AZANIA/SOUTH AFRICA Black Voters Punish the ANC

One of the key lessons from the 8 May General Elections was that the ANC, which has been in power since 1994 in alliance with the Communist Party and the COSATU trade union federation, has lost 1.4 million votes [1]. This was the ANC’s lowest vote share since 1994; it lost votes in every province. The votes that were lost did not go to the main party defending the white capitalist minority, the Democratic Alliance, which itself lost 470,000 votes. 

So what happened to the 1.4 million voters who defected from the ANC? 

In a country where the Black majority won the right to vote through bloodshed, barely 25 years ago, a large number did not turn out. Almost 10 million voting-age citizens did not register. The number of people who did not vote has also gone up. Those who did not register and did not vote are mostly the youth who live in the townships [the suburban areas earmarked for Black people during Apartheid Ed. Note] and informal settlements 

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), which increased its share by 700,000 votes compared to 2014, benefits most from the ANC’s setback. The party was founded in the aftermath of the Marikana massacre [2] by Julius Malema, the former leader of the ANC Youth League, from which he had been expelled. The EFF calls for the nationalisation of mines and the return of the land to the Black majority. In a country where 70% of the land is still in the hands of big white landowners, the result shows the Black people’s deep-rooted longing for the expropriation of the land without compensation and the nationalisation of mines. On the other side of the spectrum, white voters’ fears regarding increased pressure for land reform were expressed in support for the right-wing Freedom Front Plus (VF Plus), [3] which increased its votes from 165,715 in 2014 to 414,844 in 2019. 

Since 1994, every election has seen portions of the electorate turn away from the ANC. This time the victim has been the government led by Cyril Ramaphosa. His government has introduced a minimum wage, which the SAFTU trade union federation called a “slave wage”, and it launched a raft of privatisations, thus expressing its submission to the capitalists and the International Monetary Fund. 

Such a policy stems from the very nature of the institutions created as a result of the agreement forged in 1994 between the ANC leaders and the representatives of the former racist Apartheid regime, which preserves the interests of the white capitalist minority and the domination of mining multinational corporations. 

With unemployment rate standing at 55% among the blacks it is not surprising that 10 millions – a majority of youth among them – express their disillusionment by not even bothering to register. Massive unemployment and abject poverty make the need for radical change unavoidable. This is the challenge for the working class movement which has to face the entrenchment of Cyril Ramaphosa in implementing structural reforms to attract investments, destroying workers’ rights, and a token land reform that does not meet the needs of the majority.  


(1) Compared to the results of the 2014 elections. 

(2) On 16 August 2012, 34 Black miners who had gone on strike in Marikana were massacred by the police sent by the ANC government. The day before, Cyril Ramaphosa, the current South African president and a principal Lonmin mining company shareholder, had sent an email urging the police to put down the strike. 

(3) Freedom Front Plus was formed in 1994 to protect Afrikaner interests