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Patriotic Alliance has big ambitions after surprise showing at the polls

Patriotic Alliance has big ambitions after surprise showing at the polls
Patriotic Alliance president Gayton McKenzie at the IEC Results Operation Centre in Midrand on 1 June 2024. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

The Patriotic Alliance, with its controversial leaders and hardline on illegal immigrants, has become the sixth-biggest party in the National Assembly. As the party stakes its political claim, it is unlikely to soften its stance.

The Patriotic Alliance (PA) says it took “lots of hard work and belief” for the party to win nine seats in the incoming Parliament and a further 10 seats in provincial legislatures across the country. The 2024 election campaign was its most successful to date.

patriotic alliance

The party, formed in 2013, is best known for its controversial leaders, former convicted criminals-turned-businessmen-turned-politicians, Gayton McKenzie and Kenny Kunene. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: What do a gangster, a pastor and sushi have in common? The Patriotic Alliance

In their first elections in 2014, the party barely left a mark with just 13,263 votes. In 2019, the party received an even more dismal 6,660 votes. But in this year’s general elections, the PA raked in 330,425 votes, securing sixth place in the National Assembly.

Independent elections analyst Wayne Sussman told Daily Maverick the party’s growth could be attributed to a few things, particularly McKenzie’s ability to “seize an issue which tears the community apart and run with it and establish himself”. One example of this was the killing of 16-year-old Nathaniel Julies, a boy from Eldorado Park who was shot by police in 2020. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Community protests after boy with Down syndrome allegedly shot by police

“I mean that is the way he established himself in Gauteng,” said Sussman.

There was also the posturing around xenophobia, said Sussman. The PA campaigned on the deportation of so-called “illegal foreigners”, which has landed them in hot water with human rights campaigners.

PA spokesperson Steve Motale said the party stood by the position that “illegal migration is a serious problem in this country”. The party has been criticised from all quarters, but it is not backing down.

“We find it extraordinary that intellectual elites and other pampered classes don’t share our concern about the flagrant breaking of our laws,” he said.

“It’s probably no surprise since illegal immigrants can be happily employed in so many sectors for less money and with no state protection.”

In this election cycle, Motale said the party became the “strongest voice in the run-up to these elections against the utter madness that border control and illegal immigration have become in this country”.

Sussman said: “I think [McKenzie] has the ability to touch on issues which resonate deeply in communities… He’s got a very good gift for that.”

patriotic alliance mckenzie

Gayton McKenzie at a Patriotic Alliance rally At Athlone Stadium in Cape Town on 10 May 2024. (Photo: Gallo Images / Brenton Geach)

McKenzie could also tap into communities who believed the larger parties had failed them.

“He’s also been very focused and he’s got an incredible work ethic and charisma… He did well to emerge as the third largest party in the Northern Cape and third in the Western Cape, and also enter several provincial legislatures,” said Sussman.

The PA’s 10 seats across provincial legislatures are in the Western Cape (3), Northern Cape (3), Eastern Cape (2) and Gauteng (2). 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Gayton McKenzie and Patriotic Alliance prepare to be a “government-in-waiting”

Motale said the party began to grow “in a big way” in 2020.

“We worked the ground hard and emerged as the breakout party of the 2021 elections with more than 80 seats in local government,” said Motale.

The party then fought – and won – many by-elections, including in Gauteng and places such as Oudtshoorn, George and Swartland in the Western Cape. 

Sussman also referred to the case of six-year-old Joshlin Smith from Saldanha Bay on the West Coast, who disappeared in February this year. McKenzie and his party took some heat for getting involved in the case, accused of ulterior political motives.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Joshlin Smith missing for 11 weeks – what we know so far

The PA increased its support considerably in Saldanha Bay, jumping from six votes in 2019 to 7,620 in this election. The party placed third behind the DA and ANC respectively, replicating many electoral races in the Western Cape.

“I think here, again, [McKenzie] the politician did really well in Saldanha Bay… He’s the politician who has taken that issue and shown the most concern and been able to understand the community’s pain,” said Sussman. 

