South Africa's political parties
South Africa has a vibrant multiparty political system, with 13 parties represented in
the National Assembly of Parliament.
The African National Congress (ANC) is the majority party, with 249 of the 400
National Assembly seats. The party controls eight of the country's nine provinces, with
the exception of the Western Cape, where the Democratic Alliance has been in power
since 2009 elections. In 2014, the DA secured 59.38% of the provincial vote.
The ANC controls seven of the eight metropolitan municipalities. Nonetheless, South
Africa's opposition parties remain robust and vocal.
South Africa's Parliament is made up of two houses: the National Assembly and the
National Council of Provinces. The National Assembly is the more influential, passing
legislation and overseeing executive performance. Its members are elected for a term
of five years.
All South African citizens over the age of 18 eligible to vote, if they register to do so.
far, South Africa has had fully inclusive democratic elections every five years since
1994. Before the end of apartheid, only white South Africans were allowed to vote for
the national government.
- For a full list of results from South Africa's 2014 elections, visit the Independent
Electoral Commission at www.elections.org.za
PARTIES IN PARLIAMENT
Of the 29 parties that contested the 2014 elections, only 13 received sufficient votes
to gain representation in Parliament.
The African National Congress (ANC)
African National Congress (ANC) is the governing party of South Africa, supported
by its historial tripartite alliance with the Congress of South African Trade Unions
(Cosatu) and the South African Communist Party (SACP).
Founded in 1912 as the South African Native National Congress, it aimed to bring
Africans together to defend their rights and fight for freedom. In 1923 its name was
changed to the African National Congress.
Following the 1960 Sharpeville massacre, the party was banned by the Nationalist
government. From 1961 organised acts of sabotage began, marking the emergence
of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the ANC. The ANC was to be an
underground and exiled organisation for the next 30 years.
In February 1990, the government unbanned the ANC and released Nelson Mandela
and other political prisoners. The ANC was again able to openly recruit members and
establish regional structures.
In the historic 1994 elections the ANC won
62% of the vote. Mandela became South
Africa's first democratically elected president. In the 1999 elections the party
increased its majority to a point short of two-thirds of the total vote. A two-
thirds majority theoretically allows a party to change the country's Constitution. Thabo
Mbeki succeeded Mandela as president of the country.
ANC key objective is the creation of a united, non-racial, non-sexist and democratic
society. The Freedom Charter remains the party's basic policy document. Adopted in
June 1955 by the ANC and its allies, the charter lists principles on which a democratic
South Africa should be built.
In the 2004 elections the party, which declared itself to be a social democratic party,
retained its two-thirds majority (69.7%). After Mbeki resigned in 2008, a group of
former ministers - led by Mosiuoa Lekota - split away and formed the Congress of the People
In the 2009 elections, the ANC's majority fell
to 64.9%, and Jacob Zuma became the
country's president. In the 2014 elections, the ANC's margin once again dropped to
62.15%. Zuma remains both the head of the ANC and the country's president.
The ANC is, with its tripartite alliance partners, committed to the values of the
National Democratic Revolution. This, the ANC says, "strives to achieve the liberation
of Africans in particular and black people in general from political and economic
bondage. It means uplifting the quality of life of all South Africans, especially the
Democratic Alliance (DA)
South Africa's official opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, formerly known as
the Democratic Party (DP), espouses liberal democracy and free market principles.
The party's forerunner was the Progressive Federal Party (PFP),
politician Helen Suzman was its only representative in the white Parliament for many
years. Suzman upheld liberal policies in the apartheid-era legislature and spoke out
against apartheid laws.
In the 1980s the party increased its Parliamentary seats to seven. Among the new
MPs was Tony Leon, who became DP leader in 1996, introducing a more aggressive
approach to opposition politics. In 1999, the party became South Africa's official
opposition party - a position it has held since then.
In 2000 the DP joined forces with the New National Party and the Federal Alliance to
form the Democratic Alliance (DA). But the NNP withdrew from the pact in late 2001,
and was disbanded in 2004. More recently, the party integrated the smaller
Leon resigned as party head in 2007, to be replaced by Helen Zille, who is also the
premier of the Western Cape.
Its leader in parliament is Mmusi Maimane, who leads a
parliamentary caucus of 109
members (89 in the National Assembly and 20 in the National Council of Provinces).
The DA increased its share of the vote from 1.7% in 1994 to about 10% in 1999 (as
the former DP), 12.4% in 2004, 16.6% in 2009, and to 22.23% in 2014. The governing
party in the Western Cape, its improved performance in the 2014 elections mean it is
also the official opposition in seven of South Africa's eight other provinces. (The EFF is
the official opposition in Limpopo.)
The DA vision for South Africa is of "an open opportunity society in which every
person is free, secure and equal, where everyone has the opportunity to improve the
quality of his life and pursue her dreams, and in which every language and culture has
equal respect and recognition".
