President Jacob Zuma. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
President Jacob Zuma. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

ALTHOUGH the African National Congress (ANC) faces the "real prospect" of losing support in next year’s elections, President Jacob Zuma remains an "electoral asset" for the party, says an analyst.

Richard Calland, an associate professor in public law at the University of Cape Town, also told members of the Cape Town press club on Thursday that violence could be part of future elections amid increasing political competition.

He dismissed the chances of Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and Mamphela Ramphele’s Agang SA in the election, saying Dr Ramphele had made a "bad mistake" by joining formal politics. While the ANC was expected to win next year’s elections, speculation was that its share of the vote would drop. Earlier this month, financial services group Nomura predicted that the ANC would lose up to 10% (from 65.9% to 56.2%) of its votes to the Democratic Alliance (DA), Agang and the EFF.

Prof Calland, who was speaking about his new book, The Zuma Years: SA’s Changing Face of Power, said the polls will be the most competitive to date. There was a "serious prospect" of the DA accumulating up to 30% of the vote.

"We can be critical of Mr Zuma, but in the last two elections he has saved them. Remember that in 2009 in eight of the nine provinces of the country, the popular support of the ANC went down on average 8% but in KwaZulu-Natal, the most populous province, it went up 16% and similar figures in 2011 … meaning that in 2009 the ANC’s decline was about 4% ... Zuma saved them and will he do so again? Perhaps".

But Prof Calland criticised Mr Zuma’s leadership saying he "just does not read", which was one of his major weaknesses. He said Mr Zuma was "in many ways, the embodiment of anti-intellectualism".

"He does not read policy documents, Cabinet briefs and the stuff that is the meat and drink of modern, sophisticated government".

He compared him with former president Thabo Mbeki, who "kept Cabinet ministers on their toes because he read everything, possibly too much".

Prof Calland also said despite Mr Zuma being popular in KwaZulu-Natal, the ANC should "expect some serious declines" in the rest of the country. But Agang and the EFF were unlikely to get more than 3% of the vote each, he said. "Malema is very difficult to predict.…. He is a very charismatic and talented young man, and could take votes from the ANC, in township areas. He will go to areas where ANC leaders will not go; you would think he would do 2% or 3%, which will damage the ANC".

On Agang, Prof Calland said Dr Ramphele — with whom he worked at the now-defunct think-tank Idasa — did not have the "skills" to run a political party, a factor that could cost her in the polls.

"We all regret the loss of her as an independent voice that speaks with absolute authority and courage. I do not think she has the discipline or the skills, the attributes and the personality to run a political party.… I fear that Agang will not do well. I will be surprised if they got more than 2% or 3% of the vote".