Pan-African and black consciousness parties are hoping to make a comeback on the parliamentary scene after the May 8 elections.
Although the appetite for black consciousness thinking has increased — in part a result of disillusionment with the ANC — this has not translated into votes for the parties traditionally associated with black consciousness and pan-Africanism, the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania, the PAC splinter, the African People’s Convention (APC), and the Azanian People’s Organisation (Azapo).
The PAC, Azapo and the APC have been riven by internal battles and it has been the Economic Freedom Fighters that has benefited, successfully harnessing much of the rhetoric of black consciousness, even though the EFF’s roots are in the ANC.
The PAC was almost unable to register for the upcoming elections. The high court saved it from being deregistered by the Independent Electoral Commission, which took issue with who was actually leading the party. Narius Moloto has taken up the mantle as interim party president; those vying for the position agreed to hold off on any leadership challenge until after the elections.
The PAC had one seat in the last Parliament, held by erstwhile president Luthando Mbinda.
Moloto said he was confident the PAC would move to the centre stage of South African politics after May 8 and that the party’s political message resonated with voters.
“The issues raised by the PAC are the issues of the times of South Africans. Whether on the left or the right, the people want their issues affecting them resolved,” he said.
Moloto took a swipe at the EFF and Black First Land First (BLF), saying that, although land restitution was important, it was not the panacea for the problems facing Africans. “Some focus on the issue of land. But that is not what pan-Africanism is about. It is about African personality, African culture. It’s about the total way of life. Norms and values … It’s more than just the restoration of land; that is a fundamental issue.”
Moloto said he expected the party to return to Parliament with no less than 50 seats after the election.
Meanwhile, the APC, a breakaway from the PAC led by its former deputy president Themba Godi, said it hoped to return to the legislature with more than the single seat it held during the last Parliament.
Godi was chair of Parliament’s standing committee of public accounts. The position is traditionally chaired by an opposition party member as a gesture of accountability and transparency in probing the executive’s finances by the legislature.
Godi said his pan-Africanist philosophy drove him to demand clean and accountable government fiscal discipline. “Our understanding of ideology is not about reciting it. It’s about how it informs your actions and your conduct,” he said.
Godi’s pitch to voters is that pan-Africanism can help to heal the wounds of colonialism and apartheid, and be a catalyst for social cohesion. “We are targeting a million votes. And we are showing a lot of progress on the ground,” he said.
Azapo said Black Consciousness was needed in South Africa now. The party, formed by Steve Biko, had no seats in the last Parliament, but wants to change that.
The party’s secretary general, Zithulele Cindi, said there was still space to discuss issues about black identity and Africanism. Without it, he said South Africans appeared lost.
“People have lost their sense of purpose and their sense of identity. There’s a rise of tribalism and racialism, and even an increase in violent crime. Black Consciousness would have imposed a sense of pride and dignity on people,” Cindi said.
He noted that several parties were espousing principles of Black Consciousness. “If they are true to the philosophy of Black Consciousness, we welcome that,” he said. “The least that the Black Consciousness Movement expects from the BLF and the EFF is knowledge. They perceive it as a novel idea, that it is new. But, of course, it is not.”
Cindi said Azapo’s corruption-busting message was a powerful one for South Africans.
“We want to restore the dignity of black people. And secondly, we want to reconquer the land. We are going to fight any form of corruption. We are going to bring a clean government.”