The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) could double its support in next year's elections at the expense of the ANC, which could shed as much as 10%, according to a survey conducted by the SA Institute of Race Relations.
The survey, conducted between August and September this year, shows the EFF polling at 13%, which is more than double the 6% the party garnered during the last national election in 2014.
The poll indicated a big drop in ANC support from 62% in 2014 to 52%.
The DA's support base was stable at 23%, which is a slight rise from the 22% it obtained in 2014.
According to Gareth van Onselen, head of politics and governance at the institute: "The EFF has used the lack of any compelling vision towards addressing some of the biggest national issues on the part of the ANC to its advantage.
"The land reform debate is a good example, as the EFF has embraced and driven this debate at national level," added Van Onselen.
During the land debates - instituted nationally by Parliament's joint constitutional review committee, which held hearings countrywide on the possible amendment to section 25 of the Constitution - the EFF's senior leadership was the most visible and vocal about their stance on land expropriation without compensation.
Van Onselen said the fact that the EFF was gaining ground at the expense of the ANC was a "significant finding" as it meant that "the ANC's strategic decision to nullify the EFF by attempting to pander to and adopt its policies had backfired dramatically".
He also surmised that the EFF feeds off alienated ANC voters because the survey showed that about 26% of ANC voters were "somewhat or very favourable towards the EFF".
The poll was conducted using a representative demographic sample of 978 respondents, and has a margin of error of 3.1%.
The poll found that support for the ANC in Gauteng now stood at 46%, meaning it would need to enter into coalitions to stay in power.
In Gauteng, support for the DA was polled at 28%.
The bulk of the EFF's support seems to be built on a very powerful showing in Gauteng, where it is currently polling at 17%.
Thorny issues such as the Life Esidimeni tragedy, e-tolls and, most recently, the deaths of firefighters - trapped by fires at Gauteng government buildings which had been declared unsafe - will be challenges that the governing party will have to contend with as it tries to cling to power.
Under Gauteng's former ANC health MEC Qedani Mahlangu's watch, 144 mental healthcare patients lost their lives after she authorised their relocation from Life Esidimeni facilities and placed them in the hands of ill-equipped NGOs in a manner that violated their constitutional right to dignity.
About 10% of black voters alienated by the ANC were, according to the poll, now being won over by the EFF.
However, it is not all joy for the EFF as its support base is "feeding off alienated and disillusioned ANC voters", said Van Onselen.
"This means that its support base is fragile, and should voter turnout drop, such a support base is more likely to switch or not vote altogether," he said..
While the DA's national support base remained stable, Van Onselen said the party had the potential to grow because its share of black voters had increased from approximately 6% to 10%. It would also benefit from a lower turnout, he said, because its core minority supporters were loyal and always turned out in their numbers.
The DA continued to dominate the share of minority voters, being supported by 71% of such voters.
The ANC has 14% of minority votes and the EFF only 1%.
Most black voters back the ANC - at 63% - and only 10% support the DA. The EFF's share of black voters stands at 16%.
Yesterday the DA launched its election manifesto, preparing for an election in which the party aims to prise Gauteng and the Northern Cape away from the ANC.
DA insiders told City Press that the party will go big on jobs, crime and border security in next year's general elections.
The economy is in a technical recession and big industries such as mining are cutting jobs.
"Our approach should be that foreigners coming into the country should be bringing in specialised skills," said a DA insider.
"Right now we have foreigners competing with our people to sell vegetables on the streets."
At the launch event, DA leader Mmusi Maimane said the party would "focus on the five key issues of corruption, crime, jobs, immigration and service delivery - what we call our 'agenda for change'".
He said the DA would rid the country of state capture.
He also fired the first salvo at President Cyril Ramaphosa, saying that nothing had changed since former president Jacob Zuma left office and that "our country did not enter a new dawn".
"The same corrupt people that sold our country to the Guptas under Zuma still occupy the top positions in this new government. No one was ever charged. No one was ever prosecuted."
Maimane said there was an urgent need to secure our country's borders, stressing the importance of welcoming those who want to come here legally, but shutting out those who try to do so illegally.
"We will do so by strengthening our border posts and ridding home affairs of corruption, but also by supporting and caring for legitimate refugees and asylum seekers."
Maimane said that "no country in the world can afford uncontrolled immigration, and particularly not a country where resources are as scarce as ours".
On the burning issue of land, Maimane was brief, only saying that the land question was about justice and that the DA would "ensure that more black South Africans are able to own land through secure private property rights".
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