A Guide to Political Parties in South Africa

 December 08, 2018
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In this article I will present my views of the main political parties in SA at the present time (November 2018).

The African National Congress.

The ruling party since 1994, The ANC performed reasonably well in government for the first 5 year period, certainly a lot better than was expected by most white South Africans, myself included. However, from then on things have gone downhill, starting especially with the "arms deal" which involved more than a little corruption, most of which seems to have been successfully swept under the carpet. I strongly suspect that the later large scale corruption has its roots in the "arms deal" corruption. At the 2007 ANC congress there was a perception amongst the delegates that Jacob Zuma had been singled out for victimisation for political reasons. In my view this perception was probably correct, most of the delegates were probably aware that he was not the only one involved in corruption, but he was the biggest political threat to the "Mbeki faction" at the time. How big an impact the so-called "brown envelopes had on the elective process, one can only guess.
At this time a number of members of the ANC, amongst them Mr Lecota, decided that an ANC under the leadership of Mr Zuma was not the party they wished to belong to, and they left to form a new party. This "breakaway" group showed a lot of courage and personal integrity by breaking away to form Cope, more about them later.
Jacob Zuma then proceeded to make numerous changes to the police and prosecuting arms of the state, it would seem mainly to protect himself, and friends, from any possible prosecution. By the time of the 2012 conference of the ANC, it is clear that amongst certain members it had become apparent that the situation within the ANC was deteriorating rapidly and that Mr Zuma had become a law unto himself. It is in this context that the deputy president at the time Mr Motlanthe stood against Mr Zuma for the position of president of the ANC. At this point, our current president decided to support Mr Zuma and became his deputy, this in spite of the fact that he must have been fully aware of the shortcomings of the Zuma administration, since he was well connected within the ANC. From this point onward things went downhill rapidly and calls for the resignation of Mr Zuma from within the ANC increased almost daily. The Nkandla scandal also had a major influence. but the ANC structures seemed to be firmly under the control of Mr Zuma and the party was completely unable to "self correct" from within. Most members of parliament seemed completely oblivious to the fact that they owed allegiance to the country before the party, which gave Mr Zuma licence to do as he pleased. It was only during the last months of Mr Zuma's presidency that Cyril Ramaphosa began to openly criticize the corruption within government.
At the ANC conference in 2017 the election of president was narrowly won by Mr Ramaphosa, the rest of the officials elected seems to me to have been the result of a "backroom deal" rather than an actual election, it is, for instance, inconceivable that delegates who had voted for "CR17" would elect Ace Magashule as secretary general, since, even within the ANC, bra Ace is perceived as being even more corrupt than JZ. The fine balance of power between the CR17 faction and the Zuma faction can only have come about as a result of a deal struck between the factions, the "election" was therefore a farce, and I wonder if the delegates votes were even counted. I suspect that the Zuma faction threatened to disrupt the conference, and this is the reason for the "backroom deal". This is the ANC we have today, a somewhat delicately glued together "unity" which could explode at any moment. There is, for the first time, a real possibility that the ANC could get below 50% of the vote in the upcoming elections. The revelations at the "state capture inquiry" will definitely have an impact.

The Democratic Alliance

The DA has its roots in the various parties that opposed the apartheid government prior to 1994 and are currently the main opposition party. They have gradually increased their popularity based on sound policies and an anti-corruption stance. They certainly have succeeded in achieving good results where they govern. Whilst they have not completely escaped the scourge of corruption, they seem to have acted against any corruption from within their ranks. They have been accused of being a "white party", but this seems to have been largely ignored by voters especially in Port Elizebeth during the last municipal election where they got more support than any other party in spite of having a white mayoral candidate. A big blot on their reputation has come courtesy of Ms De Lille. Their handling of this rather sticky situation has not been to their advantage.
Ms De Lille, with her Independant Democratic party joined the DA on the understanding that she would become Mayor of Cape Town. She was quite happy to be a member of the DA until this position was threatened, at this point she suddenly made allegations of racsism against the DA, which leads me to believe that Ms De Lille cares more about her personal position than she pretends. Whether the allegations against her will eventually be proved, only time will tell, in the mean time she has done harm to herself and the DA. I doubt if she will achieve even .01% of the vote in the coming elections. Be that as it may the DA's attempts to keep this problem under wraps has not been to their advantage, they should have publically explained the problem from the start.
Aside from the De Lille saga, the DA has achieved quite a lot in the areas where they govern, the municipality's under their control have been largely run without serious corruption. There have been some challenges for them in the areas where they are in coalitions with other parties, but this might actually be to their advantage in the long run, since voters will see that they are being hampered by other parties, most notably, the EFF and the UDM. It would seem however, from the happenings in P.E. that some of the DA councillors can be bought. The DA will have to move decisively against corrupt councillors, if they hope to instil confidence amongst the voters. In spite of their difficulties, I foresee that the support for the DA is likely to increase, in spite of a somewhat tarnished image which came by courtesy of Ms De Lille. It is interesting to note that whenever a politician is in trouble they seem to reach for racsism, as though to obscure their own misdeeds.

The Economic Freedom Fighters.

The EFF is basically the leadership of the ANC youth league from the time Jacob Zuma was elected leader of the ANC in 2007. They supported JZ and were apparently even prepared to die for him, however they became something of an embarassment to Mr Zuma and Mr Malema was expelled from the ANC. He then started the EFF and it seems to me, he was driven mainly by desire for revenge against Mr Zuma, who did not support him when he needed the support. The EFF has gained enough support to be of serious concern to the ANC, to such an extent that the ANC have even taken over some of their policies (land), in order to avoid bleeding more votes. The EFF do not really have any viable policies and seem to rely on racsist rant to bolster their popularity. They are doing their best to create the perception of being the champions of the poor and downtrodden of society, however the connections with the VBS bank "heist" may well lead to their downfall. Mr Malema may also be prosecuted for "dodgy dealings" dating back to his time as leader of the ANCYL. I foresee that the EFF support base may actually broaden despite all of these problems, mainly because of the publicity afforded to them in the media. I also foresee that the EFF will be reabsorbed by the ANC, but probably not while Mr Ramaphosa is president. The EFF are essentially a racist party who rely on racits divisions for their survival. This is likely to have a negative impact in the long term, but for now they are milking race differences for all they can. I think that amongst most black people there is the realization that whites have made positive contributions to the country and that they are not the "root of all evil" as the EFF likes to portray them.

The ACDP, UDM, Cope and various other parties.

There are a number of smaller parties which do contribute to the political landscape but have very little impact. Cope for instance started out with much promise but were hampered by internal leadership squabbles. I will confess to having a lot of respect for Mr Lecota on the grounds that he seems to have more personal integrity than is really good for a politician. Just compare for instance Mr Ramaphosa, who stood by whilst JZ was driving the country into junk status, whereas Mr Lecota left the ANC which he saw was becoming a corrupt party. Mr Lecota's integrity has left him the leader of a minor party whist Mr Ramaphosa who actively supported a corrupt Zuma has become President of the country.
Anyone who thinks politics is not a dirty business should think again. All of these parties do not really amount to very much except perhaps as coalition partners where neccesary. Ms DeLilles new party is also unlikely to make much difference in the political landscape and probably will be very short lived. The UDM under Mr Holomisa is also a breakaway group from the ANC and whilst there have been positive signs at times from this party, the events in Nelson Mandela Bay municipality would indicate that all is not well within the party and that it would be unwize to trust them.

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