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Warning: This column is primarily targeted at number junkies. If you would like to skip all the electoral math, head straight to the conclusion at the end. The 2016 election, in which the ANC’s vote share collapsed to 53.9%, has been widely used as the backdrop to the upcoming 2019 election and as the frame of reference for the ANC’s fortunes. The argument goes that in his second term, the many problems with Jacob Zuma and his administration came together in the form of an internal and external crisis for the ANC and, as a result of that pressure, the ANC’s vote imploded and the party lost control of three key metros. Thus, if the ANC were to prevent itself from falling below 50% in 2019, Jacob Zuma had to go. This view was widely shared, inside and outside the party. ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu put it like this in March 2017: “If we fail to show the people of SA that we are able to self-correct, and that from December up to 2019 we will do things differently in their interest … ...

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