The EFF – adding a new ethnic dimension to SA politics?

Between the national election of 2014 and the Local Government Election of August 03 (LGE 2016), the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) increased its share of votes from 6.8% of the total to 8.2%.

This is a 20% increase in their vote share over a two year period. The change has widely been taken as an indication that voters are increasingly inclined to left-leaning or populist policies. While this interpretation is debateable, the voting patterns do indicate a clear geographical fault line in EFF support. In LGE 2016, the EFF managed to capture 5.3% of the votes in the “average” municipality. However, the party was able to get substantially more than this share in several municipalities. The EFF received more than 20% of the votes cast in eight municipalities, five of which are in Limpopo province. Overall, the EFF performed significantly better in the north of the country and in the interior. Their increase in vote share in the north of the country often offset losses in vote share further south.


The map below shows the EFF share of votes in each municipality.


In the uncoloured areas of the map, the EFF got less than 3% of votes cast. Here the EFF got half the proportion of votes they enjoyed (on average) in 2014. In the areas that are coloured light blue the EFF got between 3 and 6% of votes cast. Most of the areas with low levels of EFF support are in the south of the country or near the coast. By contrast, almost all of the areas where the EFF got more than 6% of the vote (areas coloured blue and red) are in the hinterland. The municipalities with the greatest concentration of EFF support (those municipalities where it received more than 15% of votes cast) are coloured red. All of these areas are in the north of the country where the highest concentration of EFF support is evident. The EFF clearly enjoys higher levels of support in the north of the country.


This trend may be a reflection of the EFF having better organisational capacity in the north of the country. The areas where they got the most support are reasonably close to Gauteng. The EFF also received significantly more support than in the metropolitan areas of Gauteng than it did in metro poles on the coast. The trend in EFF popularity may also point to an ethnic dimension among their supporters. The highest level of support enjoyed by the EFF is in areas close to the EFF’s leaders’ home town.


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