Cyril Ramaphosa more popular than the ANC - poll
Party pins hopes on president's 73% approval rating
An internal ANC survey has found that President Cyril Ramaphosa is more popular than the party he heads.
A poll conducted by the governing party's research unit says Ramaphosa has an approval rating of 73% by South African voters, whereas only 60% of those polled are pleased with the ANC.
The ANC has set itself a target of at least 60% of the national vote in the May 8 polls, which would be an improvement from the 54% national support it received in the 2016 local government elections. The party received 62% in the 2014 general elections.
ANC head of elections Fikile Mbalula said the poll outcomes were a positive sign for the party's fortunes, which deteriorated under scandal-prone former president Jacob Zuma.
In its "Roadmap" document leaked this week, the ANC identifies a number of weaknesses affecting the party's campaign.
Ramaphosa's support may not automatically translate into ANC votes - as was the case with former president Nelson Mandela, who was also more popular than the party but could not get it beyond 63% of the vote.
Mbalula said the ANC was aware of this, but remained confident voters would identify the ANC with Ramaphosa as the face of the party.
"The people have got to see the president in the image of the ANC. The two are not disconnected.
"When he acts in government and does good things, people see Ramaphosa, not the ANC, but that is so because of where we come from with an ANC that was associated with badness because of the head of state," said Mbalula.
"The president is the face and he is at the helm of government, so society will always view him [separately] from the party. Zuma affected our image because he was viewed in relation to state capture as the president of the country and the ANC, and that caused damage to the ANC.
"But now we have a new head of state who is doing good things because it is the new dawn, a strategic era that we are in."
According to Mbalula, the ANC is not going to regain all the lost ground overnight, with its image having suffered immensely in the previous decade.
He said the ANC's continued dominance in the two general elections held during the Zuma years was based on the party being a brand.
"We have baggage from an era of a president who was not providing leadership but was associated with all the bad things. Literally everyone influential in the republic never believed in the leadership of former president Zuma.
"The ANC got the 8-million votes because it has a strong base as a brand, but we still had people who chose to stay away from the polls," said Mbalula.
Political analyst Mcebisi Ndletyana agreed that Ramaphosa's popularity would not automatically translate into support for the ANC.
Ndletyana said it was not surprising that Ramaphosa was more popular than the organisation he leads because he was more of a "public leader" than an "organisation leader".
This, he said, was evidenced by how Ramaphosa shaped his campaign for the ANC presidency, which "reached beyond traditional ANC constituencies but rather appealed to a wider community".
ANC researchers interviewed more than 4,000 people across the country. The greatest support for the party was found in the 35-to 40-year age group. The poll found that younger people shunned the party, with most 18- to 25-year-olds not positive about the future.
The ANC has also admitted to weaknesses in its election campaign machinery.
This admission is contained in the leaked ANC internal document, "Roadmap to Election Day".
In the document, the ANC makes the following admissions about what has weakened its campaign so far: Its youth structures, including the ANC Youth League and the Progressive Youth Alliance, have failed, leaving this space to be dominated by the EFF;
The ANC has failed to take advantage of opposition weaknesses due to its own internal weakness and inadequate resources;
There have been public spats and misuse of social media by leaders who were sent for training; and
The Nasrec conference hangover has refused to die down, contaminating the positive mood being created...