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Where do political parties stand on the rule of law? We break down their manifestos

Where do political parties stand on the rule of law? We break down their manifestos
Illustrative image: Leader of the Freedom Front Plus Pieter Groenewald. (Photo: Gallo Images / Beeld / Deaan Vivier) | DA leader John Steenhuisen. (Photo: Gallo Images / Darren Stewart) | EFF leader Julius Malema. (Photo: Gallo Images / Dirk Kotze) | ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa. (Photo: Gallo Images / Darren Stewart) | Patriotic Alliance leader Gayton McKenzie. (Photo: Gallo Images / Rapport / Edrea du Toit) | Rise Mzansi leader Songezo Zibi. (Photo: Shelley Christians) | ActionSA’s Herman Mashaba. (Photo: Gallo Images / Luba Lesolle) | Former president Jacob Zuma. (Photo: Gallo Images / City Press / Tebogo Letsie)

The era of State Capture is fresh in South Africans’ minds, so it’s no wonder that corruption and how political parties plan to tackle it are more important to voters than in any previous election.

With general elections set for 29 May 2024, political parties’ campaigns are in full swing. This year more than 350 parties will contest the election, and their manifestos are a useful resource for voters wishing to make informed decisions.  

As the country tries to rid itself of the yoke of State Capture, the eradication of corruption and the strengthening of our democratic institutions should be a priority for any party running in these elections. 

This quick guide compiled by Freedom Under Law highlights eight parties’ stances on major rule of law issues such as corruption, State Capture, the judiciary and the reform of the National Prosecuting Authority.


The ANC launched its 2024 manifesto at a packed Moses Mabhida Stadium on 24 February 2024. Speaking at the event, President Cyril Ramaphosa admitted that “we made mistakes as the ANC, with some members and leaders undermining institutions and the democratic state and advancing personal interests”, but maintained that the party is “working hard to restore trust and confidence… [and to enhance] the moral and ethical orientation of [the party’s] membership”. The manifesto, like that of the EFF, is built on state power as the driver of its election promises. 

The document attempts to be future focused and highlights six priorities it deems critical for the transformation of the economy, including: tackling the cost of living crisis, growing the country’s industry so as to create an inclusive economy and defending democracy and advancing freedom. 

Insofar as the rule of law is concerned, the manifesto promises to take “decisive measures to prevent corruption” by “establishing the Investigating Directorate as a permanent entity within the NPA with investigating powers”, conducting “rigorous lifestyle audits of critical projects”, “improving vetting procedures” and “using artificial intelligence to improve accountability and transparency”. Furthermore, the document promises to strengthen the justice system, including the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), and to review the Criminal Procedure Act. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: 2024 elections

Of course, voters are likely to judge these promises on the ANC’s track record of governance over the past 30 years. In this context, there is no evidence that Ramaphosa will keep his promise that the ANC “will not stop until every person responsible for corruption is held to account” given the weaknesses within the NPA. Recently, the NPA lost the Nulane case, which it described as the “blueprint for State Capture trials”. Corruption charges involving R2.2-billion were dropped against former Eskom acting CEO Matshela Koko, while others accused of corruption have simply not been prosecuted. Indeed, Ramaphosa’s stance can be viewed as contradictory given that he retained David Mahlobo (alleged looting of national intelligence funds and siphoning a monthly allowance of about R2.5-million to Jacob Zuma while sitting as minister of intelligence) and deputy minister Dipuo Peters, despite the findings made against them by the Zondo Commission. Peters was recently suspended without pay following a decision by Parliament’s Joint Committee on Ethics and Members Interests that “Peters had breached the Code of Ethical Conduct in her former portfolio as minister of transport”. Furthermore, Sifiso Buthelezi continues to hold a key position in the ANC parliamentary caucus despite his role in the plundering of Prasa. Most importantly, it appears that the ANC’s National Executive Committee appears set to allow those implicated in corruption to represent the party in Parliament and provincial legislatures. The number of individuals named by the State Capture Commission as having a case to answer is extensive, and cuts across all levels of the ANC.

Indeed, it may be difficult for voters to forget the extent to which ANC members have explicitly rubbished the rule of law in the past. Equally, voters will struggle to forget that the era of rampant State Capture, characterised by corruption and expanding securitisation of the state, unfolded under the ANC’s watch.


Focusing on land redistribution without compensation, job creation and rolling blackouts, the EFF was the first of the major political parties to release its manifesto on 10 February 2024. The populist document, aimed at workers, unemployed and young people, is built atop the party’s seven key pillars, the last of which aims to usher in “open, accountable, corrupt-free government and society without fear of victimisation by state agencies”.  

