The 2024 South African general election: Overview and Aftermath


South Africa held its seventh general election on 29 May 2024 to elect a new National Assembly and provincial legislature in each of the nine provinces. The election was marked by a decline in support for the African National Congress (ANC), which lost the parliamentary majority it had held since the inaugural post-apartheid election in 1994. The new National Council of Provinces (NCOP) will be elected at the first sitting of each provincial legislature.

The election was marked by polls showing that support for the ANC was declining significantly, leading to expectations of a hung parliament. The ANC received less than 50% of the total vote for the first time since the end of apartheid, losing support in key metros of Tshwane (Pretoria), Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, and eThekwini (Durban). The Democratic Alliance managed to take control of Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni through a majority coalition and a minority coalition respectively, in addition to forming a majority coalition government in Tshwane, which it had governed since 2016.

In early 2023, the ANC and Economic Freedom Fighters formed a coalition in Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni, where the two parties held MMC positions while electing a mayor from a minority party. In April 2023, the DA leader John Steenhuisen called for "like-minded" parties to join together to prevent a "doomsday coalition."

On 16 December 2023, former president Jacob Zuma announced his departure from the ANC, accusing the party and incumbent president Cyril Ramaphosa of serving as a "proxy for white monopoly capital." He also announced the establishment of his own political party, uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK), named after the apartheid-era military wing of the ANC. The ANC also plans to file a lawsuit against the party's naming after the historic MK.

On 28 March 2024, the Electoral Commission barred Zuma from standing in the election, citing a previous criminal conviction. However, the decision was overturned by the Electoral Court on 9 April, permitting Zuma to stand. On 12 April, the Electoral Commission announced it would approach the Constitutional Court for clarity on section 47(1)(e) of the constitution, the provision used to uphold the initial objection against Zuma. On 20 May, Zuma was ruled ineligible to stand for the election by the Constitutional Court, citing his criminal conviction.

A pre-election agreement called the Multi-Party Charter was signed between the Democratic Alliance (DA), Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), Freedom Front Plus (FF Plus), ActionSA, and three other parties with the aim of presenting a united front against the three-decade rule of the African National Congress (ANC) party and the rise of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK Party), and Patriotic Alliance (PA).

The regional ballot is one of South Africa's three ballots used in national elections, alongside the national and provincial ballots. It is proportional, allowing seats to be allocated to parties and independent candidates based on the number of votes received. The regional ballot includes 200 seats across the country's nine provinces.

On 17 April 2023, President Cyril Ramaphosa signed the South African Electoral Amendment Bill, allowing independent candidates to stand for election to the National Assembly and provincial legislatures while maintaining proportional representation with closed lists. Two hundred members will be elected from national party lists, while the remaining 200 seats will be contested by political parties and independent candidates in each province.

Voters will receive three ballot papers: the first ballot will elect the 200 members of the National Assembly only contested by political parties; the second ballot will elect the remaining 200 members of the National Assembly, which will be contested by political parties and independent candidates in each province; and the third ballot will elect members of the provincial legislatures with political parties and independent candidates as well.

The president of South Africa will be elected by the National Assembly, and the premiers of each province will also be elected by the respective provincial legislatures after the election. The National Council of Provinces (NCOP) comprises 90 members, with ten elected by each provincial legislature in proportion to the legislature's composition.

The South African presidential election saw a series of highly contested provinces, including Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, and the Western Cape. Gauteng, the most populated province, was barely retained by the ANC in 2019, with the Democratic Alliance (DA) hoping to win with Solly Msimanga as their premier candidate. The DA's Premier Candidate, Funzi Ngobeni, faced opposition from ActionSA and the ANC's candidate, Panyaza Lesufi.

KwaZulu-Natal, the second most populated province, saw the MK Party leading with Christopher Pappas as their premier candidate, while the ANC's premier candidate, Sbongiseni Duma, received only 17.6% of the vote. The DA retained control of the Western Cape with a 53% majority.

Controversies arose in May 2024 when the DA released a campaign video attacking the ANC and showing a South African flag on fire, claiming the same fate would befall the country if the ANC remained in power. President and ANC leader Cyril Ramaphosa called the ad "despicable" and "treasonous," while the public broadcaster SABC announced it would not air the video. Analysts and organizations noted that the burning of the flag is protected under Section 16 of the Constitution as a freedom of expression.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on 13 May that he would sign the controversial National Health Insurance Bill into law. Civil society organisationsthe , including the South African Medical Association, Business Unity South Africa, Business Leadership South Africa, Solidariteit, the SA Institute of Race Relations, and the South African Health Professionals Collaboration, expressed dissatisfaction at this announcement, hinting at possible legal challenges to the legislation following the president's assent.

Jacob Zuma, former President, founded the MK Party in December 2023, intending to contest the election. However, the Constitutional Court of South Africa ruled that Zuma is ineligible to run in the parliamentary election due to his 2021 jail sentence.

In his Presidential Address to the Nation on 26 May, Cyril Ramaphosa listed the achievements of his government but was criticised by opposition parties as an abuse of government resources for electioneering in favour of the ruling party.

The South African National Congress (ANC) suffered a historic defeat in the recent elections, losing its parliamentary majority since 1994. The ANC received only 40% of the vote and failed to secure a majority in Northern Cape and Gauteng. It was outpolled in KwaZulu-Natal by the MK and retained its majority in the Western Cape. The DA retained its largest opposition status in the National Assembly. The MK achieved a plurality in KwaZulu-Natal, forcing the ANC into second-largest party status in KwaZulu-Natal for the first time since 1999. Most of the ANC's loss of support flowed into the MK, while the DA saw some gains, and the EFF lost some support.

The ANC announced that its leadership would meet on 31 May to reflect on what is good for the country. The Democratic Alliance (DA) expressed a willingness to work alongside the ANC, but would have to consult with other signatories of the Multi-Party Charter. The EFF's Julius Malema said the election results marked the end of the ANC's "entitlement of being the sole dominant party" and was open to talks with the ANC on forming a coalition government.

The ANC has started conducting informal talks with other parties for a possible coalition, and on 2 June, ANC secretary-general Fikile Mbalula announced the official opening of negotiations. Ramaphosa called on political parties to overcome their differences and find "common ground" in creating a coalition government. Separate coalition talks were expected to occur regarding the provincial governments of KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng, and Northern Cape.

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