Visitors to Cape Town may be surprised to see a statue of Cecil Rhodes a short walk from the National Parliament.

The presence of a British imperialist so close to the home of South African democracy – in the Rose Garden built on Rhodes’ diamond fortune, no less – is a reminder of the monumental legacy Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress sought to redress when it took power in the country’s first free elections in 1994.

When I visited Parliament during a trip to Cape Town seven years ago, however, the effigies were not burning for the former colonial governor. At the time, then-President Jacob Zuma faced a fresh list of charges against his public and private character, including allegations of an illicit twentieth child and of a $13m villa built in his home village using public money.

Despite the moderating influence of Zuma’s successor, Cyril Ramaphosa, the ANC went to the polls this week with this image of sleaze firmly fixed in the popular imagination. And it shows.

Data from the South Africa-based think tank the Social Research Foundation, widely recirculated by international media, confirms that the party is set to win around 42% of the national vote, fifteen points down on 2019 and twenty points down on 2014. The only party to have governed South Africa in its thirty-year democratic history may have lost its singular appeal.