It's a wrap: SA politics in 2019

30 December 2019 - 10:24 By APHIWE DEKLERK
President Cyril Ramaphosa casts his vote in Chiawelo, Soweto, on May 8 2019.
President Cyril Ramaphosa casts his vote in Chiawelo, Soweto, on May 8 2019.
Image: Alaister Russell/The Sunday Times

In politics, 2019 was expected to be a big year, largely because of the May 8 elections.

Opposition parties were expected to “eat up” the ANC’s ruling majority, with Gauteng being the most hotly contested province.

But the Cyril Ramaphosa effect proved good enough to ensure that the ANC stayed in power, albeit with a reduced majority.

The ANC got 57.51% of the vote, the DA 20.76% and the EFF, the biggest mover in the elections, 10.79%. The ANC dropped from 62% in 2014, while the DA slipped from 22% in the same period. 

This result had major political implications for the official DA opposition, which now finds itself with a new leader after Mmusi Maimane quit under pressure.

Here is a breakdown of how the ANC, DA and EFF fared during the year:


Election year was less bruising for the ruling party, though it saw two factions — supporters of President Ramaphosa and the so called “RET forces”, who grouped themselves around secretary-general Ace Magashule.

In the build-up to the elections, the ANC’s list conference proved that though Ramaphosa led the party, those opposed to him, and former president Jacob Zuma’s supporters, still had a big influence.

Former ministers Malusi Gigaba, Bathabile Dlamini, Bongani Bongo, Nomvula Mokonyane, Sifiso Buthelezi and Joe Maswanganyi made it back to the party’s parliamentary list.

Gigaba, Dlamini and Mokonyane resigned, but others stayed on, with Bongo chairing the home affairs portfolio committee.

Others, such as Lindiwe Zulu, former ANCYL secretary Njabulo Nzuza, David Mahlobo and Phumulo Masualle made returns as ministers and deputy ministers.

Post-election bickering surrounded the implementation of the ANC 2017 resolutions, with the biggest fight being around the nationalisation of the Reserve Bank.


The election results saw what some commentators dubbed “the implosion” of the DA amid the resignation of Maimane, chairperson Athol Trollip and former Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba.

After the elections, party leadership put on a united front, saying it would take collective responsibility for the result.

The DA failed to deliver its main goal of reducing the ANC to less than 50% in Gauteng and govern through a coalition.

The poor election result was long coming as the party had been engaged in an ideological fight over its stand on race, BEE and the introduction of a diversity clause.

Long-serving chairperson of the federal council James Selfe was the first leader to resign, after a meeting that resolved to institute a review of the party.

The review, led by former leader Tony Leon and Ryan Coetzee, recommended that Maimane resign and that the party review its relationship with the EFF in Tshwane and Johannesburg.

But it was the election of former party leader Helen Zille as Selfe’s successor that led to Mashaba’s resignation.

Maimane resigned under pressure from party insiders after numerous revelations about his use of a house, paid for by a Durban businessman, and the use of a car donated by disgraced former Steinhoff CEO Markus Jooste.

Maimane has since joined Mashaba, who is working on a platform, The People's Dialogue, to engage citizens. A number of commentators believe Mashaba’s project is a precursor to a new political party.

Though Trollip resigned from his job, he remains an active DA member. He was replaced by Ivan Meyer.

Former chief whip John Steenhuisen has since taken over from Maimane. 

The political developments in the DA have seen it lose its governance of Johannesburg, after its coalition partners the IFP and Cope ditched the party for the ANC.

In Tshwane, the party is kept in power by a court order which halted council resolutions to remove speaker Katlego Mathebe and mayor Stevens Makgalapa. Makgalapa is also under fire from his party after a leaked “sex recording”, purportedly between him and former Tshwane MMC for roads and transport.


Julius Malema’s party was the biggest winner at the elections. It increased its support from 6% in 2014 to more than 10% this year.

But the turmoil in the three biggest metros — Nelson Mandela Bay, Johannesburg and Tshwane — may see it lose some influence.

In Johannesburg, the EFF was outplayed by the ANC after it tried to dictate to the party on its mayoral candidate. The EFF was opposed to Geoff Makhubo taking over as mayor. It fielded its own candidate, but lost. The party had been a king maker in the municipality and had a good working relationship with the DA's Mashaba.

In Tshwane, it is still unclear if the EFF will have any influence, as the ANC is reportedly refusing to give it a chance to help form a government.

Internally, Dali Mpofu was recently voted out of the party's top leadership.

He and Gauteng leader Mandisa Mashego were the only ones to run against a strong “Matorokisi” faction that supported Malema. Both lost. Mpofu stood against Floyd Shivambu, a long-time Malema ally, while Mashego contested Veronica Mente for the position of national chairperson.

The party now has three new faces in its top-six leadership. Mente replaced Mpofu, Marshal Dlamini replaced Godrich Gardee as secretary-general and Omphile Maotwe took over from Leigh-Ann Mathys as treasurer-general.