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By Eric Naki

Political Editor

‘Most voters want radical economic transformation’ – survey

Surprising support for radical economic transformation (RET) spans across South African voters, impacting political dynamics significantly.

Although radical economic transformation (RET) is part of the agenda of the left, this economic restructuring concept is popular among the majority of South Africans, a new survey has found.

Surprisingly, support for RET – long an ANC policy and a concept promoted heavily by former president Jacob Zuma – came from voters loyal to the Multi-Party Charter.

A whopping 71% favour radical economic transformation.

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Most of the nine parties, led by the Democratic Alliance and Inkatha Freedom Party, in the Charter are leaning towards free-market and neoliberalism.

As could be expected, an overwhelming majority of the EFF supports RET at 95%, with the ANC at 83%.

The survey findings indicate that parties in the Multi-Party Charter might well see last-minute defections of their voters to the ANC, EFF or even to the uMkhonto weSizwe party, which is backed by Zuma and has been making significant strides.

The recently released SA Voter Sentiment Report 2023 looked into the thoughts and beliefs of registered and eligible voters, sampled randomly countrywide with 12 668 participants.

The sample is nationally representative with a provincial breakdown that is almost perfectly in line with the IEC results from the last election in 2019.

EFF supporters had strong feelings about the need to implement RET, followed by those of the ANC.

Interestingly, there appeared to be common ground on this with supporters linked to the Multi-Party Charter.

But political analyst Zakhele Ndlovu, politics lecturer at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said radical economic transformation was nothing but an empty promise to the electorate.

The expert expressed pity for those who believed that something would come out of RET. Instead of the better life for all as promised by the ANC, the opposite had occurred in the past 30 years, he said.

More citizens got deeper into poverty and hunger, while infrastructure had deteriorated.

“Now, they are coming up with another promise of a radical economic transformation to confuse the people.

“It’s a diversion to confuse the people and give them new hope. What have they been doing all along in the past 30 years,” Ndlovu asked.

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The report is a collaboration of four companies involved in the world of consumer research, data collection and weighting: WhyFive, MoyaApp, Silverstone CIS and SoftCopy.

Brandon de Kock, WhyFive’s director of storytelling, said the findings “indicate that voters recognise the need for change and there’s significant consensus that millions of South Africans must be lifted out of poverty”.

“However, we need to dig deeper to see if voters can agree on how that economic transformation should play out,” De Kock said.

A total of 67% of EFF and 55% of ANC supporters agreed with the statement that capitalism is good for the rich and bad for the poor.

However, supporters of the Multi-Party Charter came up with a surprise as 39% disagreed, while 44% agree with that statement.

Explaining the findings, De Kock said EFF supporters were clearly more anticapitalist than the ANC supporters and noted the telling fact that 44% of Multi-Party supporters agree with them. But, at 68%, Multi-Party supporters strongly opposed communism when asked if they thought communism was the answer for South Africa.

Even the answers from the EFF supporters (52%) and ANC supporters (49%) was not enthusiastic on communism, considering their vigorous backing for the socialist-oriented RET ideology.

Commenting on these developments, De Kock said: “Exactly what people’s understanding of the two concepts is might be debatable but, if nothing else, it shows how powerful words can be in a country where we really should be more focused on actions.”

The supporters of the EFF and the ANC felt strongly about the nationalisation of mines and banks, with a large 78% by EFF supporters and 68% by their ANC counterparts.

This is where the Multi-Party supporters showed their true colours, because a mere 29% backed nationalisation.

De Kock expected this figure to be far less though, describing the 29% as “interesting”.

On land redistribution, the ANC and EFF supporters surveyed were almost unanimous in favouring the redistribution of land

What is RET?

The survey is the first to focus specifically on the RET – a policy espoused mainly within the country’s left including a large section of the ANC-led alliance, the Economic Freedom Fighters, South African Federation of Trade Unions and a potpourri of small left-leaning organisations.

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