South Africa’s main opposition party expects to overcome a slump in opinion polls and benefit from the emerging claims of graft during Jacob Zuma’s presidency as it seeks to boost its chances against the ruling African National Congress in general elections in May.
“The recent revelations about the ANC top leadership being heavily implicated in widespread corruption allegations is hurting that party,” Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane said in an interview Sunday in Cape Town.
Until the most recent investigations and testimony at an inquiry into state graft that implicated government officials and business people involving billions of rand, opinion polls had showed a massive slide in the DA’s support.
A poll of 3 571 adults published last month by research company Ipsos indicated the DA would garner 14% of the vote and the populist Economic Freedom Fighters 9%. The ANC, which had dominated South African politics since the end of apartheid in 1994, was seen winning 61%.
Maimane said the party’s own surveys show it will win a bigger share of the national vote in May 8 elections than the 22% it secured five years ago. He rejected suggestions that infighting and several public-relations blunders may have cost the DA support.
“There is no way we can regress from the results of previous elections, our own internal polling is showing that,” he said. He declined to give details of the DA’s survey results.
The election race is still at an early stage and the DA could well perform better than opinion polls are indicating, according to Daniel Silke, the director of Political Futures Consultancy in Cape Town.
“The polls are predicting a softer support trend for the DA, but the more accurate numbers will only come out around March, after the party’s manifesto launch later this month,” Silke said. “I foresee a result for the DA as being similar to the 2014 elections, based on the current poll trends.’’
In its best performance, the DA won 27% support in a 2016 municipal vote and enlisted the help of the EFF to wrest control of Johannesburg, the economic hub, and the capital, Pretoria, away from the ANC.
Backing for the ANC slumped to a record low of 54% in that election, mainly due to disgruntlement with Zuma’s scandal-marred tenure. Yet municipal votes are not necessarily indicative of how parties will perform in national elections.
The ANC forced Zuma to quit in February last year after almost nine years as president and replaced him with its new leader Cyril Ramaphosa, who pledged to clamp down on graft and turn around the flagging economy.
While Ipsos said that the changeover helped restore public trust in the ANC, Maimane said the positive sentiment dissipated as a judicial commission of inquiry that’s probing graft during heard damning testimony implicating ruling party officials.
“Our own internal polls show us that the popular opinion in favour of Ramaphosa peaked in February last year,” Maimane said.
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