Who will rule South Africa? by Adriaan Basson and Qaanitah Hunter: a review

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Who will rule South Africa?
By Adriaan Basson and Qaanitah Hunter
Published by Flyleaf Publishing and Distribution, 2023
ISBN: 9781998956982

“Never judge a book by its cover,” we are advised.

I am going to ignore that sage guidance. For this book has a cover that promises extraordinarily interesting reading.

“The demise of the ANC and the rise of a new democracy” – this, the byline on the front cover, promises where the book will lead us.

And the rear cover tells us that the book will track “the rise of a new political class that will determine the next phase of South Africa’s democracy”. Intriguing stuff, not so?

Let’s get into it.

The book is short (200 pages) and is divided into three sections:

* The first part is the longest and is titled “Failed promises, failing state”. It is the story of the ANC’s years in government, starting as they did so promisingly 30 years ago, and then working on to today’s disastrous combination of incompetence and corruption.

* The second part is titled “The new yawn”, and is a survey of the years of the Ramaphosa presidency. Again, these years began with much promise, and then – now – a stumbling president, unable or unwilling to take the necessary tough decisions, leaving the country rudderless and floundering. And, we are reminded repeatedly, there is still Phala Phala hanging around, not fully dealt with.

These two sections spell out the authors’ style and intentions: the book is not investigative journalism – look for no new scandals or even titbits here. That’s Jacques Pauw’s world, and is not for our two authors. And don’t expect academic standards of presentation: there is no bibliography, no references, not even a footnote anywhere. This is journalism, nothing more, nothing less. The files of News24 rewritten? Possibly.

But these files have been well rewritten. The book flows; it’s an easy read. And there is good logic to its organisation. Those are the book’s high points – there are a few quibbles also.

Firstly, the above two sections are glaringly unoriginal. Reasonably informed people will find little new or exciting here – just the stuff of the now ubiquitous anti-ANC Twitterati. From columnists (Justice Malala, Peter Bruce, etc) to public intellectuals (Songezo Zibi and the late Eusebius McKaiser) to scenario providers (Frans Cronje and Somadodo Fikeni) to expose artists (Jacques Pauw and André de Ruyter), an industry of ANC flagellators has emerged, all plying the stuff of Basson and Hunter’s book, daily, from every street corner. Maybe it’s good that much of it is now consolidated into one volume – but we’ve heard it so often and for so long that it is hardly now exciting.

And secondly, the book could have been easily improved by a more scientific approach. Just one example: on page 77 (and onwards), the authors create an “ANC Report Card” of 40 “measurable or semi-measurable aims or goals” that the ANC promised to deliver on from 1994. They then proceed to rate the ANC’s performance against these 40 criteria, the ANC’s own criteria. They arrive at a 40% “Achieved” score.

No rating criteria or methodology is provided by the authors. Rather, they admit that their assessment against these goals is “our subjective assessment”. Some of their “marks” are astonishing, and would have been much more convincing had the methodology of their construction been provided. It hasn’t. Just journalism?

They mark the ANC as having “failed” against the goal of “creat[ing] jobs for millions of people”, yet on page 82 they note that in 1994, South Africa had 8,9 million employed, and by 2022 this figure had become 16,2 million employed. And they fail the ANC against the goals of “building a non-racial society” and “build[ing] a non-sexist society” and a society with “no discrimination on racial, gender or other grounds”.

Where were these two authors in 1990? Not in the country I remember, for sure. If there have been two groups that have benefitted from the last 30 years, it must be gays and women. These “marks” by Basson and Hunter are so off-line as to suggest prejudice against the ANC – in a book that is often correctly even-handed.

*The third section of the book is what we have all been waiting for – the prospects of the 2024 election, and the society that will follow it.

