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ANC’s Israel hatred looks to backfire at the polls



The African National Congress’s (ANC) Israel-hating fixation isn’t going to win votes in the upcoming general election, to the contrary, 23% of voters are “less likely” to vote for the party because of its stance on the Israel-Hamas conflict.

This is according to The Brenthurst Foundation’s election survey conducted by SABI Strategy in February and March.

Voters appear to have been “alienated” by the ANC’s foreign policy agenda, which has “alienated traditional allies in the West as the party indulges Russia, China, and Iran”, according to Ray Hartley, The Brenthurst Foundation’s research director. The foundation is a think tank set up by the Oppenheimer family.

Political analysts agree with the survey results, saying South African voters have become not only “sceptical” about ANC foreign policy motives, but are aware of the failings of the government to address monumental issues back home.

“The ANC is breaking trust with our biggest trade partners in favour of those who contribute little to our economy, and who are entirely unaligned with our Constitution within their own countries,” said an analyst, who asked to remain anonymous on this topic.

“It seems the ANC is fooling nobody but itself in terms of its foreign policy, and sadly, [Department of International Relations and Cooperation Minister] Naledi Pandor has fuelled this strategy based on her own selective religious and ideological beliefs rather than what’s best for the country and its people.”

About 43% of voters believe that South Africa should align itself with the West and other democratic nations, with 22% saying it should align itself with Africa, and only 19% saying it should align itself with BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, and the United Arab Emirates), suggesting that the ANC’s decision to move into the BRICS camp may be costing it votes, said Hartley.

More than 50% of voters said the ANC’s policy on the Ukraine-Russia and Israel-Hamas conflicts wouldn’t affect the way they voted. The poll said 24% of voters said they were “less likely” to vote for the ANC as a result of its policy on the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

The nationally representative telephonic survey of registered voters was conducted between 12 and 28 February. It found that the ANC’s support had fallen to 39%, making a coalition government highly likely following the general election in May this year.

With just two months left until voting day, the poll indicates that the ANC’s poor leadership and foreign policy are driving away voters, while the Democratic Alliance (DA) and Jacob Zuma’s uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) party are making significant strides.

According to the poll, the parties which gained the most were the DA which rose to 27% from 23% in October, and the MK party, which has 13% of the vote, making it the third-largest party, with the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) falling from 17% in October to just 10%.

With 33% of the vote, the Multi-Party Charter coalition, made up of the DA, Inkatha Freedom Party, ActionSA, African Christian Democratic Party, and Freedom Front Plus, among others, is just 6% behind the ANC.

The poll suggests voters are unhappy with governance, with about 80% saying the country is “going in the wrong direction”, and the opposition-governed Western Cape and City of Cape Town ranked as the best-governed areas of South Africa.

It shows that though some voters would have been put off by the ANC’s stance on the Middle East conflict, there are some who would have been encouraged, according to political commentator Daniel Silke. However foreign policy isn’t a game changer for voters, he said.

“Foreign policy issues really don’t play a role in voting patterns in South Africa. They never have,” said Silke.

“Yes, this year there’s this emotive issue, and the ANC has been trying to milk it clearly with the intent of trying to undermine the DA in the Western Cape, but though voters might be sympathetic to aspects of the ANC’s stance, bread-and-butter issues including corruption, service delivery, loadshedding, and unemployment remain paramount.”

When asked which party they’d vote for, the poll showed that in the Western Cape, the ANC had gained 13 points, and the EFF had gained two since October last year, while the DA lost three.

Terence Corrigan, project manager at the Institute of Race Relations, said that though foreign policy had seldom influenced South African elections, the Middle East conflict may be something of an exception in that it “generated a great deal of passion”. He said it was possible that the Middle East was exercising some influence on voter support in the Western Cape.

“The ANC has played this issue hard in the Western Cape, and there does seem to be some receptivity to it among the population, however we would need to examine carefully competing explanations. The most obvious of which is that the DA has become a long-term incumbent and may be more vulnerable to dissatisfaction about things like crime,” he said.

“My intuition, though, is that people who might decide their vote based on this issue have long since chosen the party that represents them,” he said.

Voters cited the biggest issues facing the country as: unemployment (28%); corruption (27%); loadshedding (17%); and weak leadership (12%). Weak leadership overtook crime (11%) as the fourth most pressing issue.

More than half of voters blame “the ANC government of the past three decades” for South Africa’s problems, with 11% saying apartheid was to blame.

Said the anonymous commentator, “We’re seeing the ANC being found wanting on the sincerity of its foreign policy and how voters see much of it as either irrelevant, a ruse of concern, or an election decoy from pressing local issues.”

Conducted telephonically, the Brenthurst Foundation survey was premised on a 66% voter turnout in the 29 May general election.

Brenthurst Foundation Director Dr Greg Mills said the results of the survey reflected changing voting patterns.

“Widespread dissatisfaction with ANC governance and policy direction increasingly trumps any legacy loyalty to the liberation movement, where voters are now making decisions based less on nostalgia than on the ruling party’s recent record of rule,” he said.

Corrigan described a poll as a “snapshot in time, not a prediction”.

“It’s like a map not a crystal ball, but looking at polling broadly, this does seem to be congruent with what others have said. It’s an indication of what might happen, but there’s no substitution for people casting their vote.”

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