Earlier this week, final preparations for the launch of South Africa’s electoral version of Battlestar Galactica were made public. The countdown to August has begun, as the Democratic Alliance (DA), the Freedom Front Plus (FF+), ActionSA, the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), the United Independent Movement (UIM) and the two-year-old Spectrum National Party inch towards their national convention. According to DA leader John Steenhuisen – lead pilot of the “moonshot” mission – a few other parties are expected to hitch a ride, or at least attend the launch as observers.

As expected, the announcement has added fuel to the excitement among pundits who wager that the African National Congress (ANC) will be brought some distance below 50% at a national level. Depending on where one stands on the political spectrum, such an outcome would represent welcome progress – or an unmitigated disaster. If the 2021 local government elections are used as a bellwether, it is instructive that the ANC not only dipped below 50% on aggregate, but it also went down by more than nine percentage points in four provinces, compared with 2016. The ANC had already been trending downwards since 2009.

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