Why SA poll outcome is of grave concern to Zim

A number of polls have been carried out that indicate a seismic change in the political landscape after the elections. It has been predicted that ANC might, for the first time in democratic South Africa, drop below the 50% mark.

South Africa heads to what many analysts have termed the watershed of elections, and some even equating the election to that of 1994, when South Africa gained its independence.

A number of polls have been carried out that indicate a seismic change in the political landscape after the elections. It has been predicted that ANC might, for the first time in democratic South Africa, drop below the 50% mark.

This means they would only remain in power through a coalition with smaller parties. This, however, also means that the other political players have a reasonable chance of ousting the ANC through a coalition to form a new government.

All this has a very important bearing on regional dynamics that will play out going forward.

South Africa is one of Zimbabwe's biggest trading partners, with many small businesses getting their supply from the country. South Africa is also the biggest receiver of migrants coming from Zimbabwe, both documented and undocumented.

In the past, some pundits and political players have blamed the South African government for propping up the Zanu PF government.

A lot of people are aware of the great political, economic, and diplomatic leverage that South Africa has over Zimbabwe, and whoever has the ear of the South African government would have their interests protected.

In this brief, I endeavour to do a scenario analysis of what the 2024 election outcomes might mean to Zimbabwe as a neighbour.


The ruling party remains the biggest political player in the country. They dominate the national and provincial parliaments and have a considerable stake in local government. However, in the past, they barely hung on to Gauteng in the provincial elections.

KwaZulu Natal is hotly contested, and the Western Cape is a province where they do not seem to have any hope of reclaiming the Western Cape. An ANC victory, that is, if they manage to scrap anything above the 50% mark, will mean they will be able to continue with the foreign policies they have always pursued.

As liberation allies, the two parties have enjoyed cordial relations spanning decades. This has influenced the policy positions which are favourable to both trade relations and also to the migrant population of Zimbabwe.

Thabo Mbeki’s quiet diplomacy is what others have attributed as the reason for Mugabe staying in power even after losing the first round of elections in 2008.

The Zuma era did not change how Pretoria dealt with Zimbabwe.

The Zimbabwe Exempt Permit was issued in 2009, and there have been several extensions of the program after that. This has allowed many Zimbabweans to live and work in the country.

In a nutshell, one can conclude that a victory of the ANC will ensure that the interests of Zanu PF government are protected.

The ANC had stood with the Zimbabwean government even when it was not a popular decision.

Cyril Ramaphosa was one of the few SADC heads of state who was at the inauguration of Mnangagwa, even when the SADC preliminary report was scathing. The ANC has called for lifting sanctions against Zimbabwe on the international platform but has not changed its stance.

On the other hand, the loss of ANC can mean that the Zanu PF government might lose the international support and solidarity that they have enjoyed.

The negative outcome might even be disastrous for the migrants that are in the country.

The exempt permits have faced a lot of opposition on social media.

One cannot also rule out the possibility of violent outcomes against the Zimbabwean population in the event that the ANC loses its power. The economic pains that will be felt in Zimbabwe might be great, with a vast number of the population depending on the remittances from family members based in South Africa.

The DA

The DA has dominated the Western Cape province, and they have hoped to increase their influence across the country. They, however, have realised that it would be near impossible to grow and be the dominant player that could wrestle power from the ANC alone.

This realisation and the inherent fear of the ANC /EFF coalition have prompted them to build a coalition of parties so that they could form a government.

There does not seem to be a path to such victory, but in the event that this happens, it will spell doom for the Zanu PF government.

The DA regards itself as a liberal party whose ideologies are guided by such.

They have been critical of the Zimbabwean government and the likelihood of siding with the West on issues such as sanctions and regime change will be a sore thorn in the skin for Zanu PF.

Among its partners in the coalition, many of whom are either centrist or right-leaning, little sympathy will be extended to the left-leaning Zanu PF government.

However, one must note that the fact that both countries have considerable trade volumes and pragmatism might alter the extreme diplomatic fallout as both countries will stand to lose heavily.


This is the country's third-largest party, and its growth or involvement in government might be the good news that Zanu PF

needs. Although the leader has been accused of being a flip-flopper, one can agree that he has been very consistent in his stance on migration.

A number of people on social media have threatened not to vote for the party because they argue that they will make the country's borders more porous.

Furthermore, the ideology of the EFF is not too far off from that of Zanu PF. The land question is a burning issue that the EFF agitates for and Zanu PF has also overseen the land reform program, albeit chaotic as it was. In the Pan-African parliament, when Charumbira’s election was being opposed, Malema was one of the integral voices that delivered victory to him.

It would seem that he would be a pivotal ally, especially if the EFF were to get into a collation government with the ANC. The voices that are critical of migrants, like the current Home Affairs minister, will be drowned by both the EFF and some quarters of the ANC  government.

The conditions of the migrant workers will likely improve, and the security of those with exempt permits will be strengthened.

Other parties

Many of the smaller parties, if they make it into government, are likely to follow the foreign polices from the dominant parties. Most of these parties have not clearly stated their foreign policy positions, either for fear of reprisals or just seeking to deal with domestic issues.

However, other parties have made the issue of migrants, which, according to the StatSA census, over 45% of migrants come from Zimbabwe, their central campaign message. The PA launched its campaign manifesto with the tagline “mabahambe,” directly translated to the foreigners must go.

The ActionSA leader has also had an obsession with the issue of migrants and has placed that as his central campaign message.

Mmusi Maimane has, over the years, expressed his disdain for the Zanu PF government and has consistently regurgitated whatever the opposition party in Zimbabwe has said.

However, I contend that these parties might not play a big part in a  coalition government, and so their foreign policy inclinations might not be the thing that the government that accedes to power will follow.

In conclusion, one can note that these elections are not just important for South Africa but for the region. They will either maintain the status quo or create fissures, diplomatic tensions or even instability. Any Zimbabwean will be affected either directly in  remittances or indirectly through regional stability. This is the reason why everyone should be invested in these elections.

Mapfumo is a research associate and editorial co-ordinator at the African Leadership Centre in Nairobi, Kenya. —  X@spearmunya.

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