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Dispatch

AD66: South Africans have lost confidence in Zuma, believe he ignores Parliament and the law

Rorisang Lekalake 24 Nov 2015 South Africa
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The African National Congress (ANC) has won every national election since South Africa’s transition to universal suffrage in 1994. But while the ANC’s victory in 2014 – its fifth in a row – confirmed the party’s electoral dominance, its share of the vote declined from 66% in 2009 to 62%. New public opinion data from Afrobarometer indicate that the party’s leader, President Jacob Zuma, has lost significant citizen support since 2011. The 2015 data show significant declines in citizens’ evaluations of government performance on key indicators and general dissatisfaction with political leaders’ performance, particularly the president’s (see Afrobarometer dispatches No. 64 and 65, at www.afrobarometer.org). Public disapproval of the president’s performance and perceptions of corruption in the Presidency are at their highest levels since Afrobarometer conducted its first survey in South Africa in 2000. Furthermore, South Africans’ trust in President Zuma dropped by almost half over the past four years, and a majority of citizens believe that he routinely ignores both the legislature and the judiciary. Although negative evaluations are lower among the ANC’s traditional support base, a majority of black South Africans disapprove of his performance in the past year and say they trust him “just a little” or “not at all.” President Zuma has been a controversial political figure for a long time, and even selfidentified ANC supporters are divided on whether they trust him. These results indicate that while a majority of South Africans continue to support the ANC, a great deal of work needs to be done to restore confidence in its leader.

Key findings
  • Trust in the president is at its lowest point since 20001: Only one-third (34%) of South Africans say they trust President Zuma “somewhat” or “a lot,” down from 62% in 2011. Distrust of the president differs by location, race, and political affiliation, but even among self-identified ANC supporters, half (50%) say they trust him “just a little” or “not at all.”
  • Perceptions of corruption in the Presidency are at their highest level since 2000. Almost half (46%) of citizens say that “most” or “all” officials in the Presidency are involved in corruption, an increase of 11 percentage points since 2011.
  • Public approval of President Zuma’s performance dropped from 64% in 2011 to 36% in 2015. A majority of citizens of all race groups disapprove of his performance in the past year.
  • South Africans support limitations on presidential power: More than three-quarters support term limits (78%) and believe that Parliament, not the president, should make laws (76%), and six in 10 (62%) say that the president should have to account to Parliament for government expenditures. Despite strong support for the notion that the president should be subject to the law (77%), a majority believe that President Zuma “often” or “always” ignores laws (59%) and Parliament (57%).

The African National Congress (ANC) has won every national election since South Africa’s transition to universal suffrage in 1994. But while the ANC’s victory in 2014 – its fifth in a row – confirmed the party’s electoral dominance, its share of the vote declined from 66% in 2009 to 62%. New public opinion data from Afrobarometer indicate that the party’s leader, President Jacob Zuma, has lost significant citizen support since 2011.

The 2015 data show significant declines in citizens’ evaluations of government performance on key indicators and general dissatisfaction with political leaders’ performance, particularly the president’s (see dispatch No. 64 and dispatch No. 65). Public disapproval of the president’s performance and perceptions of corruption in the Presidency are at their highest levels since Afrobarometer conducted its first survey in South Africa in 2000. Furthermore, South Africans’ trust in President Zuma dropped by almost half over the past four years, and a majority of citizens believe that he routinely ignores both the legislature and the judiciary. Although negative evaluations are lower among the ANC’s traditional support base, a majority of black South Africans disapprove of his performance in the past year and say they trust him “just a little” or “not at all.”

President Zuma has been a controversial political figure for a long time, and even self-identified ANC supporters are divided on whether they trust him. These results indicate that while a majority of South Africans continue to support the ANC, a great deal of work needs to be done to restore confidence in its leader.

Rorisang Lekalake

Rorisang Lekalake is Afrobarometer assistant project manager for Southern Africa, based at the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation in Cape Town,