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Archive for the tag “South African politics”

Election 2019: who can one vote for? Part 2

In an earlier post I listed some of the main political parties in South Africa, and my reservations about voting for them.

One of the things that stands out for me in this year’s general election is that so many people I know, even those with fairly strong political convictions, don’t know which party to vote for.

Now I’m trying to make a list of the parties I’m thinking I might vote for. I’ll be watching to see what they do, and hope that if anyone knows of any dodgy dealings by people on their lists they’ll let me know.

African People’s Convention (APC)

The African People’s Convention is a breakaway from the PAC, it has had one member of parliament in 2009 and 2014, Themba Godi. He is the only opposition MP to have chaired a parliamentary committee, and to all accounts has done it quite well.

PRO: It is a parliamentary party and therefore not likely to be a wasted vote for a pip-squeak party. I know nothing bad about its only MP. It seems to have broad political principles rather than a narrowly-defined ideology like the SRWP below.

CON: Don’t know enough about them and their policies, though if there are policies I strongly disagree with, they are unlikely to be in a position to implement them after this election.

The Socialist Revolutionary Workers Party

It has only just been formed, but it has been one of the few groups to explicitly counter the Thatcherism of the ANC, whose policies of privatisation and semi-privatisation have led to the plundering of public resources by monopoly capitalism (white AND Indian, if you want to get all racist about it). In representing the urban workers it is similar to the MDC in Zimbabwe.

PRO: It might oppose the Zuptas’ “Radical Economic Transformation” of South Africa into a kleptocracy.

CON: It seems, to all accounts, to be wedded to a rigid Marxist ideological framework, which can lead to internal squabbles about political correctness. Also, it seems to be linked primarily to one trade union, so its claim to be able to unite the working class seems a little hollow.

Liberal Party of South Africa (New)

Not to be confused with the old Liberal Party, which disbanded in 1968. This one was formed in 2017, and like the SRWP was a reaction to the corruption of the Zupta-dominated ANC.

PRO: They affirm liberal values, and are very aware of corruption and the danger it poses to the country.

CON: I was at the official party launch in 2017, and was not sure whether the main thrust of the party would be nonracial liberalism or coloured nationalism. Both seemed to be almost equally prominent. Also, I’m not sure if it’s even registered for the 2019 elections.

Anybody else?

Any other parties worth considering?

I’m not interested in hearing about the main parties listed in my earlier post here — please comment there if you have a good counter for my reservations about them.

At the moment I’m most inclined to vote for the APC, but that could change at any time between now and 8 May.


Politics getting interesting again?

I chanced on a page of City Press which had an article that bodes ill for our 20-year-old democracy: Boo and face arrest, Eastern Cape ANC warns members – City Press

A bloke making the soccer "bring on a substitute" signal, as many did whenever Zuma appeared at the Mandela Memorial Service

A bloke making the soccer “bring on a substitute” signal, as many did whenever Zuma appeared at the Mandela Memorial Service

A Facebook link to the page had a picture of a bloke making the soccer “bring on a substitute” signal. I don’t know if this was a picture of the part of the crowd that booed President Zuma at the Mandela Memorial Service at the FNB statium last month, or whether it was taken at an actual football match, but there were reports that several people at the stadium made the “substitute” signal whenever Zuma appeared on the screen at the stadium.

The ANC, in releasing its election manifesto, made it clear that it was standing by Jacob Zuma as its choice of leader, and that the ANC leadership had no plans to bring on a substitute.

City Press poll, 23 Jan 2014

City Press poll, 23 Jan 2014

On the same page in City Press was a readers poll, which seems to indicate a similar “bring on a substitute” sentiment.

I’m not sure how representative of the general voting public City Press readers are, but I find the result interesting none the less.

I don’t know how long the poll has been up on the web page, or how much longer the poll will be open, but I suspect that the voting so far does not reflect support for Lindiwe Mazibuko or the DA, but it rather reflects the “bring on a substitute” attitude to Jacob Zuma.