Speaking at the manifesto’s launch at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban, Julius Malema promised that the “EFF government will amend the Constitution to change the NPA to be a Chapter 9 institution”, a move that would greatly increase the independence of the body by ensuring that it is subject only to the Constitution, the EFF contends. In addition, the manifesto promises to restructure the State Security Agency (SSA) by separating its domestic and foreign intelligence functions (a promise that will be somewhat redundant if the General Intelligence Laws Amendment Bill is passed later this year). According to the document, the restructuring aims to “reduce the potential for political manipulation” at the agency and “strengthen accountability within the State Security Agency by ensuring regular and transparent reporting to parliamentary committees responsible for overseeing intelligence services”. In addition to the proposed introduction of “economic justice courts”, the EFF also promises to “introduce compulsory screening and vetting of judges and magistrates every three years” – a course of action that is likely to undermine the independence of the judiciary. These rule-of-law issues aside, the document is largely a reworking of the 2019 manifesto, detailing a shopping list of aspirations relating to the party’s slogan “Land, Jobs and Electricity”. Some have described these aspirations as “confused” and have questioned the “factual accuracy” of the premises which underlie them.

While these commitments are promising, the VBS scandal still hangs over Malema and his deputy, Floyd Shivambu, calling the party’s true commitment to the rule of law into question. Ultimately, the EFF’s manifesto may be more politics than substance. With the EFF’s support predicted to rise in this election, the manifesto deserves attention.


The DA launched its manifesto on the lawns of the Union Buildings on 17 February 2024. The document leans heavily on the party’s track record of governing provincially in the Western Cape and bills itself as a rescue plan for a country that is in a state of collapse. It promises to abolish cadre deployment in favour of merit-based appointments, lift six million people out of poverty, improve education outcomes and ensure quality healthcare for all. In doing so, the manifesto emphasises streamlining and professionalism at the expense of any form of Black Economic Empowerment.

Speaking at the launch, DA leader John Steenhuisen emphasised that this election is an opportunity to “rescue the Union Buildings from the clutches of a corrupt government and restore them to their rightful place as a symbol of pride for all South Africans”. To this end, he said “corruption could be abolished by ending the practice of cadre deployment in favour of merit-based appointments”. Indeed, the manifesto promises to ensure that all government appointments are “merit-based” by “removing politicians from each level of recruitment”, conducting “regular lifestyle audits for politicians and officials” and introducing “mandatory entrance exams and training” for public servants.

Insofar as safeguarding the rule of law is concerned, the manifesto makes a number of promises. First, the document conceives of creating an effective and functioning SSA by disbanding the existing structure and establishing a new independent and transparent agency to be overseen by Parliament. Second, it plans to strengthen the independence and capacity of the NPA by removing the President’s power to appoint and remove the National Director of Public Prosecutions, by increasing the NPA’s budget and by requiring the NPA to maintain a comprehensive record of its decisions (together with reasons for them). Third, the manifesto aims to ensure the independence of accountability institutions like the Independent Police Investigative Directorate, the NPA and the Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services by mandating that they report directly to Parliament and have a budget free from political interference. Finally, the document promises to ensure that judicial appointments are merit-based by setting clear and publicly accessible selection criteria, clarifying the role of members of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and significantly reducing the number of politicians on the JSC.

While the manifesto aims to position the DA as the antithesis of the ANC – the party which oversaw an era of State Capture under its then president, Zuma, corruption charges were recently laid against a DA ward councillor so the DA too needs to be cautious in places where it holds power. These elections are crucial for the future of the party, either it will become an anchor member of a governing coalition or it will be surpassed by the EFF as the official opposition.

Rise Mzansi

Newcomer Rise Mzansi launched its manifesto on 20 January 2024 at the Heartfelt Arena in Pretoria. Speaking at the event, Rise leader Songezo Zibi indicated that the party sought to organise citizens to come together to “stop this crisis, stabilise the country and deliver the fruits of democracy”.  To this end, the manifesto identifies five priorities: Leadership, governance and implementation; safety and the rule of law; the economy and jobs; individual, family and community well-being and the climate crisis.

