58 political parties ‘as good as gone’

2013-07-28 10:01

Only eight of the 66 political parties given a three-month reprieve to save their ailing organisations from being deregistered by the Independent Electoral Commission had done so.

IEC spokesperson Kate Bapela said “administratively” the 58 parties – mostly smaller organisation which competed at provincial and local level – were as good as gone.

“But the final decision according to the law will be made when the commission meets next month where they will pronounce on the parties that have been deregistered,” said Bapela.

In April the commission decided to give the 66 parties more time to avoid being deregistered.

Chief Electoral Officer Mosotho Moepya had said the decision was taken “in the spirit of multi-party democracy”.

The deregistration of the 58 parties will decrease the number of active political parties from 216 to 158 parties registered to contest local, provincial and national elections.

Smaller political parties welcomed the decision to cull parties not represented in government but called for an equal political playing field and urged the commission to reconsider its policy of only funding parties that have won seats in local, provincial and national spheres of government.

They cited a lack of political funding as the main reason they have had to close shop, with some opting to transform their parties into non-governmental organisations.

Parties are required to notify the commission once a year of their intention to continue operating.

Tshifhiwa Makhale, founder of the Dabalorivhuwa Patriotic Front, the oldest of the parties on the list to be deregistered, said he was considering the option of joining a coalition for next year’s polls as campaign funds had run dry.

“Smaller parties have come to realise that it is not possible to beat the ANC in the elections if they go it alone. We need to emulate Kenya, whose small parties entered into a coalition. We are looking forward to the consultations with other parties,” said Makhale, whose party, which was established in 1998, has survived the culling.

Makhale said without funding it was difficult to reach communities and buy posters for campaigns.

For a party to contest the 2009 election it had to submit a list of 500 signed-up members, candidates and pay an election deposit of R180 000 for national elections and R40 000 for elections for each provincial legislature.

Others, like the South African Business Party, founded in 2006, have ceased to operate, rather opting to transform and last year began operating as an NGO known as the SA People’s Organisation.

Jeremy Acton, founder of the Dagga Party in 2011, said they would let the party’s registration lapse and register again next year to contest elections at a national level.

Acton’s party, which mainly advocates for the decriminalisation of dagga, was only registered locally in Langeberg in the Western Cape.

“The main issue is lack of money for campaigns. But we will let the registration lapse and we intend to register as a national party in the next three months,” said Acton.

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