Parties with common views cling to subtle differences

EFF supporters and the party’s manifesto launch at the Moses Mabhida Stadium. Picture: Khaya Ngwenya/ Independent Newspapers

EFF supporters and the party’s manifesto launch at the Moses Mabhida Stadium. Picture: Khaya Ngwenya/ Independent Newspapers

Published Feb 19, 2024


Durban — Instead of merging to form one loud voice, political parties that have common interests prefer to remain independent, while having a working relationship with each other.

This has resulted in more political parties being registered in recent times with the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC). There were more than 300 parties contesting this year’s election, while there were at least 600 registered parties, including those that focus only on local government elections, according to the deputy CEO of the commission, Mawethu Mosery.

Smaller parties and independent candidates – who despite having no convincing support base – risk losing thousands of rand in deposits paid to the IEC for contesting an election. The money gets forfeited by those who fail to secure a seat in Parliament, yet the parties still choose to participate.

The African Transformation Movement (ATM) would be contesting the general elections for the second time this year. Its first contest in 2019, a year after it was formed, earned it two seats in the National Assembly and one in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape.

Despite this failure, party spokesperson Zama Ntshona said the party preferred to remain independent, and instead have a working relationship with parties it shared common interests with such as the EFF, PAC and Azapo.

Formed in 2013, the EFF has displayed a Big Brother posture among parties, fighting for radical economic transformation, including land expropriation without compensation.

However, Ntshona said some differences stopped his party from merging with the EFF.

“As the ATM, we say land needs to be categorised instead of a blanket approach which says all land must be expropriated.

“Let us categorise the land to say this must be industrial land, land for farming, and you then decide without harming food production,” he said.

Ntshona said the ATM was currently in a working relationship with other leftist parties based on common ground. A working relationship saw the EFF, PAC and Azapo marching together to Eskom against load shedding, calling for President Cyril Ramaphosa’s resignation four years ago.

“Our working together had already started. When the interests of the people and our ideologies coincide, we fight together,” said Ntshona.

The ATM, said Ntshona, would only decide whether or not it would work with the MK Party after the latter had revealed its policies.

MK, according to its spokesperson Nhlamulo Ndhlela, was formed out of the will of the people who “wanted a breath of fresh air” instead of already existing parties.

Ndhlela said: “As you have already seen, the BLF (Black First Land First) has announced that they will work with us and they will campaign for MK, and there are many more progressive parties that will work with us.”

Former ANC spokesperson Carl Niehaus, who collapsed his African Radical Economic Transformation Alliance to join the EFF, said he had tried to talk Zuma out of associating himself with the MK Party.

“He (Zuma), in fact, invited me (to join MK) and I said to him no, I don’t believe we must create more parties.

“I said to him, Baba (Zuma), it would be better if you join the EFF so that we can move forward as a united left-wing progressive force,” said Niehaus.

Former KwaZulu-Natal PAC organiser Bongani Nxumalo, who is now an ordinary party activist, said parties with the same objectives could not merge because of “power-mongering”.

“The problem in our country is that it has become politics of the stomach and there’s no logic in that.

“Some of the reasons that prevent common understanding is because everybody wants to be a president, and it is not actually about the oppressed and exploited,” he said.

Sunday Tribune