With May 22 the most likely date for the big vote, South Africa’s watershed 2024 national election is now just six months away. A change in government, implausible a few years ago, is now a distinct probability with the gap between the two leading parties shrinking fast. On Friday night, the DA’s internal polling put the party at 32% of the national vote compared with the ANC’s 39% – its lowest yet. As momentum is with the DA and its coalition partners, their “path to victory” rallying call has been upgraded from hopeful to possible. DA election campaign manager Greg Krumbock explained why to BizNews editor Alec Hogg.
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Relevant timestamps from the interview
- 00:08 – Introductions
- 01:19 – Greg Krumbock on when the election must be held and why it must be held then
- 02:44 – On how internal polling works
- 04:28 – How long has it been going for
- 07:09 – DA is now sitting at 32%
- 11:34 – Battle for the rural areas as ANC continues to suffer
- 14:45 – The penny is dropping
- 16:03 – Will the DA have enough to surpass ANC come May 22
- 18:15 – How far are the DA behind ANC
- 19:55 – Go out and register to vote
- 22:01 – Conclusions
Edited transcript of the interview by Alec Hogg with Greg Krumbock
Alec Hogg: The world of politics is getting incredibly interesting all around the world. Just today we had news from Argentina where a libertarian and a liberal who’s going to close down the Reserve Bank, change their currency to the US dollar, has won election there against all odds. And we see what’s happening in the Netherlands as well, where there’s some huge shifts in the political landscape. Here in South Africa, we have got a well, our biggest election yet.
Coming next year, the Democratic Alliance is closing ground very rapidly on the ruling ANC. And we can be finding out in just a moment from Greg Krumbock on how the DA believes it’s now so close, seven percentage points difference between the two, which would have appeared almost impossible not long ago. And with the momentum very definitely in its favour, who knows what’s going to happen in the next few months. The election, Greg, when exactly must it be held? We know that the president can decide on the date, but is there a, what is the window that he can work within?
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Greg Krumbock: So he has a six month window either way according to when the last election was held, morning Alec and morning to all your viewers as well. But that obviously will be finalised when it is announced, Promulgated and Gazetted. The most likely date that we’re working on is 22 May. It is possible it could be a little bit earlier or possibly in August. But 22 May seems to be the most likely date for the election next year.
Alec Hogg: Why?
Greg Krumbock: Well, I’m not the president, but I think the IEC is in favour of that date for various reasons. I have been working towards that date because that’s the date they have announced and it seems to be the most logical date when you take into account, for example, public holidays and other events that might interfere with that. So we’re happy to work towards the 22nd of May.
Alec Hogg: So that’s only seven months away. In fact, what are we on the 20th today? So it’s five months of next year and a couple of months this year, and there we are.
Greg Krumbock: Yeah including the Christmas break where not too many people have politics as their top priority in their minds. So really, it’s just five months and it’s getting very close.
Alec Hogg: And your latest internal polling shows that the DA is closing the gap with the ANC quite dramatically. When you talk to internal polling, just explain to us if you would how that works.
Greg Krumbock: So we track the entire South African electorate every single day. And we have a number of polls, one of which we call the trackers, which tracks on a daily basis how every party is doing in every province and every community. And that one can take a slightly longer series of data for two weeks, or one can take a more immediate set of data, which we do also have, which reflects literally the last two days, the 500 tracker.
That sample is drawn from every single possible sector of our society. So we call it a random stratified sample and it includes all structures, all areas, urban, rural, all demographics, all religions. And then it’s randomised to the extent that every single South African has got an equal chance to be included at that poll. And then when we have that random stratified sample.
In that form, we know we are dealing with exactly the voters role. The one filter we’ve put in it is that you must be a registered voter because we put in the views of voters, not unregistered people. And then when you aggregate the data over a series of days, you then get a big enough sample, which is a very, very low margin of error, and then one can actually see the trends developing. So let’s say you did a tracking poll, which we do over two weeks. So it’s 10 working days. On day 11, the oldest day drops out, the newest day drops in.
And you have a moving average tracking poll tracking the last two weeks. The 500 is obviously the last two days. Every day you’re dropping one, you’re keeping two, and then you have a very sensitive insight into the pulse of the electorate, what they’re thinking, who they’re supporting. And that’s how we compile our tracking polls.
