TurkishPress.com, 02 April 2014
JOHANNESBURG – With less than two months left before the hotly-contested vote, which will also mark South Africa’s 20th year of democracy, political parties have been tirelessly traversing the country to drum up support.
Although there are several political parties in the contest, the race is expected to be dominated by five major political parties: the African National Congress (ANC), the Democratic Alliance (DA), the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), the Congress of the People (COPE), and the Inkatha Freedom Party.
The ruling ANC of incumbent President Jacob Zuma was founded in 1912.
It remains the most popular political party in the country, thanks largely to its historical role fighting apartheid.
The ANC rules through a tripartite alliance, which also includes the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and the South African Community Party (SACP).
“We have 1.2 million members and the annual subscription fee is 12 rand,” ANC spokesman Keith Khoza told AA, stressing that membership was voluntary.
The ANC currently controls 264 seats in South Africa’s 400-member national parliament.
The party also boasts a majority of local council members and representatives in the national council of provinces.
The stated aim of the ANC, the motto of which is “A better life for all,” is to improve the quality of life for all South Africans.
During its ongoing electioneering, the party has pointed to its achievements and vowed to pursue various development programs, such as prioritizing youth employment and ensuring that young people are given the skills needed to manage the country’s economy.
“We are building nine Further Education and Training [FET] colleges. There is 90-percent enrollment of students at FET colleges,” Zuma said during recent Human Rights Day celebrations.
He noted that, each year, his government raised the number of scholarships being offered to young people to attend FET colleges and universities.
“These measures we’ve put to ensure youth attain education, especially the children of the poor,” Zuma said.
He went on to point out that literacy levels had increased under the ANC’s leadership, while the country had also made strides in treating HIV/AIDS patients and preventing new infections.
South Africans will go to the polls on May 7 to elect lawmakers and city council representatives.
The DA, meanwhile, the country’s main opposition party, is led by Helen Zille, premier of the Western Cape.
Previously viewed as a predominately-white party, the DA has recently started incorporating black South Africans into the party leadership.
For instance, the party’s parliamentary leader, Lindiwe Mazibuko, is a young and eloquent black female. For many in the country, she has become a role model.
The DA’s national spokesman and leading candidate for Gauteng province, Mmusi Maimane, is also a young, successful black professional.
The party currently boasts 67 seats in parliament and ten in the national council of provinces.
“We don’t have membership audits,” Maimane told AA when asked about the size of the party’s membership base.
The DA enjoys overwhelming support in the Western Cape, the fourth largest of South Africa’s nine provinces in terms of both area and population.
Its electoral campaign is based on tackling the country’s main socioeconomic woes, such as unemployment and the proliferation of crime.
The party is also a vocal critic of official corruption. It recently launched an online advertisement, shot outside President Zuma’s controversial country home – which reportedly cost the state some $25 million.
The advertisement calls on South Africans to vote for the DA on grounds that Zuma’s ANC is no longer the same party as the one once led by iconic leaders Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo and Thabo Mbeki.
Another vibrant party to watch in the upcoming election is the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), founded in 2013 by Julius Malema, a former ANC Youth League leader.
In 2011, Malema was expelled from the ruling party for reportedly bringing the ANC into disrepute.
His new party calls for for the redistribution of the country’s farmland, which is mostly in the hands of white South Africans who benefited during the long-period of white-minority rule.
Born in March 1981, Malema has gained considerable popularity, saying he wants to see the nation’s resources shared equally between whites and blacks.
The EFF’s slogan is “Economic Freedom in Our Lifetime.”
Many disaffected young South Africans have joined the EFF, which claims to draw inspiration from the people’s suffering and promises to improve their lives once elected to office.
Malema bears the party title of “commander in-chief,” while supporters are known as “fighters.”
“We have over 500,000 members,” party official Micheal Mathebe told AA, adding that this figure was two months old.
Although the EFF currently lacks representation in parliament, many analysts expect it to come in at third place – following the DA – in the general elections.
The Congress of the People (COPE) was founded in 2008 by breakaway ANC members angered by the party’s decision to withdraw then-president Mbeki from office before the end of his term.
The party is led by Mosioua Lekota, a 66-year-old former defense minister who resigned with several other government ministers following Mbeki’s withdrawal from office.
Although the party was launched only a few months before 2009 elections, COPE nevertheless managed to clinch 7.4 percent of the vote.
“Our registered members are in the excess of 50,000 and members pay 30 rand [almost $3] per annum,” party spokesman Johann Abrie told AA.
He said COPE had 30 seats in the national assembly, seven in the national council of provinces and over 300 in the country’s local councils.
If elected to office, the party promises to improve the country’s deteriorating public health and education sectors.
It also calls for downsizing the government so that more of the country’s resources can be channeled into the national economy.
COPE also wants to “depoliticize” South Africa’s safety, security and intelligence apparatuses.
Another popular political party is the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) of Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, which enjoys considerable support in the coastal KwaZulu Natal province.
The party currently has 18 seats in the national assembly and several local council seats.
Like other political parties, the IFP seeks to address the country’s chronic unemployment crisis and the proliferation of crime and corruption.