Winning a battle does not necessarily win the war. Which is why the short term looks good for the ANC, the longer term less so. It has become fashionable to complain that despite its leadership change the ANC has not done enough to fix its problems and to convince the country that it should be trusted. So routine is this that a look at media — social and regular — would suggest that, as opposition parties predict, the ANC will lose Gauteng and, possibly, its national majority in the 2019 elections. That is not what by-election results tell us. They suggest the ANC will win comfortably in 2019, despite serious problems in the North West, which could cost it the province, and rural KwaZulu-Natal. Voters in the cities vastly outnumber those in the countryside, and in urban areas the ANC is regaining the ground lost under Jacob Zuma. If these trends hold up, opposition parties’ predictions of a coalition government in 2019 will turn out to be wishful thinking. The reason is that most AN...

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