NDZ: A bullet to the ANC's head

An open letter to all Comrades who are thinking of voting for Dlamini-Zuma

Dear Comrades who are thinking of supporting Dlamini-Zuma

I am writing to you because someone dropped a bomb in my ear last night. I was in the local pub drinking by the TV when it happened. I spotted something out of the corner of my eye, spun around and found myself watching a debate about this weekend’s ANC conference, in the course of which I learned several things that blew my mind.

For months now, newspapers have been telling us that the race between Cyril Ramaphosa and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is “neck and neck,” or “too close to call,” or  whatever. I guess this is true in your microcosm, where everyone is an ANC activist or politician. But it is not true for the rest of the nation, and this is something you need to hear before it’s too late.

You don’t know me but the first thing you should know is that I am a poor white and very worried by pundits who say we are about to flush into the same drain as Venezuela where people queue for hours to buy rice and single-ply is a fond memory. If that happens I will remain unemployed forever, like most of my young fellow citizens, and continue to drive a skorokoro that breaks down weekly because it is older than me.

I live in a one-room garden shed with an outhouse toilet. Like most unemployed South Africans all I want for Christmas is a job. I want money to take my girlfriend on a date outside that one-room. I would like an RDP house and free electricity too, because my girlfriend thinks our paraffin lamp is dangerous and smells “indelicate”. But I am not really asking for that because I don’t deserve it; I have a good education and that makes me one of the lucky. I know that I am lucky because to be afraid is to have something to lose and I am full of dread right now.

I don’t want an outcome that punishes the rand, scares foreign investors back to northern kingdoms and intensifies the flood of capital heading towards safe havens. So ja, you already know it. I want Ramaphosa. We are worlds apart but on this one I think you should be with me. I mean, you’re a political magnate. You believe activism might bring good things for you -- a government job, some tenders, maybe even deployment to parliament. You think that supporting Dlamini-Zuma will bring home the Benz but you might be very wrong.

How do I know? Because all polls thus far conducted suggest that a significant majority of voters want Ramaphosa. We'll get to last night’s TV debate in due course, but let's start at the beginning. First sign of trouble for Dlamini-Zuma came in March 2017 when a Kantar TNS poll found that Ramaphosa had the support of 56% of people living the major metros while Dlamini-Zuma scored only 41.8%. Last week an organization called Ratepop, which uses the internet to poll, forecast an even sharper difference, finding that Ramaphosa is the “overwhelming” popular choice with the support of 58.9% of ANC voters compared with 16% for Dlamini-Zuma.

Comrade, if the first thought that crossed your mind is that this is WMC shenanigans then we are not so different. The Kantar poll was conducted at a time when Dlamini-Zuma was still early in the process of reacquainting herself with the ANC base after years as the president of the AU. Moreover, the poll was conducted only in big cities, which are known to be sceptical of the president and his chosen successor.  Structural bias is even more evident in the Ratepop poll, which was weighted in favour of middle-class respondents with internet access (only 40% of the population). Neither poll is entirely credible.

But the same is not true of a third opinion survey, the one I saw on TV last night. It was commissioned by ETV and conducted starting September by the respected market research firm Markdata, which interviewed 5000 scientifically selected respondents in 635 areas in all provinces, asking a broad range of questions about their political opinions in their mother tongue.

ETV chose to trickle the results out drip-drip slowly, mostly on Jeremy Maggs’ news show, which treated viewers to a series of meditations on the political mood of each province. In my home province of Gauteng, for instance, the ETV survey backdata reveals that 72.9% of relevant respondents believe Jacob Zuma’s ANC has done too little or nothing to fight corruption. This is a bit higher than the Free State and Eastern Cape numbers, 67.1% and 70.7% respectively. In Northwest and Northern Cape the corruption critics climb to 78% and in Mpumalanga it is 79.2%. When Markdata asked these relevant respondents if Zuma is too close to Guptas, more than 60% of ANC supporters said yes in every province except KZN, where there was a 42%-42% split between those who say there is Zupta corruption and those who deny it.