The manifesto includes a number of reforms aimed at strengthening the rule of law in South Africa. The document indicates that Rise aims to end the culture of cadre deployment by establishing a competitive, transparent and accountable selection and appointment process for key leadership positions (including SAPS, the NPA and SARS) and cut the size of Cabinet. Furthermore, it promises to reinforce the effectiveness of Chapter 9 institutions like the Public Protector and the Auditor-General by increasing their funding. Insofar as the judiciary is concerned, Rise promises to liaise with the Office of the Chief Justice to ensure that a skills and quality assessment is undertaken, with appropriate interventions to ensure in-service upskilling, improved selection standards and ongoing in-service assessments of judicial and quasi-judicial officers. Finally, the manifesto promises to strengthen and increase the allocation of resources to existing institutions, such as the NPA, the Special Investigating Unit and the courts. This, the manifesto claims, will reduce how long it takes to prosecute corruption cases.

Having no track record of governance, any assessment of Rise is premature. 


Herman Mashaba’s ActionSA launched its manifesto in Hammanskraal on 2 December 2023.  Speaking at the event, Mashaba declared that to prevent South Africa’s collapse, the ANC needed to be “voted out” and promised that his party would “deal harshly with criminals, build an inclusive economy that will do away with BBBEE, end poverty and secure borders”. The corporate-styled document, which unfolds under the motto “Let’s Fix South Africa”, proposes to do so by prioritising a customer-centric government that delivers on service, an ethical and professional public service, an efficient and effective administration, a caring and inclusive government, a business-friendly environment as well as safety and security.

In addition to its promises to battle climate change, stabilise the electricity supply, engender youth development and promote community safety, the manifesto takes a “middle-ground” stance on immigration, promising to “address illegal immigration through intergovernmental relations”. That said, Mashaba was quick to clarify that the party was “not opposed to migrants”, suggesting rather that “the country had to secure its borders while reforming its immigration system to make it easier for those who can contribute to our economy to enter legally”. 

Regarding corruption, the document proposes several interventions. First, it promises to establish dedicated independent forensics units in each municipality, with the mandate to investigate all potential corrupt activities. Second, it promises that all political office bearers, senior officials and officials working in building plan approvals, supply chain management, electricity connections, and other positions where bribes are likely to be offered, will be subjected to lifestyle audits. Third, it aims to encourage whistle-blowing by providing protection and security to whistle-blowers and by rewarding whistle-blowing that leads to the successful prosecution of corrupt officials. Fourth, it promises to improve the transparency of municipalities’ financial management by forcing them to adopt appropriate controls. Finally, it aims to mandate administration-wide corruption risk assessments to identify and fix any processes that provide the opportunity for corruption and to ban service providers, employees or individuals convicted of corruption from ever doing business with or being employed by municipalities again. These promises compliment Mashaba’s earlier promise to criminalise contraventions of the Executive Ethics Act and to establish new specialised corruption-fighting and prosecuting units and tribunals. 

In this, its first national election, this business-like offering will be put to the test, with ActionSA indicating that it would be satisfied with as few as 15 parliamentary seats. 

Freedom Front Plus

The right-leaning Freedom Front Plus (FF+) was one of the last parties to launch its manifesto on 2 March 2024, 30 years after it was founded by former military commander Constand Viljoen. Speaking at the launch, the party’s leader, Pieter Groenewald, called on South Africans to “take action against the ANC” for its role in 30 years of “corruption, mismanagement and decline”, urging that the time had come to “pick up the broken pieces and start rebuilding”. The manifesto, premised on the slogan “restore and build”, identifies seven priorities for securing a better future for South Africans, including: Multiparty governments that keep the ANC out of power, a free-market system, a small central government with a limited role in the provincial and local sphere, communities’ right to self-determination and the abolishment of legislation geared towards affirmative action.

In the main, the document proposes rebuilding South Africa through “ensuring equal access to opportunities” by “strongly opposing… Affirmative Action and Black Economic Empowerment”, devolving state functions to the free market and championing groups’ right to self-determination. As far as the rule of law is concerned, the manifesto promises to “eradicate corruption and cadre deployment” and to “promote a state where everyone is equal before the law”. Furthermore, it aspires to create “prosecution-driven crime investigation units (such as the Scorpions)”.

While the party has historically only received about 2.38% of the vote, its participation in the Multi-Party Charter may afford it a larger role in these elections. 

Patriotic Alliance

The Patriotic Alliance’s (PA) manifesto is deeply anti-immigrant. Founded in 2013 and currently occupying more than 85 councillors’ seats across the country, the PA is expected to be the third-largest party in the Western Cape following these elections. Given the predicted decline in the DA’s support, the PA may “throw the cat among the pigeons” in May. 

