Ex-combatants put country first

South Africa First (SAF) is a new political party formed by former combatants of the ANC's disbanded military wing Umkhonto we­Sizwe (MK).

South Africa First (SAF) is a new political party formed by former combatants of the ANC's disbanded military wing Umkhonto we­Sizwe (MK).

This is a key part of the party's strategy to build support and root itself in as many wards as possible.

Co-founder Eddie Mokhoanatse said that the SAF would make use of a constitutional provision to petition the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to call by-elections when communities no longer wanted their ward councillors.

"If you know that there are 4 000 people in a ward and you get 2100 signatures, you take the signatures to the IEC and demand that the IEC convenes by-elections," he said. Should it refuse to do so, the next step would be to take the IEC to court.

He said this strategy was one of the skills taught to him and fellow former MK combatants by the ANC in exile.

"When you're at war, you identify the weakest link, and municipalities are currently the ANC government's weakest link," he said. "At national level, they deploy the best people, then they deploy second best at provincial level and then crap at local government level."

The party would register with the IEC in the next two weeks, he said.

The reason why the SAF had not caused a media frenzy since its launch in April was that the party believed in working hard on the ground instead of relying on media coverage, he said.

He claimed that SAF enjoyed the support of "a high number of MK ex-combatants and others in intelligence services, defence and other high-ranking ANC leaders.
We don't expect them to raise hands now because we know the brutality associated with the ANC."

He said the SAF was different from other breakaway parties – it was not a coalition of the wounded. "We're not angry, as other parties were when they were formed. We didn't lose any conference and we have not been expelled from the ANC."

On the front page of the party's introductory newsletter, its way of communicating with the people, the SAF uses the image of South Africa's first democratically elected president, Nelson Mandela, and his 1994 quote: "If the ANC does to you what the apartheid government did to you, then you must do to the ANC what you did to the apartheid government."

Asked what message this quote is supposed to send, Mokhoanatse said: "Topple them [ANC]."

And where does the SAF get its money from?

"South Africans are funding us. Some of them are businesspeople."

Joining the SAF doesn't require a membership fee as yet, so, unlike other parties, there won't be the automatic generation of cash that comes with the number of members. Though he claims the SAF doesn't have foreign funding at the moment, Mokhoanatse said the party would be funded "according to the laws of the country", even if the funders might not be South Africans.

Eligible voters who don't register, or register but do not vote, are the SAF's target.

In 2009 the ANC won 65% of the vote, but Mokhoanatse said that was just 65% of the 17-million people who cast their votes. "Not the 65% of all 30-million eligible voters in 2009. There's a message in these numbers. The task of dislodging the incumbent is not that difficult."

He said the SAF predicted "an era of coalitions in 2014. No one party will rule South Africa."

But he ruled out any possible coalition with the ANC. "We formed this organisation because we say we need to save the country from the ANC."

The SAF has a presence in the Free State and North West and is working on holding provincial conventions in August and a national convention in November.

Mmanaledi Mataboge

Mmanaledi Mataboge

Mmanaledi Mataboge is the Mail & Guardian's political editor. Raised in a rural village, she later studied journalism in a township where she fell in love with the medium of radio. This former radio presenter and producer previously worked as a senior politics reporter for the Mail & Guardian, and writes on politics, government, and anything that gives the disadvantaged, poor, and the oppressed a voice. Read more from Mmanaledi Mataboge

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