Pretoria – Now that the 2014 elections are over, and the victors have taken not only most of the votes but also most of the attention, questions are being asked about what happens to the smaller parties who put on a brave but sometimes futile fight, some not even attaining a single seat in Parliament.
Most of the parties contesting the national and provincial elections were present at the IEC’s national results operations centre in Pretoria last week as votes were being counted, but some were conspicuous by their size and the amount of notice paid to them by others.
News24 spoke to some of these parties to ask about their performances, and how they felt sitting in amongst larger and more popular parties present.
African Independent Congress spokesperson Aubrey Mhlongo said he thought the party had "done well" thanks to the "hard work we put on the ground". The party received 97 642 votes, or 0.53% of the national vote, and got three seats in the National Assembly.
Mhlongo said the atmosphere on the floor was good. "We were not ignored. The friendship amongst all political parties is superb, we just chat, we visit each other at their desks. No intimidation at all, it’s very nice."
When asked if the party's success was possibly due to the similarity of its name to the ANC, Mhlongo smiled, saying it was the opinion of others. "There is nothing to show that we just got the votes because our name is similar to the ANC. Instead of talking too much to the people, or concentrating on what other parties were doing, we knew our target was the voters so we went to the voters and we talked to them, and they responded by voting for us."
ACDP MP Steve Swart told News24 that the party had hoped to do better, but it had retained its Parliamentary seat, and was not “decimated” like Cope and other small parties.
He added that the election results show that the party should perhaps market itself as a value-driven party instead of a religion-driven party in the future.
“We stand for values, honesty, integrity – this appeals to people of different faiths and even non believers,” he said. “I think there’s a desire in the nation for value-driven politics.”
Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Mulder believes the DA “put its cannons on us”, but despite this, the party received “incredible support” in the 2014 elections.
Mulder puts this down to the FF+ catering for minority interests, which parties such as the DA cannot do once they get too big.
He added that the FF+ offers voters “the best of both worlds” as it can make sure that these minority interests (such as Afrikaners) are put on the table, while the party can also unite with other opposition parties against the ANC.
PAC national executive committee member Dudu Phama admits that the elections "didn't go right" and that the party is disappointed by its showing. It got 37 784 votes, and retained its single seat in the National Assembly.
"I think a lot went wrong. We didn’t campaign as much as we should have campaigned, we didn’t cover the ground we expected to have covered. We can go back to the drawing board and see how to move forward, to focus on local government elections."
She added that the results don't match the organisation's proud struggle history. "We are not articulating these issues as we should articulate them, we as an organisation have to find a way of communicating, of being heard."
Earlier last week, IFP secretary general Sibongile Nkomo said the party was "extremely happy" about its results in KwaZulu-Natal, but then the DA overtook the party as the official opposition in the province. The IFP nonetheless got 2.4% of the national vote, and 10 seats in Parliament.
Prof Nhlanhla Khubisa, NFP secretary general, said the party was "really ecstatic" about the 2014 elections – the first national elections it had taken part in.
"Like any other party we wanted to achieve more, but we are very grateful to those who supported us, they’ve given us a voice to go out and deliver."
He admitted that the party had wanted to win KwaZulu-Natal, but came fourth with 7.6% of the vote.
"We didn't have money or resources to push our campaign, but we worked tirelessly, with unity of purpose and fire within our belly," he said.
Khubisa said the atmosphere on the floor at the IEC results centre was good, with many parties congratulating the NFP on its performance. President Jacob Zuma even stopped to congratulate the party. "Our president[Zanele kaMagwaza-Msibi] is moving like a queen around here, she is being congratulated by all the people."
UDM secretary general Bongani Msomi said he thought the party "did very well" as it retained the seats it received in 2009. "Although we did not meet our expectations - our target was to double the number of seats we had," he added.
Questioned about impressions that the UDM was a one person party, he stated: "If Bantu Holomisa, the leader, is not here, they will not come and talk to us. That is the problem. Most media houses shied away from covering us. There is a deliberate attempt being made to crush out the UDM. For what reason I don’t know."
Azapo national deputy president Strike Thokoane admitted the party was "not happy" with its performance. It received just over 20 000 votes, or 0.11% of the national vote.
He blamed structural challenges such as party funding, saying that the party's campaign focused on making high value donors public as South Africa should be a country of equal stakeholders. "The DA spent R100m in Gauteng alone, can you imagine? I would retire if I were to get R100m, my goodness. It is a structural constraint, if you can’t raise that money, how can you compete?"
He was also critical of the media. "The way the media interacts with various parties is not on the basis of your manifesto or ideas or policy proposals, they interact with you on the notion that you are small or big parties. We should be a society that is governed by quality of ideas, not by how popular you are at one point. Other people are starting 200 metres ahead, and you are always trying to catch up."
The Front National received just over 5 000 votes, or 0.03% of the national vote. National youth leader Francois Cloete said the party "didn't do as well as expected".
"We wanted one seat, so it didn't go as we expected. The people went out to vote in a block against the ANC, but for the DA."
He said the interaction on the floor was good, and some of the bigger parties knew what the FN stands for. "Cope heard about us, I'm surprised that they even know who we are."
Cloete added that most of the attention on the floor had gone to the EFF. "This is because of the radical left approach they have, their communist ways on land grabs and nationalisation of mines. Floyd Shivambu did not want to talk to me."
Sid Organe, national co-ordinator of Ubuntu, said the organisation had done "exceptionally well" given that it had just scraped together the registration fee eight weeks ago.
Organe said the movement, which seeks to "sort out" the criminality of banks, had achieved what it wanted, by forming coalitions with other parties.
"We have never been involved in elections, but because of the associations we have now created, we have the equivalent of what we wanted in the first place. We didn't want to become a political party. We needed to get representation in order to get a voice in Parliament. Now we have potentially 20 parties to present what we want to present in Parliament."
He added that it was "absolutely awesome" to be part of the process at the IEC results centre, and he had met "an amazing group of people that started political parties to try and improve the situation within this country".
- Not all the smaller parties were present on the floor at the IEC national results operations centre at the time of interviews.
- See the Results Map.
- Party maps
- Voting shifts map