Floor-crossing off to low-key start

After all the drama of the court cases that preceded it, the floor-crossing window got off to a low-key start on Saturday.

The only excitement was provided by a senior African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) politician in the Western Cape, Johan Kriel, who accompanied his move to the Democratic Alliance (DA) with a blistering attack on ACDP leader, Kenneth Meshoe.

Deputy chief whip of the African National Congress in Parliament Andries Nel said his party would probably make its floor-crossing announcement early in the coming week.

‘A trickle, not a flood’

The DA said a number of local councillors and a Federal Alliance member of the Gauteng legislature had come over to it since the floor-crossing window opened at midnight.

”There is a steady trickle of people to us, but it’s a trickle, not a flood, and that’s as we anticipated it,” said chairperson of the DA’s federal council James Selfe.

Independent Democrats president Patricia de Lille is to announce her party’s gains at a media briefing at Parliament at noon on Sunday.

The ID successfully fought off High Court challenges by five would-be defectors this week.

Among them was the party’s former general secretary Avril Harding, who lost his seat in the National Assembly when he was summarily expelled by De Lille last week.

Kriel, who was the first [and apparently so far the only] politician to publicly announce his crossing, is a councillor in the Overstrand municipality in the Southern Cape and was chairperson of the party’s provincial executive committee.

He sent an email to Meshoe announcing his decision to cross to the DA just after midnight.

‘President for life’

”He [Meshoe] thinks he is president for life, anointed and appointed, and that the only one who can unappoint him is God,” Kriel told the South African Press Association.

He told Meshoe in the email that his leadership style had ”effectively ripped the heart out of the people who have done all the hard work on the ground”.

He also said the party was being run ”more like a church than a political party”.

”Quite frankly, I am relieved that I no longer stand under your harsh and erratic leadership,” he said.

However ACDP deputy president Jo-Ann Downs rejected Kriel’s claims, saying that while Meshoe was a strong leader, with strong opinions, the party’s leadership was run as a democracy and functioned in ”a very collegial way”.

”To say that he runs it as that kind of autocratic thing is absolutely not true,” she said.

She said Kriel stood for president of the party last year and was defeated democratically.

She had had to rebuke him several times for sending out Freedom Front Plus publicity material on the ACDP’s email facility.

”We are a political party, not a church … but we do have a faith-based ideology, which is usual for a Christian democratic party.”

Downs said she did not think the ACDP would fare badly in the crossing window.

”I’m pretty sure our MPs and MPLs are not going to be shifting. There may be one or two councillors, as is always the case when people want to further their own agendas.”

Asked whether his party had been affected, Inkatha Freedom Party spokesperson Musa Zondi said on Saturday afternoon: ”Nothing has happened so far that we know of.”

Asked whether he thought the IFP would stand its ground, he said: ”We don’t know. We never know what’s going to happen [at this time].”

The 15-day window allows politicians at all levels of government to transfer allegiance to another party but retain their seats. – Sapa

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Ben Maclennan
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