African National Congress
Born and raised in Chiawelo, Soweto, Cyril Ramaphosa is a consummate politician, having spent many years as a lawyer, trade union leader, strategist and one of the chief negotiators for the ANC during the CODESA negotiations.
Ramaphosa left active politics in 1997 after losing to a bruising succession battle to Thabo Mbeki and only returned in 2012 as deputy president of the African National Congress – the oldest liberation movement in Africa.
In 2017, Ramaphosa was elected ANC president and became the president South Africa in February 2018 after the national executive committee (NEC) of the governing party recalled president Jacob Zuma.
In recent months, Ramaphosa has been trying to unite the warring ANC factions and fight corruption following nine years of State Capture under Zuma.
As soon as he became president, he established the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, which is currently looking into allegations of corruption against Zuma and the wealthy, influential Gupta family who are accused of trying to influence political decisions.
Ramaphosa’s biggest challenge has been to balance trying to strike a balance between those calling for radical issues such as land expropriation without compensation and the interests of the business community, foreign investors and credit rating agencies.
In the last elections, the ANC secured 62.1% of the national vote – receiving 11 436 921 votes, which translated into 249 seats in the country’s National Assembly.
The party remained in control in eight of the country’s provinces, with the exception of the Western Cape, which remained under the Democratic Alliance (DA), which secured 59.38% of the provincial vote.
However, the ANC experienced a massive drop in their electoral support during the Local Government Elections in 2016 which saw the party losing key metros including the City of Tshwane, City of Johannesburg and the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro. With Ramaphosa at the helm, the governing party hopes to increase its majority to more than 65% during the 2019 general elections. The latest IPSOS poll predicts that the ANC could remain the ruling party after Wednesday’s national elections, with the DA continuing as the official opposition.
Economic Freedom Fighters
The Economic Freedom Fighters is the third largest political party in South Africa. It was started in 2013 by former African National Congress Youth League leader, Julius Malema. Malema was born in the Limpopo province in 1981, and he became a member of the ANC at just 9-years-old. He is currently studying towards a master’s degree through the University of Witwatersrand. He was elected as the president of the ANC youth league in 2008 after which he staunchly promoted support for Jacob Zuma, who became South Africa’s president in 2009. Malema was re-elected as the ANC youth league president in 2011.
He is considered a controversial figure for his outspoken nature and his Marxist-like approach to policies and his ideals of wanting to nationalize all key institutions in South Africa. Opposers fear his speeches could ignite racial tensions in the country. He was convicted twice for hate speech, once in 2010 and again in 2011 for singing the song “Kill the Boer”. He was expelled from the ANC following this.
He canvassed for funds for his new political party, the EFF, in 2013. Malema then became critical of former president Jacob Zuma and caused a row in Parliament during the president’s State of the Nation Address because of his lavish renovations to his homestead in Nkandla.
The party received close to 1.2-million votes in the 2014 elections – giving it a 6.35% share of the total election votes that year. The EFF is a far-left party with its biggest supporter base in the province of Limpopo. Research group Intellidex surveyed financial experts about their expectations for the 2019 elections – the results showing 9% to 12% for the EFF. Non-financial respondents however, saw a higher expectation for the EFF at between 10% to 15% of the total election vote.
The Democratic Alliance is the main opposition party to the ruling African National Congress. Its roots stem from the anti-Apartheid Progressive Party, which was started in 1959. Since then the party has taken on a variety of different names, settling with the Democratic Alliance in 2000. It is known primarily as a centre-left and centre-right political party. In 2015, Mmusi Maimane became the party’s leader. Maimane was born in Johannesburg in 1980 and grew up in Soweto.
Prior to becoming the party’s national leader, he was the DA national spokesperson since 2011. He managed to secure a high voter-base for the party and drew many of the ANC’s disgruntled members. When Maimane stood for national leadership, he received close to 90% of the party’s internal votes. Maimane took over the DA leadership from current Western Cape Premier Helen Zille.
The DA remains a steady opponent to the ANC since the dawn of democracy. In 1994, it secured just 1.73% of the total vote, but soon grew its support tremendously the years following. In the 1999 election it secured 9.56% of the vote. In 2004 12.37%, in the 2009 election a 16.66% and in the 2014 election it increased its share of the vote to 22.20%.
The Institute for Race Relations predicts that the DA could secure a 24% share of the vote in the 2019 elections.
Congress of the People
The Congress of the People political party was founded in 2008 by former African National Congress members, led by Mosiuoa Lekota, who was born in Kroonstad in 1948. Lekota attended the University of the North, but was suspended for his involvement in the South African Students Congress and the Black Consciousness Movement in 1972. In 1974 he was imprisoned at Robben Island until 1982. In 1983 after his release, he was elected the public secretary for the United Democratic Front, but in 1990 he joined the ANC and quickly rose ranks to the party’s national executive committee. He was also the Premier of the Free State province until 1996.
Lekota then served as the Minister of Defence from 1999 to 2008 during former President Thabo Mbeki’s leadership, after which he broke away to form the new COPE along with other allies.
COPE was seen as a loyalist party to Mbeki after the party broke into factions between then deputy president Jacob Zuma and Mbeki. Initially the formation of COPE as a new party was played down by other ANC members, but it was welcomed by opposition parties such as the DA and the United Democratic Movement.
In the 2009 elections, the party received just over 1.3-million votes – giving it a 7.42% share of the total election votes that year. However, its support weakened the years following due to leadership disputes within the party. COPE is now allied with the main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, to govern the provinces of Nelson Mandela Bay, Johannesburg and Tshwane.
Inkatha Freedom Party
The Inkatha Freedom Party was founded in 1975. Just like the EFF and COPE, this party was also formed by a former ANC youth league member, Mangosuthu Buthelezi. He was born in 1928 in KwaZulu-Natal to Chief Mathole Buthelezi and Princess Magogo kaDinuzulu, the sister of King Solomon kaDinuzulu – making Buthelezi a Prince.
He began studying at the University of Fort Hare, where he joined the ANC movement and where he met former Zimbabwe leader Robert Mugabe and founder of the Pan Africanist Congress, Robert Sobukwe. He completed his studies at the University of Natal after being expelled from Fort Hare for his involvement in student protests.
He broke away to become a contesting rival to the ANC, and although he left the ANC on good terms, his relationship with the party soured soon after. In the 1970s, the emerging Black Consciousness Movement accused him of collaborating with the National Party.
He was regarded as one of the foremost black leaders during apartheid, and represented the IFP during CODESA. During the 1994 elections, Buthelezi joined Nelson Mandela’s government of national unity and served as the Minister of Home Affairs until 2004.
Buthelezi declined former President Thabo Mbeki’s offer for the deputy presidency, and soon left the government of national unity, which consisted of the ANC, the Congress of South African Trade Unions and the South African Communist Party.
The party started off with high votes in 1994, but slowly lost support over the years. In the 1994 elections it received a 10.54% share of the vote, in the 1999 elections it received an 8.58% share of the vote, in the 2004 elections it received a 6.87% share of the vote, in the 2009 elections a 4.55% share of the vote and in the last elections in 2014 its support dwindled, giving the IFP a 2.40% share of the vote.
The now 90-year-old is still the party’s leader, but in 2019, Buthelezi confirmed that he would not be running for re-election as the leader of the IFP.