How the ANC, the party of Nelson Mandela, failed South Africa

If the predictions are correct and the ANC takes less than 50 per cent of the vote, it will kick off two weeks of frantic horse-trading to find a coalition.

The shape of that power-sharing will depend on how many votes the ANC gets. If it slips just below the threshold, it will probably be able to make up the difference with electoral minnows.

While the Democratic Alliance is leading a grand coalition of smaller parties that it hopes can oust the ruling party, the ANC may be able to split them off with promises of power-sharing.

The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), which has most of its base in KwaZulu-Natal and got 3.5 per cent in 2019, is seen as a likely kingmaker in such a scenario.

If the deficit is larger, the ANC will be forced to make much more difficult decisions about teaming up with bigger parties.

Joining the radical EFF would alarm some of the ANC’s more sober elements and could sow panic among investors and financial markets.

Aligning with Mr Zuma, who feels betrayed by the party that ousted him, could prove to be impossible.

Many in the ANC feel that the Democratic Alliance is too Right-wing and too white to join forces with.

Whatever the result, the ANC seems set to remain by far the largest force in South African politics. But that is unlikely to be enough for party leaders, who will still see the loss of complete power as a failure. In such circumstances, Mr Ramaphosa’s days could be numbered.

“I think you may see a split in the ANC if it doesn’t get more than 50 per cent, over the whole idea of a coalition partner – who to go with,” Mr Mthombothi said.

“Power is the only glue that holds them together, once they are out of power they will splinter.”

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