Who are these “relevant respondents”? They are people who voted for the ANC last time, including the rural poor and less educated. And why do they doubt Dlamini-Zuma? Because they see her as a supporter of the status quo, committed to extending Jacob Zuma’s dubious legacy, whereas a clear majority of voters want something else. But what do these relevant respondents want?

When ETV received the results of its giant poll in late October, it put out a story vaguely noting that Markdata placed Ramaphosa in the lead but the grimmest findings were withheld until last night, exactly why I cannot say. Maybe ETV was hoping that its conference-eve bombshell would boost ratings. Maybe it was scared. And maybe it thought nobody would believe the results, because here is the first thing ETV was sitting on: the first round of the survey, conducted in September, showed Ramaphosa leading Dlamini-Zuma by 48.4% percent to 21% at the national level – a startling 27 point lead with the next big category being those undecided.

Comrade, let’s just be honest here – you don’t automatically care what the people think. From struggle times the ANC has been a party that leads its people more than the other way around. So I won’t be surprised if you think these polls are not such a big problem; the more time Dlamini-Zuma spends in the spotlight, the more people will learn to like her. Not everyone can be a Mandela who walks into a room and suddenly everyone fawns. With strong silent types it takes time. This is what party discipline means; when leaders favour a certain candidate the rank and file must bow their heads and follow.

But this time they might not.  When Markdata/ETV conducted follow-ups with some of the same respondents in November they found the gap had widened, with Ramaphosa surging to 64% percent while Dlamini-Zuma dropped all the way back to 17%. In third place was Lindiwe Sisulu with 6.7%, and as we all know, she yesterday threw in her lot with Ramaphosa. This means Dlamini-Zuma could now be trailing Ramaphosa-Sisulu ticket by nearly sixty percentage points among ANC supporters.  Bra, you gotta take these numbers seriously. For months now, newspapers and talking heads have been telling us that ANC delegates are in two minds, with the race too close to call. Maybe so, but the Markdata/ETV survey – the only credible one on offer -- tells us that voters have considered their options and come to a decision: by a huge majority, they want Ramaphosa.

They also want his more moderate policies.

You might think this must surely be a smokkel on the part of white monopoly capital, but I wonder. Markdata is a market research company, dedicated to finding out who buys which brand of mealie meal and why. It does not just poll “clever blacks”, suburban whites and people with smartphones in big cities. If you think this kind of research means nothing ask yourself why business spends billions on it. If you think political polls have been discredited by Trump and Brexit consider that Brexit was almost universally predicted to be a tight election as it was and Clinton was almost universally predicted to win a majority which she did. Or suit yourself and risk the trap of wishful thinking.

Markdata’s sample (or so it claims) is scientifically structured to include everyone, even the poorest of the poor. And what it shows is the exact opposite of what you think -- Ramaphosa has a 21.7% advantage over Dlamini-Zuma among ANC supporters who earn R10,000 or more, but among those earning less than R5000 and among the unemployed like me his lead over Dlamini-Zuma is more than 30%. The back data shows that among those with matric or higher education his advantage is 22.7%, but among those with no matric it climbs up to 34.2% more than Dlamini-Zuma.

This is interesting, no? It seems to tell us that ordinary South Africans, so often poor and desperate and unemployed, are not particularly impressed by the Zuma camp’s call for uncompensated land seizures and intensified Rapid Economic Transformation. This is surprising, especially to me. Markdata’s respondents were asked to choose between: increased RET, more of the same, or more “business friendly” policies. In almost every province ANC supporters preferred business-friendly to RET. In Eastern Cape, Northen Cape and Limpopo there was about six times more support for business-friendly than RET. Six to one. In North West it was about 12 times more. I know some provinces are bigger than others so here is the overall picture, 50.4% of ANC supporters favour a more business-friendly route, while only 19.2% want RET.