When Daily Maverick asked Motale what in the results stood out for the party, he said: “We feel the Eastern Cape did us proud, and we now have a strong foothold in more surprising provinces like Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal, North West and the Free State that we will be analysing more closely to try to build on for coming elections.”

Coalition talks 

As far as coalition talks go, McKenzie has made it clear that the party wants to control the home affairs ministry – presumably to enforce its xenophobic policies.

On a broader level concerning coalitions, Motale said: “We are currently in talks about the future on this one. If we find ourselves included in any coalition arrangement, we will do our absolute best to distinguish ourselves in whatever portfolios we are entrusted with. If not, we will work just as hard in the opposition benches and hold those in power to account.” 

The party has been involved in coalitions with both the ANC and the DA in various areas. They withdrew from coalitions with the DA because of “insults” directed at McKenzie by the DA’s Western Cape leader Tertuis Simmers.

Up next – Beaufort West by-elections 

On Wednesday 19 June, three by-elections will take place in Beaufort West, where an ANC councillor has resigned, along with two PA councillors. In the May election, the PA received just 2,166 votes in the town on the national ballot. 

In comparison, in the 2021 local government elections, the party received 6,612 votes. While the two elections are different, the DA’s Simmers suggested the decline might indicate that McKenzie’s “time is up”.

“If the 2024 elections were a local election, the DA would have won an outright majority in Beaufort West, with a clear mandate to rescue the municipality,” said Simmers.

Sussman told Daily Maverick: “It seems like they had issues… There’s been a lot of churn in Beaufort West, but Gayton is very good at fighting by-elections.”

Sussman said it was likely McKenzie’s immediate focus would be to stabilise the party in Beaufort West. 

Motale admitted that the PA had never governed a place like Beaufort West with a majority, and needed “coalition partners there, which the DA was not willing to be”. 

“They can continue to call us every name under the sun, lie about us, distort the truth,” said Motale, referring to this week’s court order instructing McKenzie to provide documents about a fund-raising effort while he was mayor of the  Central Karoo District Municipality.

“People are continuing to join the PA and vote for us… We don’t take this for granted and will work tirelessly to repay this faith,” he said. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Middle aged Mike says:

    What a muppet show we are. Voting for a party led by a convicted armed robber says a great deal about the people doing the voting.

  • Snow Yeti says:

    Gayton McKenzie is a convicted bank robber.

    • jason du toit says:

      does that preclude him from meaningfully contributing to society? personally, i don’t like his politics, but treating people like they can’t change is boorish. he hasn’t been suspected of robbing banks since then. let the guy change his life for the better after having made a mistake.

      • Michael M says:

        @jason – His refusal to co-operate with investigators on suspected corruption charges doesn’t speak too well to his supposed “change” now does it?

        What about his close relationship with organised crime, his complete disdain for the constitution, and describing himself as a “benevolent dictator”?

      • Paddy Ross says:

        He is being investigated currently by the SIU for fraud relating to a fundraiser in Sandton(!) for his success in being elected as Mayor of Beaufort West. The fundraiser was advertised as necessary for the municipality to honour the promises he had made prior to his election. It has “disappeared’.

      • Paddy Ross says:

        He is being investigated currently by the SIU for fraud relating to a fundraiser in Sandton(!) for his success in being elected as Mayor of Beaufort West. The fundraiser was advertised as necessary for the municipality to honour the promises he had made prior to his election. It has “disappeared’.

      • Middle aged Mike says:

        It absolutely should preclude people from voting for him. That something is legal doesn’t make it a good idea. Oh, and you don’t have career as an armed robber by ‘mistake’ but rather by making some deliberate life choices.

        • Graeme J says:

          You’re absolutely correct. And we are aren’t talking about petty theft/pilfering. We are talking about armed robbery.

  • Geoff Coles says:

    Beats me how people like McKenzie, with so much of his life spent in prison can be supported. How does he make his money as ghe is apparently the main Party funder?

  • Hidden Name says:

    That map pretty much says it all. PA support is dependent on a handful of personalities.
    They will grow no further.

  • Paul T says:

    PA success is like MK success. Populist identity politics where people vote for people who look and talk like them. The complete antithesis of the tenets of a multicultual democracy. Those parties have nothing to offer to bring South Africans together to build this country.

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