This section has six chapters: one on the ANC (or rather on News24’s latest fetish, Paul Mashatile); one on the DA, as it navigates around Auntie Helen’s own goals; one on the EFF, concluding that it will be in a position after the election to win any demand it puts to an ANC which will be desperate for its support to hold out President Steenhuisen; then a chapter on “New kids on the block” – ActionSA, Rise Mzansi, BOSA, the Patriotic Alliance and independent candidates (now legal); then a chapter on coalition issues; and finally “Crystal-ball gaze: Who will govern after 2023?”.

All but this last chapter follow the pattern of the first two parts of this book – they are rehashes of data in plain sight in the news world. So, it is to this chapter on the crystal ball that we will rush.

The authors concentrate on the possible effect of the 2024 election on South Africa’s parliaments, and conclude, correctly, that there are three parliaments that are sites of potential change – the National Assembly and the provincial legislatures of Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal. The other seven provincial parliaments are very unlikely to change from their present ruling party.

They then create “four broad, likely outcomes for what the political landscape in South Africa will look like after the 2024 general election”. They are:

*Outcome 1 – the ANC holds onto its national majority, although now with a reduced majority. This would lead, say the authors, to Ramaphosa being the weakest president since democracy, and paralysis would become a characteristic of the government. And the crooks in the ANC, sensing doom at the next election, could be predicted to go on a looting spree.

*Outcome 2 – the ANC ends up with support at the 45%-49,9% level. This would see the ANC using all the perks of government (cabinet posts, ambassadorships, etc) to lever the support of a number of small parties – as they have now done with GOOD, whose leader, Patricia de Lille, is on Ramaphosa’s cabinet. Smaller parties may well feel that their interests are better protected in a coalition with the ANC than they would be in a much larger coalition with many small parties, and this type of arrangement would most likely happen, say the authors.

*Outcome 3 – the ANC support level plummets to around 40%, possibly as low as 38%. This would mean that the ANC cannot get to the magic 50%+1 even with all the smalls, and it must now deal with one or both of its mortal enemies – the EFF and the DA.

This, Basson and Hunter believe, the EFF is already anticipating, and plainly their support will come at a huge price in terms of policy concessions and senior positions, possibly even requiring the ANC to remove Ramaphosa and install Mashatile as president and Julius as his deputy. The writers feel that the younger ANC generation would be comfortable with working with the EFF, but at what cost?

The “Grand Coalition” – ANC-DA – is less likely, Basson and Hunter assert, than an ANC-EFF coalition, as the followers of both the ANC and the DA are poisoned as to the “other side”, and the jump would be too extreme and the people too unprepared for it.

*Outcome 4 – this is the now renamed “moonshot pact”, which could follow the collapse of ANC support to mid-thirties and, on the other side, sufficient smalls getting together to add up to 50%+1 or thereabout. This, Basson and Hunter feel, is a real long shot, requiring the ANC to lose as much as 20% of the electorate, the DA to gain most of the voters the ANC loses, and the resultant complex coalition to be robust enough to survive all the tensions paralysing much less ambitious coalitions today. They feel that this type of arrangement has better prospects in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal than nationally.

Well, which of these scenarios is the most possible? Basson and Hunter are careful not to nail their colours to any particular mast, but they do give it away a little later in the book (more later).

Let us move away from the book for a moment, and consider two tables that are not in the book. The first is a table of the present composition of the National Assembly and the two mentioned Provincial Assemblies. In all three assemblies, the ANC’s majority is in peril. An 8% swing of the electorate away from their party would see today’s majorities evaporate, and frantic deal-making would be on the cards.

There was an 8,1% swing away from the ANC between the 2016 and 2021 local government elections, and I calculated that these voters went to the EFF (2,1%), IFP (1,5%) and ATM and NFP (0,6% each). The remaining 3,2% appear to have become stay-away voters.