Economic Freedom Fighters
Contesting its first election in 2014, Economic Freedom Fighters is the third most
popular party in South Africa, garnering 6.35% of the vote. Formed just eight months
before the election, the party received more than 1-million votes in the national
ballot, earning 25 seats in Parliament.
The EFF is also the official opposition in North West and Limpopo provinces.
The EFF was formed by Julius Malema after he was expelled by the ANC as leader of
the Youth League in 2013. Malema, who declared himself leader of the party, carries
the title, commander in chief.
The EFF describes itself as "a radical and militant economic emancipation movement"
that is "pursuing the struggle for economic emancipation".
Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP)
The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), led by Mangosuthu Buthelezi, draws its support
largely from Zulu-speaking South Africans, with the majority of its votes coming from
voters in the rural areas of KwaZulu-Natal. In 1994, the IFP held 41 seats in the
province but this dropped to a mere nine in 2014. Support for the party from migrant
workers' in the metropolitan areas of Gauteng has shifted to the EFF.
Buthelezi has led the IFP since he founded it as the Inkatha National Cultural
Liberation Movement in 1975. His political career dates back to the 1940s, when he
joined the ANC Youth League while studying at Fort Hare University. In 1953 he took
up a position as chief of the Buthelezi clan, and in 1970 was appointed head of the
KwaZulu Territorial Authority in terms of the apartheid-era Bantu Administration Act.
He became the homeland's chief minister in 1976.
Inkatha was transformed into a political party in
July 1990, championing federalism as
the best political option for South Africa.
The IFP's focus is on social justice and its manifesto seeks the resolution to a number
of South African issues - the AIDS crisis, unemployment, crime, poverty and
corruption - and to prevent the consolidation of a one-party state.
The IFP also believes in integrating traditional leadership into the system of
governance by recognising traditional communities as models of societal organisation.
Buthelezi heads KwaZulu-Natal's House of Traditional Leaders, which advises the
government on issues relating to traditional leaders.
National Freedom Party (NFP)
National Freedom Party was established in 2011 by Zanele ka Magwaza-Msibi, a
former chair of the Inkatha Freedom Party. Contesting elections for the first time in
2014, the NFP secured six seats in the National Assembly with 1.57% of the vote. It
holds six seats in the KwaZulu-Natal legislature.
Magwaza-Msibi was appointed as South Africa's deputy minister of science and
technology in Zuma's cabinet shake-up after the 2014 elections.
The NFP says it aims to emphasise service delivery to realise its vision of substantive
economic emancipation. One of its primary aims is to govern KwaZulu-Natal and
increase representation in all other provincial legislatures.
United Democratic Movement (UDM)
The United Democratic Movement (UDM) was formed in 1997 by Bantu Holomisa, who
expelled from the ANC after accusing a top party official of corruption.
Holomisa, the former military strongman in the former homeland of the Transkei,
teamed up with Roelf Meyer, a former Nationalist Party Cabinet minister, to form the
new party. Meyer later left politics to pursue other interests.
The party supports social democracy and envisages "the coming together of all in
South Africa", to build one nation that ensures a quality life for every citizen.
Ahead of the 2014 election, a faction of the Congress of the
led by Mbhazima Shilowa joined the UDM. While national support for the
UDM remained small (only 1% of the vote), the party - shored up by disenchanted
Cope supporters - strengthened its position in the Eastern Cape, overtaking Cope to
became the third largest party in the province.
Freedom Front Plus/Vryheidsfront Plus (FF+)
The Freedom Front was formed in 1993 by Constand Viljoen, the former chief of the
South African Defence Force. Viljoen came out of retirement to lead a group of
Afrikaners who wanted to form a political party.
As head of the Afrikaner Volksfront, Viljoen was instrumental in convincing
conservative Afrikaners to participate in the new dispensation, through which, he
argued, the issue of self determination should be taken up.
The Freedom Front Plus, which saw the Conservative Party and the Afrikaner Eenheids
Beweging join forces with the FF ahead of the 2004 elections, aims to help Afrikaners
to "protect their culture, education and values", especially by tackling affirmative
action, land reform as well as crime.
Headed by Pieter Mulder, the party retained its four seats in the National Assembly in
Congress of the People (Cope)
The Congress of the People (Cope) first contested elections in April 2009, winning 30
seats (7.42% of the vote). However, the infighting and bad decisions that followed
saw supporters move to other opposition parties in the 2014 elections. Cope's portion
of the vote dropped to 0.67%, leaving the party with just three seats in the National
Cope was formed at its first convention in Johannesburg in November 2008 by
breakaway ANC members dissatisfied with that organisation's decision to "recall"
then-President Thabo Mbeki a few months earlier and replace him with Kgalema
Its prominent founding members included Mosiuoa Lekota, the former minister of
defence who resigned from the
Cabinet after Mbeki stepped down, as well as former
Gauteng Premier Mbhazima Shilowa.
