Online neutrality and indecision continues to dominate voters’ conversations and search statistics, suggesting South Africans need new heroes – digital analyst.
Published The Citizen | 30 October
In Joburg, public sentiment is clear: people have minds made up about ANC.
With the municipal elections on Monday, the majority of South Africans are still uncertain about who to cast their votes for.
To vote or not to vote is the nation’s dichotomy and apathy could significantly impact the political horizon.
Online neutrality or indecision continues to dominate voter conversation and search statistics.
Digital analyst Carmen Murray puts it down to the fact that “Covid has changed everything and South Africans need new heroes”.
While online sentiment changes by the second, current results are telling.
Political commentator Russel Crystal says no party will be immune from voters’ lack of interest this time around.
“Success in any way would completely depend on how many votes are actually cast and analysts are predicting a very low turnout.”
This election, he says, will be a litmus test of public sentiment.
“People who do vote will be sending a very strong message to politicians,” he says. He expects many protest votes to emerge, benefitting smaller parties and newcomers like ActionSA.
The Saturday Citizen has monitored four weeks of online sentiment, search statistics and behaviour with the big four parties ebbing and flowing as news, conversations, scandal and rallies played out.
Now, trends have emerged that should send some local politicians to the front line and fight for every possible vote.
Joburg is the big prize. And ActionSA’ s confidence may not be unfounded.
“Tracking all four major parties over the past month suggests that the ANC will not hang on to the city,” says Murray.
Of the four major players, the Democratic Alliance (DA) and ANC are at their lowest points yet in terms of social sentiment.
“It looks like a coalition is on the cards.”
She says social listening suggests the DA will have a tough time and the Economic Freedom Fighters’ (EFF) ambitions may also be muted on election day.
“Based on current trends, the city of gold will be a voting bloodbath.
“The ANC’s got the highest negativity and lowest neutrality rating, which indicates voters have made up their minds about the ruling party already,” she says.
Crystal says Joburg will be a contestation between two blocs, the DA and ActionSA versus the ANC and EFF.
“Then again, based on the DA leader’s recent comments, a coalition between the ANC and the DA shouldn’t be ruled out if the latter cannot reach a majority with ActionSA.
“The key question for the DA will be whether it would be willing to give the mayorship to Herman Mashaba, even though ActionSA may the junior partner.
“But it all depends on how hungry the DA are to be part of a power structure, just for the sake of it.”
Tshwane, anticipates Crystal, could also end up in a coalition.
The capital has a strong DA presence with potential kingmakers being ActionSA and smaller parties like the Freedom Front Plus.
“But the DA will be calling the shots here, in any such coalition.”
Murray says social listening and search trends reflect a similar picture.
ActionSA has made significant sentiment gains over the past fortnight.
“But what is clear is the ANC may not run the metro on its own. Positive sentiment toward the party is just not enough.”
Ekurhuleni paints a similar picture.
Murray says the DA has lost traction, “but the ANC seem like the biggest losers should current discourse serve as a temperature check”, she says.
Conversation favours a coalition between the DA and ActionSA, “but the EFF’s work on the ground makes them a wild card in the city and a potential bedmate for the ANC”.
Crystal says: “Success in Ekurhuleni will depend entirely on voter mobilisation.”
Whoever gets the most supporters to leave home will earn the spoils.
“The EFF will be eroding ANC votes and it will be, as in Joburg, a race between two blocs.”
In eThekwini, the DA claims to have 33% support versus the ANC’s 31%, says Crystal. This despite the hysteria about the Phoenix posters.
The Inkatha Freedom Party may be kingmaker as it has a solid support base in some areas.
“ActionSA looks like it may also hold some of the balance of power according to online sentiment,” says Murray.
The party has gained steady ground over the past month, which, says Crystal, may revolve around the popularity of its mayoral candidate, Makhosi Khoza.
Cape Town remains blue, although warning signs should alarm the DA for future polls.
“ActionSA are not contesting the city but is enjoying a surge in popularity online,” says Murray.
Crystal says that while the DA will show a loss in support to smaller, identity-driven parties, it will still hold a clear majority.
Whoever gets the most supporters to leave home will earn the spoils