The manifesto, which calls for the return of “God to our schools” and promises to ensure that “all illegal foreigners must go”, is light on measures aimed to combat corruption and promote accountability. Indeed, the document does not make any promises relating to the rule of law. Rather, the party’s intentions are perhaps best gleaned from the theme of its recent birthday celebrations: “Abahambe, A ba tsamaye. Laat hulle loop, let them go – mass deportation of illegal immigrants.” This, of course, matches the rhetoric of the party’s leader, Gayton McKenzie, who has said that “when [he] becomes president, [he] will build a wall that is high up, like the one [former US president Donald] Trump envisioned. [He] will mass deport you [illegal immigrants] and when you jump over that wall, you will be met with bullets. [He] will give instructions to say, shoot to kill – not shoot in the leg but shoot in the head”. 

While the ANC has indicated that it is open to talks with parties like the PA, the DA is unlikely to form a coalition with McKenzie’s party, having previously been betrayed by it in Johannesburg. Either way, the PA appears set to rise well above the 1% it received in the 2019 elections and may very well find itself in the position of kingmaker come May. 

uMkhonto Wesizwe

The recently formed uMkhonto Wesizwe (MK) party is set to launch its manifesto in Johannesburg on 6 April in a bid to prove its strength outside KwaZulu-Natal. The party is easily one of the most talked about following its endorsement by former president Zuma. The party has not clearly articulated what it stands for and some have commented that the party is “too shapeless in organisational terms for any assessment to be made”. Indeed, the party does not have “a constitution, clear policies or membership lists” at this time.

In an address to MK supporters, Zuma described the party as “an attempt to rescue our organisation [sic] from this un-ANC behaviour”, indicating that “the single aim is to steer the ship of total liberation from colonialism back on course by uniting Africans across the country, the African continent and the African diaspora behind the battle for land, justice and radical transformation towards economic freedom”. Outside of that “there is nothing… no ideology, no vision, no organisational structure, but a bunch of people on the periphery of political discourses”. The manifesto is surprisingly sparse on details and promises simply to create “transformative change across all sectors of South African society” by addressing “economic inequality, inadequate access to quality education and healthcare, national security threats, inequitable land distribution, and the need for robust traditional leadership and foreign policies that reflect our values and aspirations”.  

While the document does not make any promises relating to the promotion and protection of the rule of law in South Africa, MK members have made worrying public statements on this topic in recent weeks. Party spokesperson Nhlamulo Ndhlela said it was time for change as the Constitution “doesn’t fit the needs of the people… [and] gives too much power to the judiciary as opposed to even traditional leaders, who are the rightful owners”. This, of course, echoes the manifesto’s broad promise to “strengthen the role and authority of traditional leaders”. Indeed, Ndlela’s comments were not limited to the judiciary, indicating that “the current voting system… [is] not really a true reflection of democracy if you look at how the results turn out”. 

In this vein, MK representatives recently threatened that “if these courts, which are sometimes captured, if they stop MK, there will be anarchy in this country. There will be riots like you’ve never seen in this country. There will be no elections. No South Africans will go to the polls.” MK members appear to believe that supporters of the party have “two options: either we submit, or we fight… If it means that we must attack [the IEC], I’ll come to you.” Tragically, at least one life has already been lost to the culture of violence encircling the MK. 

Ending corruption certainly does not appear high on the party’s list of priorities given that it has attracted what some have described as “key Zuma supporters, those who hate Ramaphosa, proponents of so-called Radical Economic Transformation, tenderpreneurs, people associated with construction mafias and serial party hoppers, many of whom are hoping to use the party as a vehicle to board the gravy train”. In this context, Ndhlela is reportedly related to former tax boss Tom Moyane, and the former’s company, Lekgotla Outsourcing, reportedly cored a debt collection contract to collect R220-million worth of taxpayer debt. Similarly, former Mkhondo Local Municipality mayor Vusi Motha has also recently joined MK. Motha was arrested in January 2023 for possession of an unlicensed firearm, which the police said they were testing to see if it was linked to the assassination of ANC councillor Sbonelo Mthembu. And then, of course, there is Zuma who oversaw and advanced the capture of the South African state between 2009 and 2016. 

The party recently garnered 21% of the vote in its first by-election in AbaQulusi Municipality, eroding the IFP’s foothold and coming third overall. Some even project that MK may be material in reducing the ANC’s support to below 50% nationally. Given its statements around judicial independence, and its members’ stated willingness to engage in electoral violence, it is not alarmist to suggest that voters should be deeply concerned about the MK Party and its motives. 


While most of the manifestos launched in 2024 promise to actively fight against corruption, the question remains: Do these parties have the capacity (and in the case of the ANC specifically, the will) to deliver on these promises? Corruption remains a key concern for many South Africans, whose access to basic services and aspirations for a transformed society remain bleak. 