Alec Hogg: how long they’ve been going for.
Greg Krumbock: We started this roughly in 1999, which was obviously very limited then, but as our party became bigger and more successful, we were able to add to it. And so I would say in the last 15 years, it’s probably reached a point where it is equal to any other polling done anywhere around the world. We regularly get within one percent of every party’s actual support in the announced IEC election results a day before people actually vote. And after the first few representatives, results do come up from the IEC on election night itself. Perhaps the first 150 to 200 results. In that random selection results that comes through, sometimes it takes a little bit longer to get a bigger urban VD. So we might need 300 or 400, but that’s literally in the first hour. And we can use those results and our computer system is being designed by our chief pollster, Johann van der Berg, then goes and searches for equivalent VDs with very, very similar demographics to the ones he is loading into the system. And then from there, it can work out what the results are likely to be in that particular demographic that’s similar to the result that we’ve already got. And once you have two or three like that, your model starts to stabilise, which an hour after the first set of results have come out. So after the first hour, we get enough of a sample, maybe an hour and a half. An hour after that, which is normally about 1130 on the election night, you can call the result within one tenth of a percent of the final result for each party. So we’re able to call provinces, we’re able to call municipalities in a local government type scenario very, very early on. And that is obviously something we’re very proud of, that we have a polling ability that asterisks polling companies that do this as a commercial enterprise as an in-house facility within the DA. We’ve got it down to one tenth of a percent within two hours of the polls closing.
Alec Hogg: But I guess the big thing for what you’ve just announced, i.e. that the DA is now sitting at 32%, the ANC at 39% is in the past, how accurate have these kinds of things been? I understand on polling night or on election night itself, we kind of get that and you’ve explained it really well, but how close to the reality is this on what has happened in previous years.
Greg Krumbock: Well, I mean, I think it’s extremely accurate as to where we were on Friday night last week. So poll is by definition, it’s called a moving average for a reason. It moves as the electorate shifts and changes and as issues that help us push our support upwards and vice versa. So it is a snapshot in time. It is not the final election result. But if one looks at polling and tracking polls in particular over a very, very long period of time, what you will then see is the trend developing.
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Many political leaders around the world will say to the media as yourself, we don’t look at the polls every day because so many things can influence what the electorate feels about a particular party on one day of the week. But over the weeks and over the months, you do see a trend developing. And so what we’ve seen in the last three or four years in particular from 1990, 2019 onwards is the ANC consistently now well under 50 percent whereas before that they were above and in fact in 2019 they got 57 percent of the vote but then they started to drop and so they dropped down in the local government election that followed in 2021 down to around 47 and that was reflected in our polling over that time and that has continued since 2021.
So they consistently poll in the low 40s, but now as we’ve seen, hence our announcement, they are starting to poll in the high 30s. So the polls do in fact over a period of time tell a story. And it’s very difficult over a long trend that stretches for years to reverse the trend in the last three or four weeks in an election campaign. And so equally in our case, whereas we’re polling often in 2019, around about the 20% mark, that started to edge up in 2021. We’ve got an improved result. And then since 2022, we’ve consistently been in the high 20s. And that trend is borne out by elections, particularly in black areas. And it’s culminated in what we’ve seen in the latter part of this year, that the ANC is very, very often under 40%. And we are very, very often in 28, 29 territory. And now in the early 30s. So I don’t think we can look at one poll on one day and say that’s the election result, but we can look at the trends and see what that is likely to be. And it has been reliable both in 2021 and 2019.
Alec Hogg: Well, the by-elections do support what you’re saying about the way the trends are going. And there have been some quite spectacular numbers for the DA. I keep all the by-election results on record just to understand a little better. And we now have over 180 by-elections. For people who don’t understand what this is, is that after the local elections in 2021, there would be some councillors who would die, others who would resign, others who maybe leave the party, and then you have to have another election in that area. So more than 180 of those have happened, which is now giving us a pretty useful sample. But to me, what’s been fascinating is in the strong DA areas, you’re seeing spectacular numbers. There was one in the last month alone, Tshwane Ward 47, the DA went from 70% to 98.6%. That’s just about unbelievable to get that share of a vote in a particular ward. In Govan Mbeki Ward 21, from 79% to 92%. And then last month, in Ekurhuleni Ward 23, from 85% to 96%. So it seems as though the converted or the people maybe who understand how important good governance is, are becoming more and more on the.
