Liesl Pretorius ANC promises: what we’re tracking next in South Africa

The African National Congress has been in power since 1994. In 2019, it faced South African voters for the sixth time in a national election. What are the key promises made in the last election campaign we will be keeping our eye on?

Africa Check’s Promise Tracker follows ruling parties’ commitments in South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria. We found that South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), had fulfilled one out of the seven promises we tracked from its 2014 manifesto. 

The party kept its promise to open two universities: the Sol Plaatje University in Kimberley in the Northern Cape province and the University of Mpumalanga in Nelspruit.

Its broken promises included commitments to create 6 million work opportunities, to establish a national health insurance fund and to install 1.3 million solar water heaters – all within five years.

Will the party improve on its performance in the next five years? We’ve identified eight new promises to track.

Not all promises are equal

The ANC made more than 250 promises in its 2019 election manifesto. But from a promise-tracking perspective, not all these promises are equal. 

Many are not specific enough to track. For example this one: “We will continue to build a solid foundation for quality teaching and learning well before Grade 12.” 

Or this one: “[We will] massively increase internship and training opportunities for young people.”

How do you measure “a solid foundation”? Different people, organisations and experts will have different opinions. And how many internship and training opportunities would the ANC-led government have to create to achieve a “massive” increase?

When we select promises, we favour those that contain time references. In the case of a manifesto promise, any promise without a time reference is considered to be due by the end of the five-year term. We also consider the potential impact a promise will have on citizens’ lives.

Jobs, health, education

The ANC’s manifesto was released on 12 January 2019 and the election took place on 8 May. Because government reporting keeps to financial years, the tracking period began on 1 April 2019 – the start of the 2019/20 financial year.

Because of their trackability and potential impact, we will be keeping an eye on these new ANC promises in the next five years:

  1. [We will] create an extra 275,000 jobs each year.
  2. [We will] mobilise R1.2 trillion in new investment over four years.
  3. Within five years, the number of community health workers will be doubled.
  4. [We will] ensure that at least 90% of HIV-positive people are on treatment by 2020. 
  5. [Free higher education] will be extended to second year students this year [2019]… 
  6. … and by 2024 all undergraduate students will be fully funded by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme.
  7. [We will] conduct lifestyle audits of public officials.
  8. “The ANC government intends to build 1 million [houses] over the next 5 years throughout the country.”

The first seven promises are from the party’s manifesto. The eighth promise was made by President Cyril Ramaphosa in a tweet on 15 April 2019.

At an event jointly hosted by Africa Check and market research company Ipsos in the run-up to the 8 May national and provincial elections, ANC general manager Fébé Potgieter-Gqubule referred to this last promise when she recognised the role promise tracking could play in keeping the ruling party accountable.

“Yes, parties and Parliament and opposition hold whoever becomes the governing party accountable. But I think it’s also good to have civil society independently say: But actually, you said you wanted to build a million houses in five years.” 

That’s what we’ll be doing. Check back for regular updates. 

Three tracking tips

Is your newsroom or organisation keen on tracking election promises? Here are three quick tips:

  • Before you start tracking, decide how you are going to rate the promises and what each rating means. Africa Check uses “stalled” (little or no movement), “in the works” (in progress), “kept” and “broken”.
  • If a promise doesn’t contain a date but a time reference – for example “in the next five years” – determine what start date and end date would apply and explain it to your audience.
  • If you don’t check all the available promises, take care not to create the impression that the results are representative of a party’s overall performance.

Is there a promise that you think should be tracked? Email us at


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