The party's name echoes the 1955 Congress of the People, which saw the Freedom
Charter adopted by the ANC and other parties. The choice of name was subject to a
legal challenge by the ANC, which was later dismissed by the Pretoria High Court.
Cope supports a participatory democracy and believes in the supremacy of the
Constitution. Its founding principles include social cohesion as well as freedom and
equality before the law. Its slogan is, "Reliable, accountable and incorruptile".
Lekota and Shilowa's locking of horns over leadership of the party also saw them land
in court, but Lekota was re-elected as the party's leader in January 2014. Former
Congress of South African Trade Unions (Costau) president Willie Madisha was elected
deputy president of Cope.
African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP)
The African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) was formed in December 1993 with the
aim of representing South African Christians in Parliament. It won two National
Assembly seats in 1994 and six in 1999. It currently holds three seats.
The ACDP was the only party in the National Assembly that voted against the adoption
of the Constitution in 1994, citing moral and Biblical objections to some of the
document's clauses - particularly the rights of gays and lesbians.
According to its manifesto, the ACDP stands for "Christian principles, freedom of
religion, a free market economy, family values, community empowerment and
human rights in a federal system". Its leaders is Kenneth Meshoe.
African Independent Congress
The African Independent Congress was founded in December 2005 in protest against
the ANC government's decision to include the Matatiele locality into the Eastern Cape
rather than KwaZulu-Natal.
The AIC explains on its website that they regard the ANC as arrogant for "ignoring the
poor people of Matatiele". It says that it "does not want to govern" but rather believes
in a "more inclusive type of governance model" where ordinary citizens voices are
considered in the political-decision making process.
In the 2009 elections, it won a seat in the Eastern Cape legislature. It reatained this
seat in 2014 – as well as three seats in the National Assembly.
- Two seats in the National Assembly
Formed at the
beginning of 2013 by Mamphele Ramphele, Agang is the new kid on the
block of South Africa's political scene.
Agang, which is the Nguni word for "to build", encourages reforms towards direct
governance, striving to "build a stronger democracy in which citizens will be at the
centre of public life".
In January 2014, Ramphele accepted an invitation from the DA to stand as the official
opposition's presidential candidate in the 2014 general election. A few days later,
however, Ramphele rejected the idea of joining the DA and the proposed merger fell
Matters did not improve after its shambolic start, and the party fared poorly in the
2014 elections, winning just 52 350 votes (0.28% of the vote, granting it two seats in
the National Assembly). A few months later, amid reports of continuing internal
conflict, Ramphele resigned, announcing her withdrawal from politics in July 2014.
Pan Africanist Congress
The Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC) was formed in 1959 as a breakaway from
the ANC. Influenced by the Africanist ideals of Kwame Nkrumah, it promotes African
nationalism and the return of the land to the indigenous people.
The PAC was outlawed with the ANC in 1960 after the Sharpeville massacre. Its
leaders were exiled or detained for long periods. These included Robert Sobukwe, its
founder and leader, who was incarcerated in Robben Island until 1969 and then placed
under house arrest until his death in 1978.
Political infighting and numerous changes in leadership have contributed to a steady
erosion of support since 1994, with voters favouring the ANC and the EFF. In the 2014
election, the PAC retained its single seat in parliament.
African People's Convention
The African People's Convention Azanian People's Convention was created out of the
2007 defection of two prominent PAC members of parliament. It was the only party
created by the now-abolished practice known as "floor-crossing" to contest the 2009
The party says it represents the "voice of the voiceless" with its Africanist socialist
democratic principles, aimed at ensuring that "freedom and democracy have material
meaning to all the citizens of the country".
PARTIES NOT IN PARLIAMENT
Minority Front (MF)
The Minority Front, created by the maverick Amichand Rajbansi and now led by his
widow, Shameen Thakur-Rajbansi, says it represents the interests
of all minorities.
The party, however, finds the majority of its support among the Indian community,
especially in Durban.
The Minority Front has held a seat in parliament since 1999, but lost this in the most
recent election. It holds a single seat in the KwaZulu-Natal provincial legislature.
United Christian Democratic Party (UCDP)
The United Christian Democratic Party (UCDP) was formed by Lucas Mangope, head of
the apartheid-era "homeland" of Bophuthatswana. Mangope was among the first
homeland leaders to accept so-called independence for his scattered country for the
Setswana-speaking people. The UCDP was the only party allowed to operate in the
territories under his control.
The UCDP was the official opposition to the ANC in the North West province in 1999
and 2004, but it has been usurped by the EFF, which now
holds five seats in the
province where the Marikana massacre took place in 2013.
Azanian People's Organisation (Azapo)
The Azanian People's Organisation preaches the philosophy of black
emancipation and black consciousness, a philosophy popularised by Steve Biko, who
was killed in police cells in 1977. Azapo lost its single seat representation in the
National Assembly when it managed to gain only 0.11% of the national vote in the
Reviewed: July 2014