If South Africans could choose their next president…

POTCHEFSTROOM, SOUTH AFRICA – OCTOBER 21: North West University (NWU) students gather during Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa’s visit on October 21, 2017 in Potchefstroom, South Africa. Ramaphosa met with businessmen and farmers before addressing an OR Tambo lecture organised by the South African Students’ Congress. (Photo by Gallo Images / Rapport / Elizabeth Sejake)

Established in 1998, the futurefact survey has been reporting on our rapidly changing society for nearly 20 years.

The latest survey, futurefact 2017 based on 3000 individuals, has just been released. It is a national survey, only excluding rural communities of fewer than 500 individuals. It focuses on the 18+ age sector – where the voting power lies.

Pertinent to the current preoccupation on who ANC members will select for their next president is an interesting adjunct to that question: if it was up to them, who would the South African public choose?

Without doubt and consistent with previous years, the vast majority of South Africans would like a system where the people choose the president rather than have party members doing so (82% agree a lot, 11% a little).

In 2017 the preferred candidate for president has hardened in favour of Cyril Ramaphosa – who was selected by twice as many as those who chose Nkosasana Dlamini-Zuma (27% vs 13%) – whereas a year ago they were neck and neck at 22% each.

But there are also substantial numbers who say ‘none of the proposed candidates’ (from a list of 8 that we provided) or else don’t know. It is possible that the 21% ‘don’t knows’ are so-called swing voters – and could be convinced one way or another.

This picture holds whether we interrogate the better educated against the less well educated or under 35 year olds compared with the over 35’s. The gap narrows slightly if we look at the different genders for the country as a whole but not substantially so with females being slightly more likely to choose the female candidate, but not so that it would unseat the Ramaphosa lead.

If we dig deeper into the characteristics of the various ‘voters’, we find that all provinces other than KwaZulu-Natal would prefer Ramaphosa as their president. An aggregation of the provinces other than KZN reveals 27% in favour of Ramaphosa and only 9% in favour of Dlamini-Zuma whereas in KZN it is 32% for Dlamini-Zuma vs 22% for Ramaphosa.

Interestingly though, it is black African women in KZN who are swaying the vote in favour of a female presidential candidate whereas if it was left to the men, Ramaphosa would lead slightly (27% vs 24%) even in KZN.

None of the other prospective ANC candidates that we listed (Baleka Mbete, Lindiwe Sisulu, Mathews Phosa, Gwede Mantashe) had any noteworthy degree of support in any provinces or with any sectors. Nor for that matter was there significant support for party leaders Mmusi Maimane and Julius Malema except with their core bases, though there were still a fair number of ‘don’t know’ and ‘none’ even among their base of supporters.

This is also interesting in view of the party political stage where there is evidence of a destabilisation of the ANC.

It is probably reflective of the degree of disillusionment with politicians in general that those whose bonds are loosening with the ANC as a party do not generally appear to be finding an alternative political home in either the DA or the EFF.  In view of the exponential decline in trust and confidence in President Jacob Zuma, it is possible that the ANC’s supporter base may strengthen prior to the next election should Ramaphosa win the presidential nomination.

Perhaps future futurefact surveys will confirm that but time will tell.

– Jos Kuper is a research professional of more than 40 years experience and founded Kuper Research, a consultancy specialising in media, marketing and socio-political analysis. She is one of the independent researchers responsible for the futurefact survey.