I think the sentiment there is that anyone could do a better job than Jacob Zuma, whether it be Lindiwe Mazibuko, Julius Malema, Mamphela Ramphele, or anyone else.

The sentiment of 46% of City Press readers seems to be “bring on a substitute, any substitute”.

The general election will show how many of the voters share that sentiment.


Birth pangs of a new South African workers party

I have long thought that we needed a new opposition party to the left of the ANC, that could represent workers, and that the Tripartite Alliance was basically flawed, as the ANC has become increasingly Thatcherist. Martin Plaut gives a good analysis of the background to this.

But it seems that we will be spoilt for choice in the 2014 elections, as a new party seems to be formed every week. First there was Agang, the party formed by Mamphela Ramphele, then there was Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters, and there is also, I believe, a suchi party, led by a couple of ex-cons, so the 2014 elections will be quite interesting.

Martin Plaut

With considerable pain and after a long gestation it seems that a new workers’ party is being born in South Africa.

By Martin Plaut Published 29 November 2013 12:31

Source: New Statesman

Members of Numsa at a protest in Durban in September 2010. (Photo: Getty)
Members of Numsa at a protest in Durban in September 2010. (Photo: Getty)

The National Union of Metalworkers (Numsa) appears on the verge of splitting away from the African National Congress. As the largest affiliate of the main trade union movement – Cosatu – this would be a heavy blow for the party, which will rely heavily on the unions during next year’s general election. The metalworkers represent some 291,000 workers out of the Cosatu’s 2.2 million strong Cosatu membership.

The issue is to be debated at a Numsa special congress, scheduled for 13 – 16 of December. The ANC is clearly deeply worried by the prospect. The unions have been linked to the party since 1986…

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Agang lets us explain South African politics to Brits

The arrival of Agang on the South African scene at last lets us explain South African politics to Brits in terms they can understand.

  • The ANC is like the British Labour Party, having the support of Cosatu, one of the biggest trade union groupings.
  • The DA is like the British Conservative Party, and attracts the votes of conservative-minded voters in South Africa.
  • Agang is like the British Liberal Party, and appeals to liberals, though, unlike the British Liberal Party, it hasn’t sold out to the Tories yet.
  • Inkatha is like the Scottish National Party, and Bantu Holomisa’s lot (I forget their name) are like the Weslsh equivalent.
  • The Freedom Front is like the UK Independence Party.
  • That leaves the ACDP and the PAC which are rather difficult to explain in UK terms. Perhaps you could say that the PAC is also like the UKIP, except that it would like to be in Africa just as much as the UKIP doesn’t want to be in Europe.

I hope that makes everything clear.

Whenever I see Agang written I do a double take, because I tend to read it as “aging”.

Mamphela Ramphele

Mamphela Ramphele

But that’s OK, as it serves to remind aging liberals like me that we have something to vote for in the 2014 election, if we live that long.

Last year I was rooting for Mamphela Ramphele for president, and though she’s unlikely to be president in 2014, I think her voice needs to be heard in parliament.

Oh, I forgot Julius Malema.

Well, Julius Malema reminds me of Tielman Roos in a lot of ways. Appealing to the workers and playing the race card, for example.

You haven’t heard of Tielman Roos? Well, don’t worry — in 80 years’ time probably no one will have heard of Julius Malema either.


The Liberal Party of South Africa

The following article used to be on the web page
but was arbitrarily removed by Yahoo! for reasons best known to themselves. It was later moved to, and they have removed it too.

Since there is very little accurate information on the Liberal Party of South Africa on the Web, I’m putting it here as a temporary measure, until it can find a more reliable home.

The Liberal Party of South Africa

The Liberal Party of South Africa was formed in 1953, and fifteen years later was forced to close when the National Party governnment passed the Prohibition of Improper Interference Act, which made non-racial political parties illegal. Another 26 years were to pass before South Africa became, at least on paper, the kind of society the Liberal Party had struggled for, with non-racial free elections, a democratic constitution that entrenched the rule of law, and a bill of rights.

