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SA’s unlikely winners: Some small parties defy critics to take parliamentary seats

Mzwanele Manyi, head of policy for the African Transformation Movement (ATM) on November 26, 2018 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Gallo Images / Netwerk24 / Felix Dlangamandla) / Former Cape Town mayor and Head of GOOD, Patricia de Lille. Photo: Supplied

This wasn’t the kind of election where a tiny party would deliver a knock-out punch to the Goliaths of SA politics. Indeed, the 2019 polls have effectively established the South African political system as a three-party business. But from Patricia de Lille’s GOOD party to Jimmy Manyi’s ATM, there are still smaller parties which are heading for Parliament

When you launch two different political parties on two separate occasions within a decade and a half, you can expect diminishing returns from voters.

That’s the reality that Patricia de Lille is facing: with 14.5 million votes counted in the 2019 elections, her party was hovering around the 65,000 vote mark. This makes it unlikely that De Lille’s GOOD will match the achievement of her 2003-founded Independent Democrats party, which won 269,765 votes nationally in its first electoral outing in 2004 and 162,915 in 2009.

But De Lille’s new party has already bagged enough votes for at least one seat in the National Assembly – which means that De Lille herself looks likely to be sworn in among the batch of new MPs on 22 May.

GOOD party spokesperson Cameron Arendse confirmed to Daily Maverick that De Lille herself is number one on the GOOD parliamentary list. That’s GOOD news for voters who may have worried that De Lille would “do a Mamphela Ramphele” – win enough votes to get her party into Parliament but then not take up an MP role herself.

Back in the mists of time when she was an MP for the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), De Lille’s National Assembly appearances were famous for her fiery rants. Let’s hope the GOOD party’s zen-lite positivity mantras haven’t doused her fighting spirit.

De Lille and the other GOODs seemed to be all smiles during the wait for election results, despite the fact that the party’s performance nationally looked likely to end up somewhat weaker than was predicted by the major polls in advance.

By contrast, the African Transformation Movement (ATM) was in no mood to be grateful for electoral scraps. Despite the fact that the ATM has secured itself at least one seat in Parliament, and possibly two, it appears that the party most closely associated with its head of policy Jimmy Manyi was banking on greater spoils.

Manyi was playing a leading role in mobilising what is being called “the coalition of the wounded”: between 30 and 35 small parties who have been using the past two days to call for “a rerun of the elections which will be inclusive and well safeguarded” in response to poor results.

Yet with almost 15 million votes counted, the ATM was sitting at a respectable eighth position nationally of the 48 parties in competition – ahead of GOOD, ahead of Cope, ahead of Agang – despite having no significant political names formally associated with it beyond Manyi.

(We say “formally” associated with it because of the persistent claims that the likes of former president Jacob Zuma and ANC secretary general Ace Magashule were covertly involved in the launch of the ATM as a means of drawing support away from Cyril Ramaphosa’s ANC.)

Another party which looked likely to win one seat in the National Assembly by Friday afternoon was the African Independent Congress (AIC). Although the AIC’s support had almost halved since 2014, many people thought the AIC would secure a fat heap of nothing these elections – due to the fact that the party’s position on the ballot paper was changed.

When this virtually unknown party managed to take home three seats in Parliament in 2014, there was one dominant theory as to how: the AIC’s name, logo and colours were simply too similar to that of the ANC, the two parties were positioned next to each other on the ballot paper, and some voters confused the two.

To make sure the same thing didn’t happen in 2019, the AIC and the ANC were separated on the ballot paper by some distance. A senior ANC NEC member told Daily Maverick this week that he was confident this would spell the end of the AIC.

But lo and behold, Friday revealed that the AIC had still managed to win just shy of 43,000 votes with 91.67% of voting stations counted. This is no mean feat, given that the party was reported to be almost broke and leaderless in January 2019; given, too, that the AIC was founded in response to unhappiness over the incorporation of Matatiele into the Eastern Cape from KwaZulu Natal and yet has singularly failed to do anything to resolve that issue.

Either the AIC has been tirelessly campaigning door-to-door in areas ignored by the media (possible), or the party is still being mistaken for the ANC on the ballot sheet by some voters (also possible). Either way, they’re going back to Parliament, baby. DM


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