Published online by Cambridge University Press: 06 August 2018
Declining electoral support for South Africa's ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), suggests a potential weakening of the anti-apartheid nationalism that defined the immediate post-apartheid period. Using two surveys of voters in primarily poor and working-class black areas, conducted during the 2014 (national) and 2016 (local) elections, as well as three case studies of protest by workers, poor communities and students, this article examines the social cleavages and political dynamics that underpinned deepening political competition. Results show that voting decisions varied according to gender, age, ethnicity and receipt of welfare benefits. Different public provisions mattered most during national versus local elections, demonstrating that voters paid close attention to government operations. Underscoring political fluidity, some instances of protest reinforced ANC dominance while others fed into support for the opposition. The findings challenge notions of uncontested one party dominance, revealing instead that some poor black voters are critically evaluating the ANC's performance and developing oppositional political identities.
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