Cape Town - News24 interviewed ACDP leader Kenneth Meshoe on April 6, as part of a series of interviews with the leaders of eight major parties in South Africa. Read an excerpt from the interview in the below transcript, including questions from News24 users.
You can find the article based on this interview here and our video interview with more policy questions not included below here.
*Questions may have been phrased slightly differently in the interview.
1) We just heard today that the National Prosecuting Authority have dropped charges against ANC President Jacob Zuma. What is your response?
The ACDP is extremely disappointed that the NP chose to drop the charges against the leader of the ANC. We believe it was too early for them to throw in the towel. The allegations that there have been too much political interference in the process should not have been used to drop the charges because the current leader or head of the NPA said that they have a good case. The former head of the NPA said they have a mountain of evidence to prove that Jacob Zuma had a case to answer. Why they chose to drop the charges- that mountain of evidence - because of political interference is something that baffles our minds. According to the NPA act anybody who interferes with the work of the NPA should be criminally charged. So the ACDP says those that are alleged to have interfered in the process should be charged while the case against Jacob Zuma is going on. The unfortunate thing is they decided to drop the charges. Even though the acting head of the NPA advocate Mpshe said, the inspector general is going to investigate the legality of the tapes. What surprises me is that even before the conclusion of that investigation, of looking into the legality of the tapes, he makes the decision. What happens if the IG comes back and says the tapes are illegal? The decision would have been made. Now we believe today the decision has been made mainly because of political pressure. Today's citizen main news front page - the MK veterans have threatened that if the charges against Jacob Zuma isn't dropped they are going to fight - they are going to march. They said no Jacob Zuma no country. That is nothing but intimidation. So the NPA crumbled under political pressure and intimidation from MK.
2) Your party's numbers have steadily climbed but you're still quite small. Can a small party make a difference against the monolith ANC?
The interesting thing is we are not a small party - we are a growing party. If you look at the growth of the ACDP it has been constant. It has been slow but it has been sure. After these elections nobody will call the ACDP a small party because we are a growing party and there are going to be a number of surprises these elections. And because of the surprises we are expecting I have said: I do not believe the ANC will% get 51. I believe after these election we will get 51%. I believe after these elections we are going to have a multiparty democracy. What I'm seeing and what I'm hearing on the ground is contrary to what the analysts are saying.
3) But your party made similar claims before about getting big numbers and it didn't happen. Realistically as a small party what difference can you make?
The last election I did not say this as confident as I am now. And there are a number of reasons.
That has been the trend on the African continent of blind loyalty to the liberation movements. With the emergence of cope this blind loyalty has been broken. Now people are asking the questions, what is this party saying. People are now looking at the manifestos, they're looking at the policies they are now making intelligent decisions based on what they believe in. And not just out of loyalty. So the age of blind loyalty is now over. The governance of the ANC is out of t he window.
3.b) What would the ACDP bring to a coalition government?
We would bring integrity.
4) What have some of your successes been as a party?
When you talk about people out there who are voters: The ACDP has managed to convince South Africans out there that there is not vote that is insignificant. Every vote is important. That's why we have been able to grow because even people who did not vote in the past, now are beginning to vote because they realise their vote is important. Now when we come into parliament we have managed as the ACDP to keep, for example, the age of sexual consent when the ruling party wanted to bring it as low as 13. It was the ACDP that fought for that to happen. And secondly with the media bill that the ANC wanted to pass. It was the ACDP that defended vigorously the independence of the media. So the media should give the ACDP an applause.
5) How does the ACDP reconcile the rights of victims with mercy for offenders in terms of dealing with crime?
We separate between individuals forgiving and the state enforcing justice. The Bible talks about punishing evil doers. But it is the state?
6) What role do other religious groups (Muslims, Hindus) play in the ACDP?s vision of SA?
The ACDP does not get support only from the Christians. There are other religious groups and on radio I have interacted with Muslim voters who have said they support the moral values that the ACDP promotes because it is in line with what they believe in their religion. And as a result when they talk to their followers they say in order to help retain our moral values, support the ACDP because it promotes our moral values.
7) Where does the ACDP stand on coalitions? Which political parties would not be considered for alliances following the elections?
The ACDP believes that it is important to retain our uniqueness and our identity. We support working together; we support a multi-party government. That is why we are part of the multi party government in the City of Cape Town. But we do not want to sacrifice our principles in the process. We want to maintain our identity which is the most important thing. And in the City of Cape Town we have been successful in doing that, and I believe also nationally when we have a multiparty govt it will be the same principle applying. We will work with anybody who has the same goals as us to see South Africa as a peaceful prosperous country with out sacrificing our values and our identity.
8) Specifically which party would you be prepared to work with?
