South Africa

Business leaders banking on ANC retaining political power 

South African banking executives believe that despite the ANC’s declining support, they will remain the dominant political power after the election, and policy will remain largely unchanged. 

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.

Various opinion polls have shown the ANC will lose its parliamentary majority for the first time since 1994, forcing it into a coalition with the opposition. 

“We are heading for a transition away from one-party dominance, which can only be good for democracy, policy competitiveness, delivery and accountability,” Brenthurst Foundation Director Greg Mills said in a statement.

The Brenthurst Foundation’s support ranking for the ANC is the lowest of any poll to date.

The party has been drawing big crowds to its election rallies, including launching its manifesto in the eastern city of Durban last month. In the previous national vote in 2019, the ANC garnered 58% support nationally.

“Voters appear to have left the ANC, EFF and IFP for Zuma’s party in significant numbers,” the foundation said.

Nedbank CEO Mike Brown

Executives of some of the country’s largest banks have said that despite this declining support, policy will remain unchanged after the election, with the ANC remaining the dominant political force in the country. 

Nedbank CEO Mike 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 the ANC and its current policies will be central to any government going forward,” 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 hinders economic growth.”

Standard Bank CFO Arno Daehnke echoed Brown’s comments at the bank’s financial results presentation. 

Daehnke said Standard Bank does not expect any major changes to the government’s economic policy following the national election in May. 

Despite the ANC’s declining popularity, it will remain the dominant political force in South Africa and largely determine the country’s policy direction. 

Comments from South African executives are similar to those from rating agency Fitch, which said 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.