South Africa’s stunner election: Why the ANC lost its majority for the first time in 30 years

South Africa's stunner election: Why the ANC lost its majority for the first time in 30 years

South Africa’s Stunner Election: Unpacking the ANC’s Loss of Majority After 30 Years

South Africa’s general elections on the 8th of May 2019, produced a stunning outcome that defied many expectations. For the first time since the end of apartheid in 1994, the African National Congress (ANC), the historic liberation movement and ruling party, failed to secure an outright majority in Parliament.

The ANC’s


began with the 2014 elections, where it received only 62% of the votes, its lowest share since 199However, many attributed this to voter dissatisfaction with then-President Jacob Zuma, who was mired in numerous scandals.

Fast forward to the

2019 elections

, and the ANC’s fortunes had not improved. Instead, it suffered a significant blow, receiving only 57.5% of the votes. This loss of majority came despite the ANC’s campaign that focused on its historical role in ending apartheid and its economic development policies.

The ANC’s defeat can be attributed to several reasons. One was the rise of new political parties, most notably the

Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF)

, which attracted disaffected youth and marginalized communities with its radical leftist agenda.

Another factor was the growing disillusionment among traditional ANC supporters, especially in urban areas, over corruption and unemployment. The

DA (Democratic Alliance)

, which positioned itself as a viable alternative to the ANC, gained significantly from this dissatisfaction.


ANC’s loss of majority


are far-reaching. It means that the ANC will have to form a coalition government, likely with the EFF and/or DA, to govern. This could lead to policy compromises and potentially unstable coalitions.

In conclusion, the

2019 South African elections

represented a significant turning point in the country’s political landscape. The ANC’s loss of majority after 30 years in power is a clear indication that voters are demanding better governance and accountability from their leaders.

I. Introduction

Brief Overview of the African National Congress (ANC)

The African National Congress (ANC), established in 1912, is South Africa’s oldest political organization and has been the ruling party since the end of apartheid in 199With a rich history spanning over a century, the ANC played a pivotal role in the country’s struggle for democracy and racial equality. The party’s historical significance is marked by milestones such as the 1952 Defiance Campaign, the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre, and Nelson Mandela’s election as the country’s first black president in 199These achievements have solidified the ANC’s place as a symbol of South Africa’s democratic transformation.

Introduction to the 2019 South African General Election

The 2019 South African general election, held on the 8th of May, marked a turning point for the ANThis election was significant due to several reasons: the ANC’s declining support in previous elections, the rise of opposition parties, and the ongoing socio-economic challenges facing South Africa. With Cyril Ramaphosa taking over as the ANC’s president in late 2017 and being re-elected as the party’s leader in December 2017, there was renewed hope that he could revitalize the ANC and address the country’s challenges. However, the election results would ultimately determine the party’s fate in South Africa’s political landscape.

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The Political Landscape Preceding the Elections:

Key Factors

As South Africa headed towards its sixth democratic elections in May 2019, the political landscape was marked by several significant factors that shaped voter behavior and party dynamics.

Economic Concerns and Unemployment

Historical context: South Africa’s economic challenges are not new, having been a persistent issue since the end of apartheid in 199Despite initial optimism and progress during the first post-apartheid decade, economic growth stalled in the late 1990s, and unemployment remained high.

Effects on voter disillusionment and ANC support: The economic malaise and high unemployment rates took a toll on public trust in the ruling African National Congress (ANC), which has governed South Africa since 199Voter disillusionment was palpable, with many feeling that the ANC had not delivered on its promises of economic transformation and job creation.

Corruption Scandals

State Capture allegations against the Gupta family: One of the most damaging scandals that emerged during this period was the so-called “state capture” allegations against the Gupta family, a wealthy Indian business family with close ties to then President Jacob Zuma. The scandal involved accusations of undue influence and corruption, with the Guptas allegedly using their connection to the president to secure lucrative government contracts and sway political decisions.

Impact on public trust and ANC’s legitimacy: The state capture scandal further eroded public trust in the ANC, as many saw it as evidence of widespread corruption at the highest levels of government. The legitimacy of the ANC was called into question, with some calling for the party to be held accountable and for new leadership to be installed.

The Role of New Political Parties

Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and other opposition parties: The political landscape was also marked by the emergence of new political parties, particularly the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), which position itself as a radical and militant alternative to the ANThe EFF gained significant support from disillusioned ANC voters, particularly among the youth, due to its strong anti-corruption and land reform messages.

Impact on ANC’s voter base and overall political landscape: The entry of the EFF and other opposition parties into the political scene presented a significant challenge to the ANC, particularly as it struggled to maintain its support base amidst growing economic concerns and corruption scandals. The overall political landscape became more fragmented, with multiple parties vying for the loyalty of voters.

Demographic Shifts and Youth Vote

Changing demographics in South Africa: Another key factor shaping the political landscape was the changing demographic makeup of the country. With a growing youth population and a declining white population, the balance of power in South African politics was shifting, presenting opportunities for new parties to tap into emerging voter blocs.

