The political struggle for ‘the people’: populist discourse in the 2019 South African elections

Robert Nyenhuis*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


This article investigates populist rhetoric in the 2019 South African elections. I argue that both Julius Malema and Dr. Pieter Groenewald consistently employed populist appeals. Although populism is mostly confined to smaller opposition parties, I demonstrate that all major leaders utilised populist rhetoric to some degree. I briefly investigate the consequences of the EFF's populism, and contend that their campaign rhetoric has largely been mirrored in their behaviour between elections, challenging South Africa's democracy. Lastly, both populists made explicitly racialised appeals, albeit to different constituencies, contravening the country's political norm of nonracialism, seen as underpinning its political stability.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)409-432
Number of pages24
JournalCommonwealth & Comparative Politics
Issue number4
Early online date29 Jun 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020
Externally publishedYes

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