United Democratic Movement (UDM) leader Bantu Holomisa has cautioned President Cyril Ramaphosa against having a “loose tongue” when talking about small political parties.
This comes after Ramaphosa discouraged a crowd in Seshego, Limpopo, against voting for “smaller parties who say they are going to lead.”
Ramaphosa was in Seshego — the home town of Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema — on Tuesday, campaigning for the ANC ahead of the national elections set to take place next month.
“No other smaller party has the experience to take the country forward,” Ramaphosa said further, in vernacular.
“What Ramaphosa has said seems to be in relation to the EFF, which we should distinguish from ‘small parties’ in the broader sense,” says analyst Tasneem Essop, a researcher at the University of the Witwatersrand’s Society Work and Politics Institute (SWOP).
“The EFF cannot be read as a vote for a small party, or a ‘wasted vote’”, says Essop. “They have representation in the national assembly and have certainly entrenched themselves, with their limited electoral support, as an important and vocal player in the political landscape, despite not governing anywhere yet.”
Essop believes that Ramaphosa’s comments are part of electioneering ahead of May 8. “Ramaphosa is trying to place the ANC as the only party capable of leading South Africa and constructing smaller parties in this way is about campaign messaging.”
“They can be seen as small in relation to the ANC certainly, but not in the same vein of talking about the parties that are looking at under 2% of the vote, many of them will not get representation in parliament and so on, so we should not muddle the two arguments.
Holomisa told the Mail & Guardian that without the efforts of smaller political parties, Jacob Zuma would still be in power as president. “The small parties have spent a lot of time and money to remove Zuma, which has enabled Ramaphosa to be the president today,” he said. “The so-called small parties in his little mind has sustained this democracy while he was a deputy minister and failed the country. He must not be disingenuous.”
Essop says it is important to be cognisant of what the presence of smaller parties says about the failures of the bigger parties. “This year we have 48 parties contesting the national election, up from the 33 in the last election. There are feelings that the major parties are not representing particular interests, which has seen parties emerge featuring figures, such as Good or BLF.
“It is impossible in this scenario for all the smaller parties to do well, but some of these parties could eat away at some of the votes for the major parties in small but significant ways, especially for the ANC.”