South Africa’s small parties: from the AIC to the UDM

The African National Congress, the Democratic Alliance and the Economic Freedom Fighters get most of the media attention, so it’s understandable that the smaller parties may have escaped your radar. Although these outfits may lack numbers, they’ve nonetheless made it into the National Assembly. RA’EESA PATHER rounds up who they are and what they stand for.

1. National Freedom Party (NFP)
They may be young, but the NFP is the fifth-largest party in Parliament, with six seats in the House. Established in 2011 and headed by Zanele Magwaza-Msibi, the party envisions a South Africa that is both politically and economically emancipated. See, the EFF aren’t the only with a fondness for economic freedom. Magwaza-Msibi formed the party after breaking away from the Inkatha Freedom Party, where she served as chairwoman. (Yes, it was another divorce in SA politics, comrades). Ever since then, it’s been tough times and with controversy following Magwaza-Msibi’s decision to join the ANC-led cabinet as deputy minister of science and technology in 2014, the tension thickened. But the party has survived, and it continues to take swipes at the opposition: “We humbly submit and are sure many of you out there would agree South Africa needs the NFP more than ever,” the party states on its website.

2. African Independent Congress (AIC)
They AIC does’t mess around. The Eastern Cape-based party has called itself “victims of political manipulation” because of the ANC’s negligence of “the poor people of Matatiele,” a farming town in the Eastern Cape. Residents of Matatiele and surrounding rural communities banded together to form the AIC so that citizens could have greater participation in political decision-making. Although their aim was never to govern – the AIC is opposed to one-party state rule – the party has found itself in Parliament, with three seats. At one point during the 2014 national election ballot count they were ahead of the ACDP, Agang, the PAC and the APC – even though they’re not well known outside the Eastern Cape. Some reports indicated that voters mistook the AIC for the ANC; nevertheless, power to the people!

3. African People’s Convention (APC)
The APC has taken it upon itself to “fill the political void that existed since the advent of democracy in 1994”. It’s a huge task, and perhaps even a stretch. (There was a political void?) Nevertheless, the party is keenly pursuing its goal for an “African Socialist Democracy”. Before the EFF were crying out for a revolution, the APC, formed in 2007, had invited all revolutionaries to join its ranks. With a strong call for national self-determination, the APC sees itself as an “alternative voice” to the usual humdrum of its parliamentary house-mates. Before founding the APC, its president Themba Godi was a struggle activist and member of the PAC. It was touch and go for the APC during elections, but Godi’s party managed to retain a seat in the National Assembly.

4. African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP)
The ACDP has been around since 1994, and has kicked up a storm among some South Africans with its anti-abortion stance and its belief in a democratic system based on Biblical principles. The ACDP has stuck to its guns, however, and made it into the House with three seats. Never one to shy away from controversy, the party recently made headlines for condemning Palestinian activist Leila Khaled’s attendance at the 2015 State of the Nation Address. The party’s leader, Reverend Kenneth Meshoe, was a teacher before he joined the political sphere.

5. United Democratic Movement (UDM)
The UDM was formed in 1997 by Roelf Meyer (who has since left the party) and Bantu Holomisa when the latter was expelled from the ANC for testifying at the TRC. With Holomisa in charge, things are bound to be interesting – he was one of the MPs who walked out of the National Assembly during the State of the Nation Address last week. The party says its committed to uniting all South Africans, promoting equality, and progressing towards a “winning nation”.

As we make popcorn in anticipation for the State of the Nation debate on Wednesday and Thursday, let’s see what these unlikely MPs have to add to our democracy.

– For a complete list of all 13 parties represented in Parliament, check out the People’s Assembly website.

– Featured image: By GCIS Flickr account

– Originally, this article referred to the UDM as a “popular anti-apartheid struggle movement that protested against apartheid rule”. This, of course, is a description of the UDF, not the UDM, and the copy has been updated to describe the UDM.

– This article also referred to Themba Godi “joining” the APC, actually, he founded the party. The article has been updated to reflect this fact.