Economists pin hopes on 60% election result for ANC that could bolster reform

05 May 2019 - 00:03 By RANJENI MUNUSAMY


President Cyril Ramaphosa will make a final bid today to secure a firm majority in Wednesday's historic election as pressure builds on him to contain the expected fall in the ANC's share of the vote.
With polls predicting a drop for the ANC at national level, there are increased jitters, particularly from economists and investors, about what a result below 60% would mean for the president's reform agenda.
Ramaphosa, who will address the ANC's closing Siyanqoba rally at Ellis Park in Johannesburg today, is expected to give the assurance that he will step up the programme to revitalise the economy and rebuild institutions decimated by state capture.
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He is also expected to concede that the process of turning the country around will be long and difficult, and that there will be pockets of resistance to his agenda.Voter turnout will be the key decider, with both the ANC and the DA struggling to get voters in their traditional support bases to say they will turn up to vote.The future of two key provinces are at stake, with the ANC battling to keep control of SA's economic hub, Gauteng, and the DA in danger of losing its majority in the Western Cape.
Support for the ANC has dwindled due to anger and disillusionment over revelations of mass corruption at the Zondo commission and other public inquiries, the retention of tainted individuals on the party's parliamentary list, and declining socio-economic conditions.Ramaphosa is the main draw card for the ANC - but other party leaders are proving to be a turn-off for undecided voters.The DA's internal battles could see a lower-than-usual turnout in its strongholds or a switch to smaller opposition parties.
Several polls show the DA is in danger of dropping below 50% in the Western Cape, where it gained 59.38% of the vote in 2014.
All polls reflect growth for the EFF at national level and in Gauteng, meaning that the third-biggest party could play kingmaker for the ANC and DA.
Some economists are warning that a substantial loss of support for the ANC could hamper Ramaphosa's agenda and result in a further credit ratings downgrade.
This could make financing for SA's troubled state-owned companies, such as Eskom and SAA, even more difficult.
There are also fears that a coalition between the ANC and the EFF could lead to more populist polices being adopted.
Independent economist Thabi Leoka said the markets were pegging their hopes on a 60% win for the ANC, as the narrative that a strong mandate for Ramaphosa would enhance reforms has grown beyond SA's borders. The most obvious sign of this was The Economist's endorsement of Ramaphosa in a cover story last week."Anything less than 60% would be seen as negative. This could mean Ramaphosa would not be able to include reformers in his cabinet and be compelled to choose weaker people and those tainted by corruption," she said.Many current and former ministers implicated in corruption or who belong to the ANC faction led by secretary-general Ace Magashule are at the top of the party's national election list. This means they are guaranteed seats in the National Assembly and will be in pole position for ministerial posts if Ramaphosa's allies do not make it to parliament.Leoka said markets and investors have been holding back on SA until after the elections to see whether Ramaphosa is able to pursue his reforms more aggressively.
"Confidence is the first step in stimulating an economy. There will be disappointment if we don't see reforms and also if there are no prosecutions of those implicated in corruption," said Leoka.
A poll conducted by international research group Intellidex among local and global asset managers, stockbrokers and investment bankers showed they expect the rand, bonds and shares to rally if the ANC hits 58.3% or more.
The head of Intellidex capital markets research, Peter Attard Montalto, said though most people in the investor community were confident Ramaphosa would see out his term if elected president, they believe there is only a one-third chance of growth-boosting reform after the elections.
"We need to see where reform comes from, how would reform happen and whether Ramaphosa knows how to work the state effectively to grow the economy," he said.
The poll showed that markets were banking heavily on Tito Mboweni and Pravin Gordhan remaining at finance and public enterprises respectively, to continue stabilising the economy and reforming SOEs.
An economist at the Centre for Economic Development and Transformation, Duma Gqubule, said he believed that the elections would have a short-term impact on the markets. He said there was a false sense of optimism around Ramaphosa when the focus should be on the lack of growth in the South African economy.

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