In the City of Cape Town we have worked with all the parties that made itself to be available ? DA, ID, UDM, FF+ and PAC. We can also do it nationally. We wouldn't have a problem as long as there are clearly defined parameters we wouldn't have a problem.
9) Any parties you would have a problem working with?
Well so far it is the ANC. We know their modus operandi, we know their arrogance, we know how they have treated people.
But the others they have been with us in the opposition and we know we work very well together in the opposition.
10) Would you work with Cope?
I don't see the reason why not because they have not yet shown their arrogance to us.
11) Do you think the opposition parties would ever form an alliance to contest elections together?
That is not going to be easy to do in this country. There has been a lot of talk about that but it has not taken off and I don't see it happening. Many political parties including ourselves prefer to retain our identity, use our values and contest the elections. And after the elections we see who got what and how can we bring the collective together in order to run this country better than the current government.
12) Your party rejected an invitation to join the newly formed Christian Democratic Alliance formed by Peter Marais. Why was that? Would you ever consider joining?
People have to understand that the ACDP is bigger than all those that were in there in that coalition. We said to them - what are you bringing? Many of them were one family parties but they didn't have numbers. So there was nothing for the ACDP to gain. There was much for them to gain but definitely nothing for the ACDP to gain. And besides that, you do not change your brand just before the elections. People know the ACDP but they do not know them. So it made common sense and also business sense to retain our identity.
13) Would you consider joining later?
Not at all. Anybody who is intelligent needs to move from wherever they are to a greater and bigger platform. It would be foolish to move from a great thing to a small thing.
14) Several voters mailed us, confused by the proliferation of Christian parties. There is the CP, the CDP and the ACDP. Why not form one Christian party? Isn't this presenting a split and confusing Christian front to the largely Christian electorate?
Christians need to understand that there is cheap politicking and they also need to understand that there is taking chances in life. And rather than being confused they need to ask the question: who are these people? Look into their backgrounds, look into who they are, look into what they have done, and then make an informed choice. We have been there for 15 years. In this parliament no Christian can say: you have let us down on this issue, you have compromised on this Christian issues and values, they cannot say that. But of these newcomers they can have nothing to say. We have 15 years track record, why should they be confused about being choosing between a person with 15 years experience and a newcomer that doesn't have anything to show.
15) Cope has several prominent church leaders. Does this concern you? Won't they attract votes away from you?
People who understand South African politics they know that it is not mainly about individuals but about parties so the informed will look at the policy not at the individual.
16) But the reality is most voters look at leaders and not policy?
Correct, but if you look at those leaders: who are these leaders, have they stood the test of time on a political platform. The ACDP leadership stood. Challenged, attacked, tested - they stood. These are newcomers.
17) So you don't think Dandala and Boesak's following will affect your vote?
No. The people who vote for the ACDP know the policies of the ACDP and when they look at Cope for example they will see ANC policies and not Christian-based policies. So those who are interested in Biblical principles they will come to the ACDP and not to them because of the leadership.
18) Bishop Dandala has said the electorate should forgive Boesak for his mistakes?
I agree with forgiveness but it does not mean when I have been forgiven and I have committed the blunders and mistakes I insist on being the leader of people who have not done what I did.
It's easier to forgive a person who has apologised, who has acknowledged he is wrong. But to my knowledge he has not acknowledged his wrong, he has not asked for forgiveness. That is why many people find it very difficult to forgive.
19) What are the alternatives for pregnant mothers should abortion be abolished, as the ACDP would have it?
There are a lot of people, both men and women, who want to adopt children. The ACDP believes that the adoption of unwanted babies is better than the slaughter of unwanted babies.
20) [User question] What is the ratio of Christians: black/ white, voting for your party?
Very interesting. There is no political party in the country that I know of that has in the top six leaders of the party for years has had every racial group. For years the president has been black, deputy has been coloured, chairman has been white. Black, white, coloured, has always been in the top.
21) What about your supporters?
We know that now the majority of our voters are black people. They used to be white people. But many of these black people have realised - no more blind loyalty, look at policy - now they are coming home to the ACDP.
22) [User question: Malesela Jeffrey Letsoalo] Since the 1994 elections you were the president of ACDP. ACDP in my view is a good party but [the] SA public is not used for the leader to hold position for a long time. What are your views on this one?
In the ACDP leaders are not appointed, leaders are elected democratically. Leaders are nominated by the branches. If the branches only nominate one person and say we still want you to be our leader. It would be unfair and dishonest to say I want to serve and then not be available for re-election.
So I have been nominated and elected all these years. We have annual conferences. No there is no limitation. It would be unwise to do that. Because if you have a party that has just formed - when the party has been well -established then you can start talking about limitations.
There are many good people with potential. But ultimately it is a democratic vote. We are encouraging, we are training but ultimately it is the people who decide who will take over.