Role of the youth vote and its impact on ANC support: The youth vote emerged as a significant factor in South African politics, with younger voters expressing dissatisfaction with the ANC and its handling of economic and corruption issues. This shift was particularly evident during the 2016 local elections, which saw significant gains for the EFF among youth voters.

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I The 2019 Election Results: A Closer Look

Overall election results

The 2019 South African general elections resulted in a significant shift in the political landscape, marking the end of the African National Congress’s (ANC) uninterrupted rule since the end of apartheid. One of the most notable outcomes was the loss of ANC’s majority in Parliament, with the party winning only 57.5% of the votes compared to 62.1% in 201This is a historic moment as it is the first time that the ANC has lost its outright majority since the end of apartheid.

Analysis of key provinces: Gauteng and the Eastern Cape

Historical significance and strategic importance

Two of the most significant provinces that saw a change in the political landscape are Gauteng and the Eastern Cape. Gauteng is South Africa’s economic powerhouse and the most populous province, while the Eastern Cape is the second-largest province with a high level of poverty and unemployment.

B.Reasons for ANC’s losses in these provinces


The loss of the ANC’s majority in Gauteng can be attributed to several factors, including a resurgent Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), disillusionment with the ANC, and coalition politics. The EFF gained a considerable number of votes from disgruntled ANC supporters, particularly in urban areas.

Eastern Cape

Similarly, the ANC’s losses in the Eastern Cape can be linked to a rise in support for opposition parties, particularly the Democratic Alliance (DA), and the EFF. The DA made significant gains, increasing its share of the votes from 26.9% in 2014 to 31.5%.

Impact of coalition politics on the election outcomes

The role of coalitions in shaping alliances

The 2019 elections saw the emergence of several political alliances, with parties entering into coalitions to increase their chances of forming governments. This trend is expected to continue in future elections as smaller parties seek to gain influence and expand their voter base.

The impact of coalition politics on the ANC’s electoral fortunes

Coalition politics played a significant role in the ANC’s losses, particularly in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape. The ANC’s failure to form coalitions with smaller parties cost it votes and ultimately resulted in its loss of majority in these provinces.

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Post-Election Analysis:: Following the elections, political instability and the potential for coalition governments could emerge as major themes. With no single party securing an outright majority, alliances between various political formations may become necessary to form a government. This uncertainty could lead to

policy paralysis

, as parties negotiate and compromise on key issues, or even result in unstable coalitions that struggle to govern effectively.

Meanwhile, the African National Congress (ANC), as the historical ruling party, faces immense pressure to

address internal challenges and reforms

. The ANC’s loss of support in recent elections indicates a growing dissatisfaction among the electorate with the party’s current leadership and policies. To regain trust, the ANC needs to focus on



anti-corruption measures

. This may involve implementing structural reforms to stimulate economic growth, addressing the issue of unemployment, and combating rampant corruption. Additionally, there is a need for

rejuvenation of the party’s leadership and policies

. This could include encouraging new blood into the party, fostering a culture of transparency, and adopting more responsive and inclusive policies that cater to the diverse needs of the electorate.

Civil society, made up of various interest groups, non-governmental organizations, and activists, plays a crucial role in

holding political leaders accountable

. This watchdog function is essential to ensuring that politicians keep their promises and act in the best interest of their constituents. By advocating for change, raising awareness on key issues, and pressuring political parties to adopt reforms, civil society can help drive positive change within the political landscape.

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Recap of the causes that led to the ANC’s loss of majority

The ANC‘s unexpected loss of political power in South Africa’s 2019 general elections was a significant turning point for the nation. This shift in political landscape can be attributed to a multifaceted range of causes, some of which include:

  • Economic issues: The ANC’s inability to effectively address the country’s pressing economic challenges, such as unemployment and income inequality, has been a major concern for many voters.
  • Corruption scandals: Numerous high-profile corruption cases within the ANC, involving senior officials, have eroded public trust and confidence in the party.
  • New political parties: The rise of new political parties, such as the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and the Democratic Alliance (DA), has posed a formidable challenge to the ANC’s hegemony.

Implications for South Africa’s future and the role of democratic institutions in addressing challenges

The ANC’s loss of majority has significant implications for South Africa’s political future. The country now faces a critical juncture, where the democratic institutions must be strengthened and utilized to address the challenges that lie ahead.

Political stability

The preservation of political stability through a peaceful transition and effective coalition building is crucial in this period of uncertainty. The ANC, as the largest party, will still hold significant influence and must work cooperatively with other parties to govern effectively.

Economic recovery

Economic recovery remains a top priority, and the new government must tackle unemployment, income inequality, and poverty through effective economic policies and reforms. The ANC’s loss of power may bring renewed energy to implement much-needed changes that could improve the lives of South Africans.

Fight against corruption

The new government must demonstrate a strong commitment to combating corruption and rebuilding public trust. This includes strengthening institutions like the anti-corruption watchdog, the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), and ensuring that those responsible for corruption are held accountable.

Democratic institutions

The role of democratic institutions, such as the judiciary and civil society organizations, will be essential in holding the new government accountable to its promises and ensuring that the rights of all South Africans are protected. The ANC’s loss of majority presents an opportunity for these institutions to play a more robust role in safeguarding democracy and promoting good governance.