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Is EFF poised for another electoral breakthrough in 2024 polls?

Reading Time: 5 minutes

By Dr Ronesh Dhawraj

As the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) readies to launch its manifesto for the 2024 general election at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in KwaZulu-Natal this weekend, questions are being asked if the party will continue its upward electoral trajectory in this poll. Since its founding in July 2013, the party has witnessed significant growth nationally, provincially and at local government level.

In its maiden electoral outing in 2014, the EFF impressed with 6.35% of the national vote, translating into 25 National Assembly seats.

By 2016, the party had begun slowly entrenching its brand in the minds of voting South Africans when it secured 8.2% of the vote and 761 seats nationwide.

In the 2019 general election, the EFF secured even more seats in the National Assembly, winning 10.75% of the popular vote, translating into 44 seats.

Two years later, the party won 10.42% of votes in the 2021 municipal elections and 958 seats. Since then, the EFF has won nine wards off other parties in by-elections.

GENERAL ELECTION
EFF 2014 2019
General Election 6.35% 10.75%
Parliamentary Seats 25 44
Increase of 4.4% or 19 seats between 2014 & 2019
LOCAL GOVERNMENT ELECTIONS
EFF 2016 2021
Municipal Elections 8.2% 10.42%
Local Government Seats 761 958
Increase of 2.2% or 197 seats between 2016 & 2021


Why KwaZulu-Natal for its launch?

Questions have been raised as to why the party selected KwaZulu-Natal for announcing its grand electoral promise to the South African voter. The reason is simple: KwaZulu-Natal is likely to be one of the most-watched stories of the 2024 election. It will be a battleground with fierce contestation expected from the governing African National Congress (ANC), Democratic Alliance (DA), Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), National Freedom Party (NFP); and the entrance of former ANC President Jacob Zuma’s Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) party. Rumour has it that Zuma’s son, Duduzane Zuma, will also throw his hat into the ring with his recently launched political party. In this sense, KwaZulu-Natal is not off-limits, for anyone!

But to understand why the EFF has chosen KwaZulu-Natal for its 2024 election manifesto launch, one must go back to successive election results in the province.

While the party registered increases in all provinces in the 2019 general election, KwaZulu-Natal stood out in terms of its vote-share haul.

And KwaZulu-Natal was not a traditional stronghold; Gauteng, North West and Limpopo were.

In 2014, the EFF received approximately 147 000 votes in KwaZulu-Natal on both the national and provincial ballots, equating to around 1.9% of all votes counted.

But in 2019, this vote tally almost tripled to nearly 566 000 (national and provincial), an 8% increase. KwaZulu-Natal was the EFF’s best-performing province, followed by Gauteng, Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga, clearly illustrating an appetite for the red berets’ brand of leftist politics.

Please see tables below:

EFF NATIONAL BALLOT RESULTS 2014 & 2019 ELECTIONS
  2014 2019 CHANGE 2014 – 2019
PROVINCE Votes % Votes % Votes %
EC 84 783 3.8 155 899 7.7 +71 116 +3.9
FS 81 559 7.9 105 228 11.6 +23 669 +3.7
GP 471 074 10.3 607 577 13.5 +136 503 +3.2
KZN 76 384 1.9 363 537 10.0 +287 153 +8.0
LIM 156 488 10.3 198 439 13.1 +41 951 +2.9
MPU 85 203 6.2 146 426 11.5 +61 223 +5.4
NW 141 150 12.5 169 748 17,1 +28 598 +4.5
NC 22 083 5.1 39 879 9.7 +17 796 +4.6
WC 50 280 2.3 88 426 4.2 +38 146 +1.9
OUT OF COUNTRY 255 1.4 765 3.8 +510 +2.4
TOTAL 1 169 259 6.4 1 875 924 10.8 +706 665 +4.4

 

