Voters who think Parliament is drab can use their cross to inject a bit of ubuntu or dagga into it.
The Ubuntu Party is not quite a political party, says founder Michael Tellinger, which is why it will not really be campaigning and may not even take part in elections. "It's a liberation movement disguising itself as a political party for the purpose of getting through to the media and to the public," he said.
But in truth it is more of an anarchist movement, technically without a leadership structure and advocating extreme decentralisation of government with local "12 plus one" councils of elders to rule with nothing but policy direction on a national level. It has promises of free energy through perpetual motion, diseases cured through ancient wisdom and freedom from financial slavery (and money) - the kind of issues Tellinger's various movements are known for. It also provides a glimmer of hope for an end to pervasive mind control through cellphones and broadcast signals, although the party is not ambitious enough to promise that outright.
The charismatic Tellinger is best known for his books and speeches on the origins of humanity as a slave species of aliens and the power inherent in energised water and other techniques he says ancient humans mastered. He also has a strong line on conspiracies, including that aliens and human dynasties are the behind-the-scenes rulers of the planet. Recently, however, he has specialised in the financial system and vowed to fight the tyranny of banks. The Ubuntu Party, officially registered earlier this year and launched in September, is one of the results.
"I just launched, in my personal capacity, a civil fraud summons against the banks," said Tellinger this week, cautioning that although the party would be soliciting similar fraud charges from the public, his action was separate. The fight - and the attendant "freedom charter" that borrows its structure, if not all its content, from that of the ANC - is to end "artificially imposed scarcity".
"We're informing people about what is really going on, how they are being lied to, how the whole system is one of entrapment and enslavement that is driving South Africans deeper and deeper into misery."
As for Ubuntu being dismissed as a novelty party, the mere suggestion makes Tellinger more than a little angry. "If you want to call financial desperation, 25-million homeowners being pushed into financial ruin, if you want to call that a novelty …"
For once, words fail him.
Political parties are notorious for making promises they have no chance of keeping after the vote. But the Ubuntu Party ups the ante considerably, promising:
- Almost free electricity from hydro and wave power, methane gas and perpetual-motion machines;
- Nearly free petrol to everyone in South Africa from Sasol and free petrol and diesel for farmers and public transport;
- Free road, rail and air transport on newly upgraded roads and railways;
- Free internet access, almost free fixed-line telephone calls and nearly free cellphone calls;
- Free wood and paper to every community in whatever quantities they require;
- Free education for children and students, at all levels, and free education and training for anybody else in any craft or profession;
- Free land, tools and seed for farmers and free fruit and nut trees for every household;
- Free access to food for those who grow it and nearly free access to those in cities who cannot help in the fields, but contribute to the party in other ways;
- Free, sophisticated healthcare for anyone in hospitals that cure diseases such as cancer rather than treat them;
- Free veterinary services;
- An end to homelessness;
- Mass cancellation of (possibly all) home loans, car loans and credit card debt; and
- "Mostly crime-free communities" and minimal imprisonment and detention.
Meanwhile, the Dagga Party soldiers on. It did not do well in the single municipal election it contested last time, but Iqela Lentsango, or the Dagga Party, still plans to go national in time for 2014.
"We have no concern that we'll be able to raise the signatures [needed for national registration], or the application fee, but the actual deposit is going to be tough," said founder Jeremy Acton. It ran its last election on a total budget of R5 000, which is part of the reason "the Democratic Alliance juggernaut" flattened it. But he believes the cause could take root in the Western Cape and that there could be a national constituency for its platform of legalisation and the economic miracle it believes dagga cultivation could be.
The similarities between the Ubuntu and Dagga parties go far beyond their challenge to authority and the status quo. Both are strongest online and have invested plenty of time and energy in social media. Both have foreign support and intend to raise funds overseas - through books and speaking tours for Tellinger and with hoped-for donations for the Dagga Party. And both are hoping to be ready as vehicles for a mass movement they consider inevitable, when people finally realise the wisdom of their policies.
Then there are the legal troubles and strategies of their founders. Acton still faces charges for dagga possession and is trying (and so far failing) to countersue the state. Tellinger has an outstanding judgment for failing to pay a home loan he says is illegal and has failed to take his countercase to the Constitutional Court, but still intends laying criminal charges against the big banks. Both are also depending on a grassroots uprising rather than central organisation.
"We're trying to get people to form groups on the ground and co-operate on issues, the real issues, even if we don't make it into Parliament," said Acton. "If we get a network of civilians who talk to each other, hopefully it will gather steam and spread our support."