Lights! Music! Action: Manifesto launches from Good aunties to ATM Transformers

Good leader Patricia de Lille (in the white shirt and white hat) arrives in Woodlands to see how the registration process is going on 18 September 2021 in Mitchells Plain, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images / Die Burger / Jaco Marais)

What’s the score? Taking a light-hearted look at the theatrical side of politics, Daily Maverick continues to tally up the pageantry of political parties’ various manifesto launches in the run-up to the country’s local government elections scheduled for 1 November.

First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.

See the first instalment here

Good party

Don’t get it twisted: the Good party does not have an elections manifesto. Instead, it has a “plan to make your hood good”, because part of what Good prides itself on is using plain language. “Plain” was also the name of the game when it came to the recent launch of said plan: a small room in Sandton played host to an event at which seemingly only journalists were in attendance. Of course Good has actual supporters, but perhaps they were too busy making their hood good to appear.

“Aunty Pat is ready to klap it” is one of Good’s major slogans going into the November elections, accompanied by imaging of leader Patricia de Lille and other party representatives wearing boxing gloves and looking combative. This pugilistic metaphor dates back to when De Lille was on the ropes with the DA as mayor of Cape Town, where she posed for a social media picture one day in her mayoral office wearing boxing gloves and apparently enjoyed it so much that she hasn’t taken the mitts off since. Laila Ali, move over!

The branding of De Lille as “Aunty Pat” is a stroke of genius, since former PAC firebrand De Lille is in fact rather terrifying. The fond nickname of “Aunty Pat” makes her sound like a kindly older neighbour who might send over a pot of bredie – unless you disturb her during Sewende Laan. In reality, the boxing gloves are definitely more true to the essence of De Lille than the aunty part: let’s not forget, after all, that this particular “aunty” used to holler “One settler, one bullet” any chance she got.

At the Good manifesto launch, De Lille’s voice was a little hoarse, perhaps from screaming at her staff. Wearing her party colours of orange, orange and more orange, De Lille laid out Good’s plans to unashamedly skew municipal resources towards the poor, while still creating conditions that make everyone race to start a capital-intense business. The party continues to milk punny references to its name: “If Good people do nothing, evil will prosper,” De Lille advised the room.

When she finished speaking, all the party representatives lined up for a photo opp – but camera lenses were aimed at one individual in particular. Former Springbok coach Peter de Villiers is running as the Good candidate for the Drakenstein Municipality in the Western Cape. Div looked pleased as punch, beaming through his handlebar moustache.

Good is aiming for an ambitious 25% of the vote. Even if the party falls short in that regard, however, it has already made a revolutionary contribution to the South African electoral status quo this year. Good has become the first party in living memory to print its campaign posters in landscape rather than portrait mode. DM168

United Democratic Movement

United Democratic Movement supporters sing and dance during the party’s manifesto launch on 9 October 2021 in Ngangelizwe, Mthatha. (Photo: Screengrab UDM Facebook page)

“South Africans are no longer interested in catchy slogans,” United Democratic Movement (UDM) leader Bantu Holomisa told the crowd gathered at his party’s manifesto launch in Mthatha in the Eastern Cape. That is presumably why the UDM has opted for the least catchy campaign slogan in the history of politics, namely “Putting People First”. A quick Google reveals that this is also the slogan of an Australian bank, an American food delivery company, the British Airways staff training programme – and the 1992 US presidential campaign of Bill Clinton.

Much like Bill Clinton, Holomisa appears to enjoy a particular following among women. The audience, which had turned out to a waterlogged Mthatha field for the launch, looked overwhelmingly female, and overwhelmingly in thrall to Holomisa. This was despite the fact that the “General” began his speech with all the charisma of a slightly grumpy headmaster, telling the crowd: “Thula ngoku!” (Be quiet, now!) The school assembly vibe continued with Holomisa’s housekeeping announcements: thanking the UDM staff responsible for organising the launch, complaining about IEC glitches with the candidate lists and addressing the concerns of would-be UDM councillors who didn’t know who was paying for their campaign posters.

“We have some good news: the UDM will be footing the bill for those posters,” announced Holomisa. “You are requested to WhatsApp your high-resolution head-and-shoulder photographs to our national treasurer.” The crowd responded with cries of “Halala!”

The UDM launch, unusually for this election season, showed every sign of being a jol. Music blasted; cars arrived beeping as if they were ferrying festive wedding guests. The audience was devoted, with 100% UDM T-shirt penetration. Although the 24-year-old party is essentially a cult of personality built around Holomisa, in recent years it has acquired a secondary pin-up in the form of deputy leader Nqabayomzi Kwankwa – who is carving out his own path as one of the most lusted-after MPs in the National Assembly.

The party has also developed a reputation for being ahead of the pack when it comes to environmental issues. Holomisa will almost certainly be the only political leader to discuss soil erosion during his party’s manifesto launch. He also announced that UDM municipalities will “tighten the screws where financial management is concerned”, which will be refreshing news to those who accused the late UDM mayor of Port Elizabeth Mongameli Bobani of rampant corruption.

One of Holomisa’s more novel ideas unveiled at the manifesto launch is that after the November elections, like-minded South Africans must “converge under one roof” to throw together a “quick and simple” blueprint for the country’s future. One hopes everyone concerned will be wearing masks. DM168

Inkatha Freedom Party

IFP president Velenkosini Hlabisa addressing the crowd at the Durban Blue Lagoon. (Photo: Mandla Langa)

If you are looking to host a very fancy conference, you should consider getting the Inkatha Freedom Party’s (IFP) organising staff on the phone. Judging by the party’s manifesto launch at the Greyville Racecourse in Durban, they can stage the hell out of a very fancy conference.

