New kid Cope secures at least 20 seats in Parliament

New kid Congress of the People (Cope) has already won more than 20 seats in Parliament, according to early estimates, seemingly eating into the support base of its older rivals.

“Some of the smaller parties seem to have lost out to Cope,” said political analyst Stephen Friedman.

With more than 70% of the vote counted by 8.30am on Friday, Cope was in third place.

In a first for a new party in South Africa, it had already raked in about 22 seats, with the 971 877 votes it had received by 8.30am, leaving the smaller parties competing for voices in Parliament.

“There’s been some redistribution of votes within the opposition. I think some [United Democratic Movement] votes had gone to Cope. I think some [Independent Democrats] people had gone with Cope,” said Friedman.

“I don’t think the ANC is picking up votes from the smaller parties.

“I think the ANC lost votes to the DA and Cope, but gained votes from the [Inkatha Freedom Party].
If the IFP wasn’t in such trouble, the ANC would have gone down further.”

The African National Congress was standing on 65,9% by 8.30am, if one divided the number of votes counted (12 869 992) by the number of votes the ruling party had received so far (8 492 194).

This already hands Jacob Zuma’s party 190 seats in the 400-seat National Assembly, with slightly more than a quarter of results still outstanding.

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) estimated a 77,1% voter turnout, which calculates into 17,9-million votes cast out of the 23,1-million registered voters.

If 17,9-million votes were cast, a party would need about 44 600 votes for one seat.

According to that formula, the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) then already had an estimated 47 seats in the National Assembly with its 2 108 828 votes by 8.30am.

The IFP seemed to have a poor show, standing at 494 730 votes which gives it an estimated 11 seats so far, a long way from the 28 seats in enjoyed after 2004.

The UDM (122 428 votes by 8.30am) and the Freedom Front Plus (121 280 votes by 8.30am) were both standing at about three seats each.

The UDM won nine seats in 2004 elections and the FFPlus four.

Patricia de Lille’s Independent Democrats’ 116 168 votes would hand her between two or three seats so far, after she scored seven seats in 2004.

The African Christian Democratic Party, with 97 788 votes by 8.30am, could expect two seats after it received seven in 2004.

The United Christian Democratic Party (54 785 votes by 8.30am) seemed last in line with one seat so far in Parliament. It won three seats in 2004.

PAC virtually disappears
De Lille’s former political home, the Pan Africanist Congress (36 304 votes by 8.30am), seemed to have been relegated to a non-entity, so far not scoring enough votes for a seat.

The revolutionary party, which inspired the formation of Steve Biko’s Black Consciousness Movement, had been steadily losing support since the dawn of democracy in 1994.

In the country’s first democratic elections, the PAC scored 1,25% of the national vote.

That dipped to 0,78% in 1999 and 0,73% in 2004.

The party’s dismal showing this year was probably partly due to leadership squabbles and divisions over the past two years.

Former deputy president Themba Godi left the party in September 2007 to form the African People’s Convention (APC).

In the latter half of 2008, the party split again, with the break-away forming the Pan Africanist Movement (PAM) led by Thami ka Plaatjie after bitter in-fighting between supporters of Plaatjie and PAC president Letlapa Mphahlele.

Party elections manager, Apa Pooe said while the PAM breakaway had an impact on the party, it was not as damaging as the first split in 2007.

“The split last year did not have that much of an impact but the APC affected us badly in terms of resources,” he told Sapa.

“It affected us because of the seats in Parliament we lost and with it the funds from the IEC,” he said.

“Most businesses also supported only parties with seats so we were really stuck.”

Pooe added that the party held rallies, but financial constraints barred it from conducting the kind of campaign it would have liked to.

“We did street-to-street [campaigning], talking to people and we had rallies almost every week but the lack of resources is a big problem,” he said.

The party would not fall by the wayside, however, Pooe insisted, saying it was hoping for seats in the Gauteng, Limpopo and Eastern Cape provincial legislatures.

It wanted to re-build the party: “We first have to tackle the perception that the party is at war with itself, we really need to work to change that.”

The PAC was open to coalitions and was in talks with the Azanian People’s Organisation and the UDM. It was also talking to another ANC breakaway party, the Cope about the possibility of working together.

“People predicted that we would disappear from the very first election in 1994 but that did not happen, in 1999, in 2004 and we are still here,” Pooe said.

“We will secure one seat at least, and move forward from there.”

With more than 70% of votes counted on Friday, the PAC was sitting on 0,28% with 39 222 votes in its favour.

Although the final numbers of votes cast were not available yet, the IEC estimated a 77% voter turnout, which would mean that about 17,7-million votes were cast.

That would mean a party needed more than 44 000 votes for one seat in Parliament—with the PAC so far falling short of that.

The PAC was founded in 1959. Like Cope, it broke away from the ANC. It disagreed with the Freedom Charter adopted in 1955, which in its preamble referred to “we, the people of South Africa, black and white together equals, countrymen and brothers”.

The PAC did not believe that working with Indians, coloureds and whites would help black people.

It elected Robert Sobukwe, a charismatic leader, as its inaugural chairperson.

Much rivalry between the ANC and the PAC resulted in a race to host a massive anti-pass protest campaign, with the PAC setting the date for its planned peaceful protests for March 21 1960—10 days before the ANC’s.

Sobukwe urged people to leave their passes at home and hand themselves over for arrest at police stations.

But things took a turn for the worse when a crowd gathered at the Sharpeville police station near Vereeniging, and panicky police opened fire on the peaceful protesters, killing 69 and injuring 186.

These events contributed to increased international indignation at the system of apartheid.

Shortly after Sharpeville, the white National Party government declared a state of emergency.

It outlawed both the PAC and ANC. About 2 000 people were arrested on March 30, including Sobukwe, who was released from Robben Island prison nine years later.

With many revolutionary leaders jailed, the Black Consciousness Movement emerged in the mid 1960s, under the leadership of Biko, an anti-apartheid struggle icon who died in police custody in September 1977.

The ANC and the PAC were unbanned in 1990, but the latter was plagued by in-fighting, which saw its support dwindle.

The year before the third democratic elections in 2004, a key PAC member, Patricia de Lille, broke away from the party to form the Independent Democrats.—Sapa

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