Parties 2019

National Assembly (% Vote)

Gauteng Legislature (% Vote)

KwaZulu-Natal Legislature (% Vote)




















 0,3 (0 reps)




 0,5 (1 rep)




 1,6 (1 rep)


 0,5 (2 reps)


 0,5 (1 rep)


 0,3 (2 reps)




 0,5 (2 reps)




 0,4 (2 reps)



Minority Front



 0,5 (1 rep)


 0,2 (1 rep)



Al Jama-ah

 0,2 (1 rep)




 1,9 (0 reps)

2,1 (0 reps)

2,0 (0 reps)

A similar process in 2024 would see the ANC with 49,4% of the National Assembly, the EFF with 12,9% and the IFP with 4,9%. For the ANC, a deal with either would establish a full majority. In the Gauteng legislature, this would translate into the ANC having 42,1% and the EFF having 16,8% – again, in sum, a clear majority. And in KwaZulu-Natal, the sums point to the ANC at 46,1%, the EFF at 11,8% and the IFP at 19,7%. Again, either deal clears the ANC and its ally to a full majority.

Is this what the nation needs? ANC-EFF coalitions? Surely it is time to shake the ANC and the DA up to the possibility of the Grand Coalition, as Basson and Hunter have called it. Well, what is going to happen?

It is wise to remember that elections can bring extraordinary results – the USA, after all, elected Donald Trump and he has an excellent chance, incredibly, of another shot at the presidency. And the UK electorate gave us Boris Johnson (by a massive majority) with a clear mandate to drive the nation off the Brexit cliff and into – chaos. If those electorates can do these incredible things – well, South Africa could also pull a cobra from the conjurer’s rabbit hat.

Market Research Late 2023



DA Internal


Institute of Race Relations
























































Our second table is a compilation of some of the most recent voter surveys. With the exception of the DA’s internal poll (maybe we can remember the DA’s internal poll before the 2021 election, with Mmusi telling the press that their internal polling showed the ANC well down, and the DA well up – “Kyk hoe lyk hy nou”), the polls suggest the ANC in the mid-40%s and the DA in the lower 20%s. The outlier is, of course, the EFF – so often badly called in market research.

I have followed market research over many elections, and I have learned to have the most respect for IPSOS. The work of the Institute of Race Relations and the Brenthurst Foundation inevitably overstates the DA – possibly that is what their samples do. IPSOS is suggesting a massive over-performance from the EFF, and that is also my hunch – of all our parties, the EFF is the only one keyed into the fastest growing cohort of our community – black/African youth. While this community has traditionally not enrolled to vote, the IEC seems to have done a better job this time around. This could be the last election where the Grand Coalition is not forced on South Africa. If it has to happen sooner or later, make it happen sooner, and make it work.

Back to Basson and Hunter’s book.

Yes, they do make a prediction. On page 206, they write: “Towards the end of 2023, the most likely scenario emerging was that the ANC would receive between 45% and 50% of the vote, meaning it could form a governing coalition with one or two small parties (excluding the DA and the EFF).”

Wow – is that the “demise of the ANC and the rise of a new democracy” that the cover promised us? Seems like same old, same old to me.

This is, as I have said, a short book. Which is good, because it is neither clearly original nor strikingly profound. It is, however, well written and an easy read. Just journalism.

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  • Barend van der Merwe

    Since nobody can see into the future, these sorts of titles are always misleading and is at best educated guesswork. Outcome 2 or 3 seems to me the more plausible ones. The DA really has a knack for dropping the ball and making a mess of many a good opportunity. Whether the DA can retain their number of seats in the Western Cape is in itself a question to ponder. I would not be surprised if they lose support. The DA polling is definitely not to be trusted at all and is mostly predictably utilized for the purpose of their political propaganda. Many of their supporters openly support Israel, which adds to their already bruised image. The EFF is most certainly the party that will gain most from the election. As noted, in six of the provinces, the ANC is guaranteed to reign again.

  • Agree that there is a strong likelihood that the DA will underperform, especially in the WC. They are probably going to lose their strong coloured / Muslim support base because of their Israel position, exacerbated by the recent manhandling of Palestine supporters. I think the ANC may pick up many of those voters, which could well give the ANC 2% more of the vote.

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