Inside a hall, lights twinkled, spelling out the words “VOTE X IFP”. Tables were wrapped in cloth. Behind the tables sat party bigwigs in formal attire; the party’s plebeian supporters had to make do with watching proceedings from the outside, on screens broadcasting to the grandstand.

The IFP’s current leader, it may interest you to know, is a gentleman called Velenkosini Hlabisa. This fact is worth highlighting because it appears not to have trickled through the IFP yet to any great extent, despite the fact that Hlabisa has held the leadership since 2019. Party T-shirts still bear the face of former leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi. Party posters still bear the face of former leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi. Supporters even wore masks bearing the face of former leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi. When a Hindu holy man was called on to stage to give a prayer, he paid tribute to “the great leader of the IFP, Mangosuthu Buthelezi”. Imagine how Velenkosini must feel?

The party’s manifesto launch unfolded as slowly as the lumbering elephants on the IFP’s logo – 35 minutes down, not a political word had been spoken. By 44 minutes, the spouses of political representatives were being greeted. “Welcoming remarks” were still happening almost an hour into proceedings. MC duties were shared between MPs Mkhuleko Hlengwa and Narend Singh, with the latter declaring at one point: “The IFP cares about people who have certain … deficiencies, and that is why we have sign language interpreters with us today.”

The bigwigs who got to sit inside were too important to show much enthusiasm throughout the launch, so polite smatterings of applause were the order of the day. We were informed, however, that “fan parks” had been set up all over the country in order for IFP loyalists nationally to follow events. Perhaps those were more fun.

A highlight was a dramatic video shown about the July unrest in KwaZulu-Natal, with the word “INSURRECTION” stamped across the screen. The voiceover intoned: “It was the IFP, led by its president emeritus Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, which was on the ground”. How does Velenkosini Hlabisa bear it?

Hlabisa put on a brave face when it came time for his address, promising: “As I go through the IFP’s manifesto, you will hear something different from other political parties.” Unless you had certain … deficiencies, of course, in which case the sign language interpreters were there to help.

Exactly what was so “different” about the IFP’s ideas was quite hard to identify, though the party does want specialised corruption courts to be set up. Would they be a bit like the special Fifa courts established during the 2010 World Cup? In that case, sign us up. DM168

African Transformation Movement

The ATM’s Transformers. (Photo: ATM Facebook page)

The fact that the African Transformation Movement abbreviates to ATM has been the source of a lot of lazy jokes. So has the fact that the party’s primary strategist is controversial former government spin doctor Mzwanele Manyi.

When the ATM recently announced that media personality and socialite Kuli Roberts would be standing for election for the party, Twitter almost went into meltdown.

How intrinsically hilarious can one party be? Sadly, since then, Manyi has announced that for “personal reasons” Ms Roberts is giving up not just her candidacy in the local government elections, but also her membership of the ATM.

Not to worry, however: judging by the party’s lively manifesto launch in Mthatha, Roberts will not be missed. The ATM has loads of other activists – or as it calls them, in possibly the best internal party nomenclature this election season, “Transformers”.

The party colours are those of the ANC with a tiny blue strip, and the logo of a star within a star neatly captures the impression of a group of people shooting for the moon. But don’t dare call the ATM a “small” party – they don’t like that. At the manifesto launch it was stressed that the ATM has both a women’s league and a youth league, which is separate from its “very powerful” student movement.

There was tremendous gees on display at the ATM launch, with an entertainment programme featuring a dedicated party choir singing about the Transformers’ hatred for corruption. “One God, one race! One race, one God!” the Transformers chorused – a reminder that this is a political entity born out of the South African Council of Messianic Churches.

ATM merchandise is particularly vibrant on the headgear front: there were branded ATM doeks, ATM berets, ATM peaked caps and ATM bucket hats being modelled at the launch. At the front of the ATM tent hosting the party faithful were actual thrones for VIPs.

ATM leader Vuyolwethu Zungula was introduced to the crowd as “the youngest president in Africa … if not the world!” (In case you are picturing an Eastern Cape version of Greta Thunberg, Zungula is actually 34.)

Zungula pointed out that all over the continent, local populations had managed to vote out leaders who were not performing. In a question for the ages, Zungula asked: “If Malawians can did it, if Malians can did it, if Zambians can did it, surely South Africans can did it too?” Surely!

The ATM is going into these elections with the Trumpian slogan of “Put South Africans First”, but the majority of its policies are noncontroversial. Zungula told the Transformers that the party wants a focus on rural economic development and an emphasis on the informal economy.

A female party leader, speaking over the choir, advised the audience: “Some people may say rules are meant to be broken, but not here! If you happen to break it, you must account for your actions!” DM168

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for R25 at Pick n Pay, Exclusive Books and airport bookstores. For your nearest stockist, please click here.


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All Comments 3

  • Thanks political parties for increasing the pace of the fourth covid wave! Aunty Pat – no mask -sies man!
    IFP, UDM – masks should be worn over mouth and nose! EFF you guys and girls just don’t get it!

  • The Good Party has no manifesto. Presumably Auntie Pat doesn’t want to take responsibility for not delivering what she promises. What has the Good Party done with their presence in Parliament other than join the cabinet.