Promises of a better life for all, the return of land and a bright, beautiful ‘socialist future’ were some of the key messages from political parties contesting the 2019 general elections.
If anything, the signing of the Electoral Code of Conduct Pledge on Wednesday showed that the 2019 general elections will be the largest democratic exercise ever in South Africa – a record 48 political parties are registered with the Independent Electoral Commission to contest the general elections on 8 May.
Once thought to be a cakewalk for the ANC, the 2019 elections are turning into a major contest with new political parties such as the African Transformation Movement, the Black First Land First (BLF) and the Socialist Revolutionary Workers Party (SRWP) pulling no punches to mobilize voters with their agitational brand of politics.
While the latest surveys show that the ANC will perform badly at the polls, party strategists believe that the party’s performance in the 2019 election will hinge largely on its ability to address challenges such as the slumping economic growth, stalled investments, an endless parade of scandals and the mismanagement of bread-and-butter issues.
The signing ceremony in Midrand was attended by President Cyril Ramaphosa, Home Affairs minister Siyabonga Cwele and several IEC commissioners, including the IEC chairperson Glenn Mashinini.
The Code holds contesting parties and candidates to a code of behaviour intended to promote conditions that are conducive to free and fair elections. It also intends to create a climate of tolerance, free political campaigning and open public debate.
It is in effect from the day of proclamation of an election until the announcement of results, according to the IEC’s chief electoral officer Sy Mamabolo.
“The Electoral Commission is on track and will deliver elections on the 8th of May. Now it is over to the political parties and candidates contesting these elections to take the baton and play their important part in encouraging participation by voters and ensuring we have successful, peaceful, tolerant, free, fair and credible elections,” said Mamabolo.
“In fact, it is paramount that our political leaders have a deep realization that the Electoral Code of Conduct is not a panacea to the creation of a climate conducive to free and fair election. Indeed, the Code of Conduct as a legal instrument has its place within a confluence of factors yet the code of conduct must be complimented with political rhetoric that fosters cross sectional behavior consistent with the values that underpin our constitution.”
Party leaders promised to abide by the Code and assured everyone that they will jettison their angry, inflammatory speeches during their election campaigns.
Ramaphosa said his party’s signature on the electoral code of conduct affirmed what the party wrote in the Freedom Charter.
“By appending our signature to this Electoral Code of Conduct, we are affirming the commitment that we made in Kliptown in 1955, and signalling our resolve to work with all parties and all South Africans to build a strong, dynamic and durable democracy,” said Ramaphosa.
“We have a responsibility to give effect to the words of the Freedom Charter that: “No government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of all the people.”
BLF president Andile Mngxitama said his party will uphold the electoral code of conduct and subject itself to the democratic processes during the election campaign despite attempts by some like the FF Plus to have his party deregistered from contesting the 2019 elections.
“We have chosen to subject ourselves to the democratic process but we also want to be treated with fairness,” said Mngxitama.
He said land thieves – a reference to the FF Plus – must stop preventing BLF from going to Parliament, where the party aims to agitate for the return of land to its original owners.
The African Content Movement president Hlaudi Motsoeneng said his party will also abide by the Electoral Code of Conduct during the upcoming national elections.
Motsoeneng said voters will overwhelmingly vote for the ACM during the polls.
“There is no new dawn. The ACM is the new dawn,” a jocular Motsoeneng said before signing the pledge.
Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Groenewald said political parties and their candidates must act responsibly during the elections.
“What we need in South Africa is respect. Our conduct must set an example for all South Africans,” said Groenewald.
Irvin Jim of the Socialist Workers Revolutionary Party promised voters a socialist South Africa led by the working class.
“The working class finally have a political party. After 25 years of misery, poverty and unemployment, we will create a socialist South Africa where the working class will lead because capitalism has failed and has no solutions to the problems facing South Africa,” said Jim.
The Economic Freedom Fighters’ deputy secretary-general Hlengiwe Mkhaliphi appealed for political tolerance during the election period and called for those taking down EFF posters in the townships to stop.
“Stop taking down our posters,” said Mkhaliphi.
Inkatha Freedom Party’s president Mangosuthu Buthelezi appealed for calm and peace during the elections.
“Our votes are not sale. The IFP will honour this pledge,” said Buthelezi.
Women Forward’s representative said the party will “take the bull by the horns” and eradicate gender-based violence in South Africa.
Free Democrats said if they won the elections they will privatize the country, offer medical aid to all and close down public hospitals.
Agang SA’s president Andries Tlouamma said his party will not be arrogant after winning the elections on 8 May.