ROAD TO ELECTIONS 2024
ActionSA eyes outright win in 2024, but opposition coalition pact remains ‘insurance’
ActionSA on Wednesday announces its North West premier candidates in Johannesburg as the next step of its first national and provincial election campaign centred on leader Herman Mashaba and unfolding under the motto, ‘Let’s Fix South Africa’.
Sometimes the best-laid plans go awry, like the launch of five ActionSA branches in Cape Town’s Gugulethu township that was scuppered by the recent deadly taxi violence. Then again, party leader Herman Mashaba acknowledges he doesn’t much like the windy Mother City.
Leaving a media lunch on Monday, 9 October, the businessman-turned-politician took the time to chat with a passer-by who had greeted him. His minders had earlier struggled to get him away from the table – they were running late for their next appointment.
Also on the day’s schedule was a dinner with businesspeople in Stellenbosch. Quips about the Stellenbosch Mafia were ignored.
“The ANC will not get 40%,” insists Mashaba, talking up an outright win for ActionSA – not only on his Gauteng home turf, where he established his hair product business empire and once served three years as a DA mayor, but also elsewhere.
North West is of particular interest and can expect to get much attention – like the first premier candidate to be announced.
In the DA-run Western Cape, Mashaba’s party must explain why voters should move from the DA, whose provincial administration just scored clean audits across the board. In the DA-run Cape Town, residents typically remain at one lower stage of load shedding compared with the rest of the country.
For ActionSA, access to electricity is a human right.
Proposing “a competitive and decentralised energy market”, according to its policies, ending persistent rolling power cuts would have to ensure long-term sustainability.
Rooftop solar subsidies are endorsed, as is prioritising (unidentified) “corruption identification measures” in the energy supply chain.
“We are not going to contest not to win. Everything I do in life, I do to win,” Mashaba told journalists, while at the same time accepting that coalitions had become normalised in South African politics.
The ANC needed to be voted out, otherwise, South Africa would collapse. And in that mission, alongside getting votes, the ActionSA leader isn’t particularly fussy:
“As long as they are receptive to our message, that’s ok. We don’t target anyone specifically.”
The boost in by-election votes, also in rural areas, is taken as an assurance of growth; the 10.2% support in ward 11 at Nongoma, KwaZulu-Natal, in the 5 April by-election, is touted as a key example.
But the official numbers paint a somewhat different picture.
The IFP won the ward with 1,347 votes, with ActionSA getting 259 ballots in its favour, according to the Electoral Commission of South Africa.
While that’s less than the ANC (482 votes), it’s more than the EFF (74) or the Patriotic Alliance (52).
Increased ActionSA polling may be linked to its push to have a branch in 60% of wards countrywide just before elections, up from the 38% currently.
By Friday, some 230,000 volunteers armed with airtime and a stipend are set to go door-to-door – the mission is to register people to vote.
Read more in Daily Maverick: ActionSA plans to boost its 225,000 membership with voter recruitment drive, policy conference told
Nationally, the party indicates it’ll be satisfied with 15 parliamentary seats in its first national election outing. That’s about the same as the IFP in the 2019 poll, or around 3.4%, depending on turnout.
That insurance of the opposition coalition agreement, now joined by the African Christian Democratic Party, looks set to come in handy after all – even if Mashaba ditched an opposition leaders’ programme in Germany on coalition-building and party cooperation.
“My grandfather taught me personal responsibility… don’t sit on the fence on issues you believe in.”
Mashaba spoke of changing education to produce people such as plumbers and technicians, and of the need to support SMMEs.
“Please judge us on the millions of people we take off the social grants… (to) give them the dignity of work,” he said, while also negating the minimum wage.
“What does minimum wage mean to the unemployed? Nothing!”
ActionSA’s policy platform, likely to find itself in the election manifesto, talks of economic prosperity, with entrepreneurs and the private sector central in a market economy “free of a government that unnecessarily interferes”.
It also talks of economic justice and ActionSA’s support for affirmative action, because “race remains a critical aspect in determining the likelihood of achieving success…”
During Monday’s lunch, Mashaba mentioned the “opportunity fund” for companies to ensure access to the economy for disadvantaged South Africans.
ActionSA’s recently finalised policies are set to pop up in the election manifesto.
On crime, or law and order, the policies include strengthening professional policing and reducing the spending on VIP protection to 0.5% of the total policing budget.
Proposed reforms include decriminalising sex work and increasing penalties for violent crimes like murder, rape and armed robbery, but also human trafficking and drug manufacturing.
“Advocate for further restrictions on the rights of convicted criminals with a focus on suspending the voting rights of those convicted of violent crimes,” say the policies, adding eligibility for parole should be removed.
On corruption, a new classification regime would include criminalising contraventions of the Executive Ethics Act and the abuse of political influence, and establishing new specialised corruption-fighting and prosecuting units and tribunals. But social attitudes also had to change to become intolerant of corruption.
It’s not always quite clear where the line runs between the businessman and the politician.
Much of Mashaba’s political nous seems to arise from his business experience and life story of working himself out of poverty. He frequently hauls out anecdotes.
But the test will come on the campaign trail when ActionSA contests its first national and provincial elections in 2024. DM