From pillar to post

How actively do political parties implement sustainable development? Are their promises nothing but hot air? One of the simplest ways to gauge this in the immediate wake of the elections was to check what they planned to do with the thousands of electioneering posters and boards glaring down at voters from lamp-posts around the country.

Would they be re-used and recycled? Or would they be abandoned to add to the litter strewn around the country?

These were the explanations provided by the major contenders in this year’s elections:

African National Congress

Steyn Speed, speaking on behalf of the ANC, could not say exactly how many posters the party put up nationwide, or what they cost, but he estimated ‘several hundred thousand” went up.

He said the posters were collected and stored, in anticipation of being re-used. Some are recycled by being put on sale as collectors’ items. The ANC’s website features ‘original April 1994 election posters” for sale. For R50, you can acquire either the ‘Mandela for President” poster or one that promises ‘A better life for all”.

Democratic Alliance

Greg Krumbock, the DA’s executive director, said election boards were stored and re-used in local elections. ‘The posters are scraped off [the boards] and new ones are put on – except for ones that have been stolen.”

He estimated that between 10% and 15% of the almost 600 000 posters put up nationwide by the DA had been stolen. ‘Every now and then we see shacks with Tony [Leon] smiling brightly on the outside.”

The posters cost between R10 and R16. Juliet Berning, who was in charge of the DA’s posters for Gauteng south, said various individuals, charities and companies had phoned in with requests to buy the posters.

Freedom Front Plus

Spokesperson Leon Louw said the FF+ hired an independent contractor to put up and take down its posters again. ‘We hold on to 20% of his fee until we get the posters and boards back.”

All the posters would be taken down and re-used next year, he added. The recovery rate was between 70% and 80% of the 100 000 boards that were put up nationwide. The rest were either damaged or stolen – a fairly expensive loss, considering each board cost the FF+ about R14.

Independent Democrats

Themba Sono, the ID’s national deputy president, quipped: ‘Fortunately, the [other political] parties went on a pulling-down spree just before the elections. They have relieved me of so many responsibilities.”

He discovered this when he drove around to take the posters down. ‘It has saved me the money of trying to pull them down.” Somo assumed that the other parties must have taken the ID’s posters down as their own posters were still on the poles.

While he had not worked out how many ID posters were put up, nor how many were stolen, he said his party had ‘tens of thousands” of posters. He was also unable to quantify the cost of the posters: ‘It was a lot of money for a cash-strapped party. It was a tremendous strain.”

Ideally, Somo would have liked to collect and re-use the posters for local elections next year. ‘We can’t just throw money away,” he said.

Inkatha Freedom Party

Spokesperson Suzanne Vos was adamant that IFP posters get recycled and re-used. ‘We store ours and we use ones that don’t crumble,” she said.

At a cost of R10 for each finished board, the IFP could not afford to abandon the boards. She pointed out that most municipalities prescribe time limits within which posters have to be removed. If the parties do not comply, they face fines and risk forfeiting their posters to the municipalities, which usually recycle them.

Vos estimated the IFP erected about 10 000 posters in KwaZulu-Natal alone and between 2 000 and 3 000 posters in each of the other eight provinces. Many provinces printed their own posters independently, so she was unable to provide an accurate estimate, but a total figure of 30 000 was a good conservative estimate.

‘Obviously we recycle; we’ve got to take them down. They’re not meant to be a permanent decoration of the neighbourhood,” she said.

Not taking the posters down and collecting them could have a disastrous effect on the environment, she added. ‘Street people use them to sleep on and they become part of the litter. Instead of being constructive, they become destructive.”

National Action

Cassie Aucamp, co-leader of the NA, said party members took the 26 000 NA boards down. ‘We put them up ourselves; we will take them down ourselves.”

The boards would be re-used ‘because they are very expensive”. At R10 a board for the finished product, the NA would be able to save most of the R260 000 it spent on putting posters up, he said.

New National Party

Andries Cornelissen responded on behalf of the NNP. He refused to discuss how many posters were put up, or the cost of posters: ‘The NNP does not discuss its financial affairs in public.”

He was prepared to reveal that the NNP re-uses the board on the back of the posters, because this is the most expensive part.

Pickitup, a Johannesburg-based refuse company, undertook a survey of five depots at Earthyear‘s request to get an indication of whether the posters were turning up in the litter.

Marius de Villiers, communication manager, said none of the depots had reported any problems. At most, one or two posters were lying around a week-and-a-half after the elections. ‘It seems like the agents are quite organised in taking them down and recycling,” he confirmed.

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