South Africa’s elections will not bring change

South Africa’s national elections on 29 May will not result in significant policy changes as the ruling ANC will remain the dominant political force, and its reform agenda will remain in place. 

This is feedback from business leaders at some of South Africa’s largest companies, who said they do not expect significant changes as a result of the country’s elections later this year. 

According to a survey by the Brenthurst Foundation and the SABI Strategy Group, the ANC’s support may have dropped below 40% nationally. 

The finding suggests the country “will almost certainly” have a coalition government after elections on May 29, with the ANC losing ground to MK and the main opposition DA. 

The Brenthurst Foundation’s poll showed that the ANC’s support shrunk to 39%. It is down from 41% and 44% in polls conducted in October 2023 and November 2022, respectively.

The party’s failure to end a national electricity crisis, the collapse of state port and rail infrastructure, rampant crime and state corruption have left the party facing its toughest electoral test since it came to power three decades ago.

Despite this declining support, business leaders expect the country’s policies to remain largely unchanged as the ANC will remain the dominant political force. 

Standard Bank Group CEO Sim Tshabalala said in the company’s annual report that its base case is that the country’s policies will remain largely unchanged. 

“Our base case is that policy continuity will be largely maintained after the election, including the current administration’s programme of structural reform, a path that will gradually improve South Africa’s economic performance,” he said in his CEO’s report. 

However, Tshabalala said that uncertainty in the build-up to the election will limit investment in South Africa and, thus, economic growth. 

The bank’s South Africa CEO, Lungisa Fuzile, echoed Tshabalala in saying that no fundamental changes are expected to come as a result of the election. 

“We do not anticipate that the election outcome will lead to a change in policy direction. Accordingly, the continued gradual policy reform should be growth-supportive over time,” Fuzile said. 

Standard Bank CEO Sim Tshabalala
Standard Bank CEO Sim Tshabalala

Outgoing Nedbank CEO Mike Brown said on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum earlier this year that the ANC will be central to any future government in South Africa. 

The collapse of state-owned enterprises and state-run institutions has led many to believe the country needs political change and that change will occur in this year’s elections. 

However, Brown does not believe the ANC can be dismissed as a political force, and its policies will continue to be those of the national government for some time. 

“If you stand back and look at it from a policy point of view, the polls may indicate the ANC is losing support, but central to any government going forward will be the ANC and the policies they currently have,” he said. 

The ANC’s policies are largely correct in addressing South Africa’s major challenges but have taken far too long to implement. 

“Certainly, as business, we would want accelerated delivery of government’s stated economic policies because that is what is hindering economic growth.”

Rating agency Fitch also said at the beginning of the year that the ANC could lose its majority in the 2024 election but said this would not lead to major changes in economic policy. 

Under elevated socio-political risks, Fitch highlighted the ANC’s bid for power in the 2024 general election.

It said the ANC’s dominance over the country’s political landscape has been challenged since the party’s poor performance in the November 2021 municipal elections. 

“We believe the party could lose its majority in the May 2024 general election, but this would be unlikely to result in major changes in economic policy,” the agency said.