The definitive history of the role of the Liberal Party in the struggle against apartheid is probably Randolph Vigne’s Liberals against apartheid (London, MacMillan, 1997, ISBN 0-333-71355-9), but there doesn’t seem to be any web page dealing with this topic, so I hope this helps to fill the gap. What follows is something of a personal memoir. I was a member of the Liberal Party towards the end of its life, in Natal, and I write from that point of view. I hope that eventually others will contribute to this story.


On 9 May 1953 the Liberal Party of South Africa was formed at a meeting in Cape Town. The meeting was of the South African Liberal Association, which had been formed earlier from diverse groups that had gathered in different centres in South Africa (Vigne 1997:20-21). The National Party had just won its second term of office with an increased majority, which it took as a mandate to press ahead with its policy of apartheid. It set about removing coloured voters from the comon roll, and abolishing the separate representation that the few African voters had had since they had been removed from the common voters’ roll in 1936. The Communist Party of South Africa had been banned, and civil liberties had been eroded as the National Party sought to suppress opposition to its policies.

The main centres of the Liberal Party – Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pietermaritzburg and Durban – in many ways represented different philosophies, outlooks, views of what was wrong in South Africa, and what needed to be done about it. Vigne (1997) concentrates mainly on the Liberal Party at the national level, and in the old Cape Province. Natal liberalism, however, was somewhat different. The bulk of the party membership was among Zulu-speaking people in the rural areas.
The history of the Liberal Party is divided into two almost equal periods — 1953-1960, and 1960-1968. Nineteen-sixty was a watershed year for South Africa. The Sharpeville massacre in March 1960 was followed by the banning of the African National Congress (ANC), the Pan-African Congress (PAC), and several other political organisations, a State of Emergency (during which several members of the Liberal Party, as well as those of other organisations, were detained), and a referendum among white voters on whether South Africa should become a republic. The formation of the Progressive Party of South Africa in 1959, with its policy of a qualified franchise, siphoned off the more right-wing white supporters of the Liberal Party, and thereafter the Liberal Party was unequivocal in its electoral policy of “one man, one vote.”

What is liberalism? What are liberals?

“Liberal” was, and to some extent still is, something of a dirty word in South Africa. It most frequently appears with the epithet “white”, and the stereotype of the “white liberal” is often propagated in the news media. See, for example:

Such articles are misleading, however. Though most of those at the founding meeting were white, within a few years of its founding most of the members of the Liberal Party were black. For the first few years white members were the dominant influence in the party, mainly because the proceedings at national congresses were in English. But when simultaneous translation equipment began to be used, and conference delegates could speak their minds in whatever language they were most fluent in, this changed.

The main aim of the Liberal Party was to establish a free and democratic non-racial society in South Africa. A free society is one in which people are free from excessive government control. The Liberal Party was explicitly opposed to “all forms of totalitarianism, such as fascism and communism”. It was therefore strongly opposed to the oppressive aspects of Nationalist rule, such as detention and banning without trial, and people being deprived of their property of ideological reasons, as when people were deprived of land and houses in the name of apartheid. Pass laws, influx control and similar laws were oppressive and unjust, and represented undesirable government interference in the lives of ordinary citizens.
In a peculiar twist of the meanings of words, many people nowadays, especially in the USA, seem to associate liberalism with “big government”. This, however, is the reverse of the truth, and was certainly the opposite of the truth in South Africa. In South Africa the National Party arrogated more and more power to the government and its officials, and systematically removed the legal rights that protected ordinary citizens from the arbitrary abuse of power by officials. It has been rightly said that one of the principles of liberalism is that “the government governs best that governs least”. But the Nationalist government in South Africa wanted to govern more and more. New laws kept appearing to remove from the courts the power to question the validity of laws, or to pronounce on the validity of actions that government officials took when using the growing powers that the laws granted them.

Peter Brown, one of the founders of the Liberal Party, and for many years its national chairman, died in June 2004 at the age of 79. The following obituaries have more information:

The archives of the Liberal Party are kept at the Alan Paton Centre at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Pietermaritzburg

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