South Africa' ruling African National Congress Party (ANC) has dismissed as a joke a new poll which suggests the ruling party is running neck and neck with the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) in urban areas. The latest poll conducted by an independent newspaper ahead of next year's general elections implies that growing discontentment after the forced resignation of President Thabo Mbeki is hurting the ANC among urban South Africans. But the ruling ANC rejected the poll as laughable. Some political observers, however, believe that rifts within the rank and file of the ANC after the Polokwane conference could threaten the cohesion of the party ahead of next year's elections.
Rok Ajulu is a political science professor in South Africa. He tells reporter Peter Clottey from the capital, Pretoria that the new poll is questionable.
"My opinion about that poll is that that cannot be possibly true. There have been similar polls in the run up to the general election, which predicted that the ANC would face stiff challenge from the opposition Democratic Alliance. But the DA didn't perform well and it came to nothing with the ANC getting nearly two thirds percent. But beyond that I think the question that is probably more pressing is how these polls, which are clearly inaccurate and based mainly on perception are conducted," Ajulu said.
He dismissed the latest poll as not credible.
"It is unbelievable; it is not possible by any consideration that the ANC and the DA can be running neck to neck in urban areas in South Africa, it is actually laughable. So, it sounds like a very bad joke. It is not possible because the DA is a small party of about 10% of mainly white South Africans and ANC is a party of 69%. It is not possible by any consideration that all of a sudden a party of 69% is running neck and neck in a predominantly African population electorate in the urban areas," he pointed out.
Ajulu said although the controversy surrounding Mbeki's resignation might have dented the internal political dynamics of the ANC, it would be largely extrapolated to think that the opposition Democratic Alliance is challenging the ruling party in the latest poll.
"Let me put it this way and very clearly. However, much the ANC has been dented by the events of the last two or three weeks, there is no possibility that the ANC would be running neck and neck with the DA. The DA is a small white minority party predominantly based on the white electorates. This is either a badly conducted sample of polls or based on a very narrow sample," Ajulu said.
He said there is enough time for the deep seated rift within the rank a file of the ruling ANC to heal ahead of the election in April next year.
"The ANC has got six to seven months for the next elections and that is why in the process of making a decision over Mbeki, the ANC was reluctant to call for a quick election. Lets assume that they've got six to seven months to heal and repair the rifts within the party, consolidate and prepare for the election. The only other possibility if as it is said there is a split as in the ANC a group of Mbeki supporters go in to form a new party, that could change the situation, but even then it's too late for a new party to garner support," he noted.
Meanwhile, some political analysts say the survey of 1,500 city dwellers -- disproportionately white and middle class -- by the Sunday Times newspaper does not represent the broader public opinion. But the paper said the poll showed rising discontent with the ANC after the ousting of Thabo Mbeki as president.
The ANC has dominated South African politics since the end of apartheid but has been damaged by bitter rivalry between Mbeki and party leader Jacob Zuma, the presumed frontrunner to win next year's presidential election.