But you aren’t hitting the spot. You aren’t winning in the rural areas. Is this a deliberate strategy from the party or can you just not make any progress there? Because it appears as though the ANC is getting hit quite badly there by the EFF and there’s no DA to counterbalance it.
Greg Krumbock: Well, Alec, I think that’s with respect to oversimplification. I could add other urban results. The city of Cape Town also in the 90s. So you are right in the sense that where we have an established DA area, the consolidation of the vote under the DA is proceeding very rapidly now. People realise that this is our last chance. They love the idea that we can rescue South Africa. They agree with the sentiments and intent behind the Moonshot pact pact. And so we are seeing a very strong consolidation, but it’s not only happening in the urban areas. So I could, for example, talk to you about Prince Albert municipality. It’s a municipality in the southern Karoo. Wouldn’t describe it as anything like urban. It is a very rural area, a very sparse population over many, many square kilometres. We won that by election a little while ago. And through that by election we became for the very first time the governing party in Prince Albert. So that’s again in a rural area. Equally in places like Matzikama, Vanrhynsdorp, and Lambert’s Bay we’ve done very, very well. Not your average metro area. These are smaller towns scattered around the country. If we’re talking about deep, deep rural areas, then the best example there is a recent by election in Eastern Cape, in a place called Enoch Mgijima, and there from a very low base, we got 38% of the vote, 100% Black Ward rural area.
I can quote you from my own constituency in Ward 3, where it has been an ANC ward ever since the dawn of democracy. It is 79% IsiZulu speaking, 21% English. And in November 2021, our candidate there, Sandile Mnikathi, who is now the Deputy Mayor of Umgeni, won that ward for the first time. 79% Black farming area, I would describe that as rural. So there are a number of instances where our support is now starting to break through in rural areas, and that’s very encouraging. And our trackers that we referred to at the beginning of your show, obviously take into account a very large rural component.
Greg Krumbock: Roughly 45% of our electorate might be described as rural. And our support, the main driver of our increases is in fact, our increasing support amongst younger black voters who are also in the rural areas. So we might not be getting 60% in a by-election in the rural area, but we’re getting a very big multiple of what we’ve got in the past. And that’s why we’ve grown from almost 22% in 2021 to 32% now is driven by that kind of increasing support that we see in those rural areas.
Alec Hogg: That’s very positive information because quite often those of us who live in the first world, if you like, believe erroneously that those in the deep rural areas are not in touch and that they’re just going to vote for the same football team, i.e. the ANC. But the penny is dropping there that there is a better way.
Greg Krumbock: I would say so. And if you look at the interaction over this last registration weekend where we had many registration points and DA front of house or tables, as they would be known, to meet and greet the electorate, it’s quite startling in rural areas how many people are seen gathered around those tables. The other parties who are traditionally strong in those areas were nowhere to be seen in many cases. And then you see people lining up to sign DA membership forms and become members and go into register for the first time to vote DA. So that is that rising tide that we are seeing, which is lifting our support played out this very last weekend with literally thousands of photographs of people, you know, getting very excited about this new support that they have now received. They set up a table, put a little DA tablecloth on it. Here’s our registration point and many, many more people than we expected came across and said we’d like to register the OTA, what do we do? Very encouraging indeed.
Alec Hogg: On the current trends, and given that your May the 22nd stab is the actual election date next year, would the DA have enough then to surpass the ANC at that point, given that the trend is DA up, ANC down?
Greg Krumbock: Well, the idea of the moonshot pact was to create a path to victory, knowing that we wouldn’t, for example, in KwaZulu Natal have enough to win on our own. There’s no party that in KwaZulu Natal will have enough to win on its own. Probably the same case in Tshwane, Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni and the whole province of Gauging. But our support is rising in all those metros and both of those provinces.
So in KwaZulu Natal, for example, we have a situation which is quite fascinating. We have at our polling on Friday, we have the ANC, EFF and National Freedom Party, the NFP all adding up to exactly 50%. On the other side, we have the DA and the IFP, very, very similar, around 22 each. And then you have the ACDP, Freedom Front Plus and Action SA and they come to exactly 50%.