EFF PROVINCIAL BALLOT RESULTS 2014 & 2019
  2014 2019 CHANGE 2014 – 2019
PROVINCE Votes % Votes % Votes %
EC 75 776 3.5 154 821 7.8 +79 045 +4.4
FS 82 674 8.2 111 427 12.6 +28 753 +4.4
GP 451 318 10.3 629 096 14.6 +177 778 +4.3
KZN 70 823 1.9 349 050 9.7 +278 227 +7.9
LIM 156 982 10.7 209 488 14.4 +52 506 +3.7
MPU 83 589 6.3 155 573 12.8 +71 997 +6.5
NW 143 765 13.2 178 013 18.6 +34 330 +5.4
NC 20 951 5.0 38 527 9.7 +17 576 +4.8
WC 44 762 2.1 83 074 4.0 +38 312 +1.9
TOTAL 1 130 640 6.3 1 909 069 11.3 +778 524 +5.0

Why eThekwini for the manifest launch?

Drilling down further on why KwaZulu-Natal, remarkably, most of this support came from eThekwini, the only metro in the province. Of the 349 050 votes the EFF received on the provincial ballot, 155 187 or 45% came from the metro.

In 2014, the EFF here only polled 34 000 votes (2.44%).

ETHEKWINI GENERAL ELECTION RESULTS 2014 – 2019
ELECTION NATIONAL BALLOT PROVINCIAL BALLOT
2014 36 934 (2.60%) 34 337 (2.44 %)
2019 159 705 (11.64 %) 155 187 (11.51%)
SOURCE: IEC results dashboard

At the municipal level, the party tripled support between the 2016 and 2021 Local Government Elections, winning eight seats in 2016 and 24 seats five years later.

ETHEKWINI MUNICIPAL ELECTION RESULTS 2016 – 2021
ELECTION    
2016 3.44% 8
2021 10.48% 24
SOURCE: IEC results dashboard

These results from all electoral cycles (2014, 2016, 2019, 2021) unambiguously demonstrate just why the EFF has selected KwaZulu-Natal; and eThekwini to mount their 2024 electoral promise to the voter.

But, again, why the focus on KwaZulu-Natal?

To answer this question, one need only look at the electoral histories of other major players in the province. The EFF knows the ANC is on the back foot here; it has been for a while now. Also, with Jacob Zuma no longer at the helm of the ANC, KwaZulu-Natal is fair game for any and all political players.

The EFF is also fully aware that it faces stiff competition from the likes of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), National Freedom Party (NFP) and now Jacob Zuma’s Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), its main aim seems to be not so much winning outright electoral power but – more importantly – the power to decide who governs this majestic province. It wants to play kingmaker! Bringing the ANC below the psychological 50%+1 mark is the EFF’s ultimate objective; and when (not if) this happens, it will step in guns blazing to decide who eventually forms the government.

Still don’t believe me? Take a closer at past election results in this volatile province:

PARTY 2004 2009 2014 2019
ANC 46.98% 62.95% 64.52% 54.22%
DA 8.35% 9.15% 12.76% 13.90%
IFP 36.82% 22.40% 10.86% 16.34%
NFP 7.31% 1.57%
EFF 1.85% 9.71%
SOURCE: IEC election dashboards

The EFF has a game plan, no doubt about that

The numbers do not lie. The EFF has a clear game plan for the 2024 general election.

Choosing KwaZulu-Natal – notably eThekwini – to present its electoral offering to the South African voters is no mere coincidence. It is deliberate. It is intentional. And it is a masterful political strategy!

It knows very well that KwaZulu-Natal is a battleground because both the ANC and IFP are weak here. No party will win an outright majority in this province. Even with Jacob Zuma’s MK entering the fray, the vote splintering has become even more pronounced.

Cue the EFF, who is only too happy to step in and play kingmaker, in the Kingdom of AmaZulu!

No matter what the party’s eventual electoral haul is nationally at the end of the election, it knows its main breakthrough is bound to come from KwaZulu-Natal. And maximising support in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng – two provinces with the most number of registered voters – will elevate the EFF’s final electoral tally.

Dr Ronesh Dhawraj is News Research Editor at the SABC News & Current Affairs department

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