
Added to this, many smaller businesses are struggling to balance operational costs against wage increases and other governmental red tape which favours organisations of a certain dispensation. In fact the Enterprise observatory of South Africa found that SA has lost 83 000 businesses in the financial and business sector within a decade (2007 to 2017) which they ascribe to:
• The financial crisis of 2007 – 2008 which businesses have not bounced back from
• Increased regulatory and compliance burdens
• The cost of crime in SA
• Increased loss of skills and investment through immigration and offshore activity
Where does this leave us?
For the most part, the Rand has remained ‘steady’ and investors have not failed us yet. The fact remains, however, that what South Africa needs right now is not merely stability, but maximal positive growth and drastic action against corruption if we’re to keep heads above water. Will that happen? It’s but a guessing game.
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