So I don’t think any party in KZN, for example, can claim that they can run outright, but the numbers are so finely balanced that there is in fact a path to victory and a new government in the province of KZN is very, very possible now. Hence, a good performance in the registration weekend is the first step to that. So would we overtake the ANC in total by next year? I think that remains to be seen. We certainly have overtaken them according to the Social Research Foundation in urban areas. That kind of polling is also supported by numbers we’ve seen coming out from France, from here recently, 45 to 31. But it will probably require the support of our multi-charter partners to get us over the line into the union buildings. And that I think remains the most realistic scenario. But we are growing all the time as these numbers show. And 7% behind the ANC is very, very exciting. I was just trying to can do it with the support of those other parties, I think we will do it.
Alec Hogg: What was a recent number when you say 7% is unprecedented, that gap, where have you come from? If it’s only 7% now between the DA and the ANC, how far behind was it?
Greg Krumbock: Well, it depends how far you go back in time to assess that. So most of 2023, we’ve been between 9% and 11%. A lot of the time, sometimes a little bit more on occasion, just briefly, but not by the end of the week. We’ve been close to 7%, but we’ve never been at the end of the week with a full five days polling in as close to 7%. So this is a new eye for us and a unique moment for us as it happened. The day before the registration weekend couldn’t have happened at a better time. So there have been on occasions where for a brief moment, we actually even overtook the ANC. That’s happened once this year. But that tended to be very, very few and far between. And it wasn’t borne out by the other five days or nine days, depending on what cycle you’re looking at, in that particular cycle. But this over a number of days, over two weeks, is a 7% gap and that is a smooth tracker. It involves a lot of data and therefore reliable. So I wouldn’t want to tell you about any polls you claim too much on just one day’s polling. But over two weeks, that is very significant and that’s where we come from. We’ve been, as I say, between nine and 11, sometimes 12 and 13% behind most of this year, but now we’ve caught up to 7%.
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Alec Hogg: Greg, there are many people who do see this 2024 election as potentially the last chance for democracy in South Africa or a change in government anyway. All kinds of things could happen with a different government. How can those people be or get involved? Because clearly if they see these numbers, they’re going to say, hang on a minute, like the spring box. When they weren’t winning, no one went to the games. Now you can’t get a ticket for all the money in the world. How could they start contributing to make sure that you are, that they can participate in what could be a winning team.
Greg Krumbock: Well, that’s an excellent question, Alec, and I think it starts with being registered yourself. So are you registered? Is your family registered? Are your friends, your neighbours, your relatives? Start there. Make sure that by the time the final registration weekend comes, we don’t know when that is yet. The IEC haven’t announced it, but it’s likely to be in February. Make sure that all those people have registered. And then, as we are now saying in Chris Pappas’ campaign to become Premier of KZN, one plus one equals one.
So if every person who is a DA supporter finds at least one other person and gets them registered, we can then win this registration battle nationally and be in a very, very much better position to scrap it out on the 22nd of May. And then once that’s done, I would urge people to go further, get involved. Go to your local DA constituency office, chat to your local DA councillor or MP or MPL. There is so many things we can do to actually work in the campaign. It doesn’t just involve putting up posters, but it’s interacting with people. We’re very good at being visible around the community. So having more people at DA information tables, having people take part in events. If you like the kind of work where you actively improve people’s lives, we have cleanups, we have collections of school equipment for schools, we have collections of food for people and clothing that have lost everything in a flood or a fire. That’s a regular part of the life of the Democratic Alliance. That’s a wonderful project to be in our carrying campaign. All of that is going to help change the election results and change our country. We’re just going to the Internet, find your local D.A. structure and we will find something for you to make a difference.
Alec Hogg: I see I opened the door there. Well, okay, Greg, it’s not just the guys who are in business who can see an opportunity, but politics as well. Well, it’s very exciting as we head towards the election next year, as you say, only six months ahead, probably with the 22nd of May being a date that we all need to put into our calendars now. Greg Krumbock is the DA’s campaign manager for the election 2024. And I’m Alec Hogg from BizNews.com
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