The ANC has a poor track record of protecting and promoting the rule of law in South Africa, and its manifesto does not represent a fundamental shift in the party’s attitude to this issue. Both the EFF and DA juxtapose themselves to the years of corruption under the ANC rule yet face allegations of corruption in their own ranks. Smaller parties such as Rise, FF+, ActionSA and the PA have published aspirational or reactionary manifestos aimed at transforming the lived economic experience of South Africans but have failed to grapple in detail with the institutional reforms necessary to protect and promote the rule of law. More radically, the MK Party promises little more than violent rhetoric and the undermining of judicial independence.

It is therefore vitally important for the electorate to vote this May. Freedom Under Law has set out the key issues regarding corruption and the rule of law from the parties’ manifestos to assist in this decision. DM

Additional information from Freedom Under Law.

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.

DM 168 front page


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Steve Davidson says:

    Judith, as much as I’ve always liked your articles, the very fact that you put the EFF before the DA in the order of play here suggests that your – or your leaders at the DM, or both – bias towards the ONLY decent party in this benighted country is real and very very obvious. And very very disappointing. Maybe even racist?

    • District Six says:

      Is this “racist” comment that you tacked on at the end an acknowledgement that the DA is a white party? How else could the accusation stand if that is not your implication?

      • Steve Davidson says:

        Nope, it’s because idiots like your mate Mckenzie – amongst others – insists on calling it that. Do you understand now, or do you wish to carry on your own racism? While I realise the so-called Cape coloureds have been badly treated over the years, it’s the racist ANC you should be ATTACKING now, not the multiracist DA.

  • Peter Doble says:

    It’s a clear assessment Judith, but let’s assume that the words “politician” and the “rule of law” don’t belong in the same sentence. The ANC has certainly proved itself incapable and, as you conclude, the current potential replacements either have skeletons or little evidence of proving any better. Were the nationalists or colonial governments truly more appealing?
    I find that South Africa has a very laissez faire attitude towards laws and rules in general. The feeling that not all laws apply to everybody is embedded in the culture. Disobeying, avoiding or circumventing the law applies across the board without barrier of race, colour or creed.

    • District Six says:

      “I find that South Africa has a very laissez faire attitude towards laws and rules in general. The feeling that not all laws apply to everybody is embedded in the culture.” That tends to happen when for 350 years laws were weaponised against the people of this country. Think about it. The law was used to dehumanise people, to steal their land and homes (like District Six), to impoverish them, the move them about to ‘black spots’, to white wash identities, to disenfranchise them. Why would we expect any other consequence of the law being weaponised against a people?

  • Karl Sittlinger says:

    ” (the) DA juxtapose themselves to the years of corruption under the ANC rule yet face allegations of corruption in their own ranks.”

    I think its a little disingenuous to compare individual cases of corruption in the DA to the systemic implementation of corrupt practices by the ANC over the last 25 years or so. You will find some corruption in any poltical party, that is just the nature of politics, but it is the frequency, magnitude and consequences that separate parties from each other, and on that front there really is no comparison.

  • Willem Boshoff says:

    Please enlighten us on how many of the top leaders in the DA have serious corruption allegations/charges hanging over them, and how the DA has dealt with this in the past. Then compare that to the ANC, EFF and PA. The only truthful assessment is that among the major parties, the DA has led the way with accountability and service delivery (refer to the AG’s reports); finding a minor case of corruption and basing your conclusion on that is terrible journalism. DM’s bias against the DA is rather obvious and often leaves me wondering if I should continue my subscription.

  • John Smythe says:

    I think a (more than) slightly biased article, Judith. I thought you could do better. But, alas…. A small DA incident is certainly not in the same league as state capture, VBS, rampant corruption and zero consequence for the corrupt cadres and crooks in the ANC and EFF.

  • Phuti P says:

    Lovely piece of journalism

  • Helen Swingler says:

    Mr McKenzie says bring God back to our schools but then talks of shooting migrants in the head (those who breach his Trumpian border fence), not to wound but to kill. Who is the God he

    claims to follow? If it is the Chistian God, the foundational Christian tenets are ‘ God is love’ (there is no darkness in God) and love your neighbour. Mr
    McKenzie, like many other political leaders (think Putin), are creating God in their own images. His comments smack of hate speech. Imagine teaching this hatred to our children in the name of God.

  • Elsjene Burger says:

    While not a fan of them, I am wondering why only the FF+ is deemed right-leaning while most parties listed are in their own way right-leaning or somewhat (read: mostly) communist in principle? Left-wing equality policies are preached in almost all parties’ manifestos, but have we really seen this?

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