South Africa

ROAD TO 2024 ELECTIONS

Rise Mzansi launches, but mixed views on the mushrooming of political parties ahead of 2024 polls

Rise Mzansi launches, but mixed views on the mushrooming of political parties ahead of 2024 polls
JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - APRIL 19: Songezo Zibi (RISE Mzanzi Leader) at the launch of RISE Mzansi at Constitution Hill on April 19, 2023 in Johannesburg, South Africa. The party is described as a people-driven political alternative to the current South African political landscape.(Photo by Gallo Images/Fani Mahuntsi)

The growing number of political parties ahead of the 2024 national elections is an indication of a strong democracy, according to one political analyst, while another says that the large number of parties contesting next year’s elections could benefit the ANC.

South Africans will be met with a lengthy ballot paper when they head to the polls in less than 16 months as more political parties are being formed and independent candidates will for the first time be allowed to contest for state power. 

At least three political formations were announced in the past two weeks, with the latest being Rise Mzansi, which launched as a political party on Wednesday at Constitution Hill, Braamfontein. The party outlined its grand vision and framework of how it would “significantly change, stabilise and deliver the fruits of democracy”. 

Its national chairperson, Vuyiswa Ramokgopa, said the party sought to be a credible political alternative and a government of the future.  

The party’s leader, Songezo Zibi, voiced similar sentiments, saying that South Africa needs a reset, a new direction, new energy and new leadership. 

“South Africa’s political system is broken. Instead of a government of the people, by the people and for the people, we have a government of the political parties, by the political parties, for the political parties. Where to get anything done you need to litigate! 

Read more in Daily Maverick: South Africa needs a democratic reset to deliver freedom and justice  

“Our national politics today is like a used furniture shop. Every piece has been bought and sold numerous times… Some of it has even been stuffed with foreign currency. Every piece has witnessed shady deals and false promises, whether shouted or whispered. At one time this furniture was fit for purpose; now it needs to be cleaned out,” he said.  

Commenting on the mushrooming of political parties, political analyst Levy Ndou said this ought not to be a surprise and that more new parties were likely to be formed before next year’s elections.  

Songezo Zibi (RISE Mzanzi Leader) at the launch of RISE Mzansi at Constitution Hill on April 19, 2023 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Gallo Images/Fani Mahuntsi)

“We need to refer to history, our political history. Each time we move towards elections, new parties are formed, therefore it should not come as a surprise … parties are formed in order to contest the state for power.  

“The other reason is that when you form a party now, there is a perception that you might easily appeal to those undecided voters, therefore it is really not surprising; the possibility is that we are likely to see more parties being formed. But on a positive note, it is a strength for our democracy, it shows that our people are active participants in the democratic discourse in SA.”  

Ndou argued that with independents also expected to contest elections for the first time, after President Cyril Ramapahosa signed into law the Electoral Amendment Bill on Tuesday, South Africans should expect a very long ballot paper which would not only be “confusing for the elderly but also the young and educated”. He said the IEC faced a “huge administrative burden” of counting votes after the elections.  

Songezo Zibi, leader of Rise Mzansi, right, during a launch event for the new political party in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, South Africa, on Wednesday, April 19, 2023. (Photo: Leon Sadiki / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Rise Mzansi national chairperson Vuyiswa Ramokgopa during the party’s official launch at Constitutional Hill in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, on Wednesday, 19 April 2023. (Photo: Leon Sadiki)

‘Too many political parties’

Another political analyst, Dr Ntsikelelo Breakfast, expressed a different view — that there were now too many political parties, which could benefit the ANC. 

“I understand our democracy makes provision for a multiparty system, but if you look at the political spectrum as it is, it gives the ANC an upper hand despite that it had fallen short of promoting development for the majority,” Breakfast said. 

“If you have a lot of political parties, then votes are going to be split, meaning that as much as they want the ANC to be below 50%, they might actually be facilitating its return.”

He said as things stood, not a single political party stood a chance of dislodging the ANC. 

“The DA is sitting on 20%, the EFF is on 10%. Even if both parties can double up their efforts, they would never get 50%+1. In my view, the mushrooming of these parties gives the ANC the upper hand,” he said.  

Rise Mzansi’s national organiser, Makashule Gana — a former DA member of the Gauteng legislature — said the party had visited numerous communities nationwide in 2022 to engage and hear what they sought from political leaders. The responses included that “there should be nothing about us [the people] without us”, Gana said. 

The party will launch its manifesto in September after countrywide engagements.  

Zibi outlined the party’s four urgent thematic priorities:  

“The first is political reform to return democracy to the people and to build a capable state. That political reform programme must include electoral reform, government and judicial reform. These will underpin efforts to clean up, capacitate and professionalise the civil service.  

“The second is safety. South Africans are unsafe in their homes, in their communities, on the roads and in their places of work. It is not just violent crime that is keeping us in distress but communities that are overwhelmed by drug trafficking, drug addiction and a disintegration of social structures.  

“The third is building an economy that creates jobs and opportunities for everyone. South Africa is not poor. We should not be having so much poverty. We have natural wealth such as minerals that are critical for the green economy, world-class tourism assets and arable land for producing enough food for every South African and exporting it to the world. 

“Finally, we must root out corruption — not only in national government and state-owned enterprises, but the degrading, humiliating corruption people suffer through at the local level. 

“2024 is our 1994. We are at a crossroads. If we do not intervene now it will be too late. It needs something deeper than just party politics,” added Zibi. DM

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