ANC finally wakes up to the fact its grip on power is slipping
There is no denying that the coming general elections, which are expected to be held around this time next year, will be the most exciting and toughest since the first democratic elections in 1994.
All the political parties, including the ANC, will tell you that they are preparing for what is shaping up to be a bruising battle - with the opposition now emboldened by the ruling party's dismal performance in the municipal elections almost two years ago.
EFF leader Julius Malema told editors this week that his party was expecting a strong showing in all the northern provinces. It is also hoping for huge electoral gains in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal - two of the provinces where it has been struggling to sell itself to the electorate.
Then there is the DA, which, having scored big in the last municipal elections by wresting control of Johannesburg, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay from the ANC, now believes it can win its second province.It is gunning for Gauteng, with Makashule Gana, one of the party's brightest young leaders, having launched his campaign for the premiership. As Malema predicted this week, indications are that the DA - even without Patricia de Lille, whose membership was terminated by the party this week - looks set to retain power in the Western Cape.
The revelation that the ANC has finally accepted the possibility of losing power in the coming elections will add energy to the efforts of the opposition parties. Today we report that the ANC's own internal assessment predicts that unless something drastic is done, the ruling party could dip below 50% for the first time since 1994.
This warning, the first time the ANC is known to have entertained the possibility of losing power, was presented to the party's national elections workshop two months ago.
In the document, which has been kept under wraps until now, the ruling party acknowledges that supporters are sick of empty promises and want action on a range of issues.
The assessment will come as a huge shock to many ANC members, who expected the election of Cyril Ramaphosa as party president to provide a boost to its electoral fortunes - especially after Jacob Zuma's tumultuous decade in power ended in February.It now appears that the ANC's elections team wants party members to prepare for the possibility of the ANC governing through a coalition - or even having to go into opposition.
So South Africans should brace themselves. We are in for an interesting 12 months of campaigning. The ANC will not just give in. Expect it to pull out all the stops.
The party has already appointed Fikile Mbalula as its head of elections. It has also made its intentions very clear about the Western Cape, calling on veteran politician Ebrahim Rasool to lead its campaign in that province. It is also hoping to convince De Lille to join the party and campaign for it in that province.
Having closely followed the ANC's performance at the polls, we are not shocked by the latest revelations. Unlike the blind loyalists of the ANC, we are only surprised it has taken it this long to accept reality. The ANC's electoral support has been declining for the past four years at least. Voters used the 2016 local elections to sound a warning that they are tired of talk and want delivery.