Numbers like these make me think President Zuma is deluded to think that his brand of radical land reform would swing the vote his ex-wife’s way. Indeed, I am beginning to believe that it is mostly the university-educated elite (Andile Mngxitama and his white suburban neighbours) who believe that poor black people want to break their backs planting beetroot and pampoen on smallholdings. Markdata’s findings suggest that what they really want is stability and jobs, jobs, jobs. They think Ramaphosa is more likely to provide these, which is why they approve of him. And disapprove of Dlamini-Zuma by a huge margin.

If this is too much to fathom so fast comrade, consider yourself lucky. You are reading this hopefully in private. Whereas one of the panelists was not so lucky on live television. Confronted with data showing that a preponderance of ANC supporters favoured business-friendly policies, political analyst Lukhona Mnguni said just what you would expect any PhD candidate to say: “I am confident that this is a class issue.” He went on predict that the rest of the data would show that this was the view of the richer classes, but next slide showed the converse: business-friendly views are more common at the lower end of the class spectrum. Panelist Ebrahim Fakir scratched his head and said, “This turns conventional wisdom on its head.”

So why are you backing this woman?

To beggars like me ubuntu can seem to mean this: a person is a person through being able to get where you’re going. Advance in life. Tenders from friends in government. Shot at a seat on local council or parliament. You think Dlamini-Zuma will give these if you push her, which might be true in the short term but it begins to look deranged by 2019. Do not forget Malema and Maimane whose support has grown; meanwhile Ramaphosa is overwhelmingly strong. If Dlamini-Zuma promised a job in government where is she going to find it

Going into an election with such an unpopular candidate is like committing suicide, bra. Which is exactly what EFF and DA are hoping the ANC will do. It is what the majority in the media are hoping too. It’s like they’ve oiled the gun, loaded and cocked it and handed it to you, hoping you’ll put it to your head and pull the trigger. With Dlamini-Zuma as your leader, the ANC is almost certain to drop below 50 percent in 2019, which means your party will have to go into coalitions if it has any hope of staying in power. Worse yet…if Ramaphosa’s followers scheme he was robbed of victory by dirty tricks and decide to break away, the ANC might wind up out of power completely while a DA/EFF/Ramaphosa coalition moves into the Union Buildings. Is that what you want? Can you afford to join me in the ranks of the unemployed by Christmas 2019?

Comrade trust me when I tell you that you are loved. There is hardly a party on earth that is beloved by its citizens as the ANC is. You must never forget that. Even me, I have always loved you from when I learned to walk. But you got it wrong this time. You keep telling me that sinister forces (aka whites and their allies) are trying to derail the revolution by blocking NDZ and her plans for radical transformation, expanded RET. But the real force that opposes her is ordinary people. So why are you going against them and thinking of voting for her this weekend? You are loved, but there is a minority that hates you from jealousy. I don’t want to say that there is a conspiracy among them to make big noise in the big cities to get between you and your base, to trick you into believing that your base wants RET and Dlamini-Zuma more than a job and a more honest government. But I’m running out of other ways to explain this so please, please don’t let the disinformers get between us!

I dunno malume, why else would you vote for her this weekend? Ag yes, indeed, let us not forget the brown envelope in this frank address. From what I read there are plenty in circulation. Being poor myself I can see the charm. Between you and me, if one of her representatives came to me with a brown-envelope to squash this story I would take it sharp. So I am not going to take the moral high ground here.

Rather I’m going back to basics. The beloved ANC is the powerhouse of government, but some of its leader have drifted away into a private kraal of their own fantasy. This drift has turned into a race with all your enemies encouraging you to blow yourselves apart; while Insiders like you might scheme the race is still on those of us watching from the outside have already decided we want Ramaphosa. We want him by a very large margin. After reading this, you might want Ramaphosa too.

So don’t pull the trigger my respected elder. Listen to the people. And if the worst comes to the worst remember this one piece of advice from a poor white boy -- pocket the bribe but do the right thing in the privacy of the voting booth. I mean, who’s to know? We call that a white lie. You’ll come out ahead, and so will the nation.