The African Independent Congress (AIC) – better known as that party from Matatiele – surprised many when it tripled the number of seats it received in councils across the country.
The party was formed in December 2005, out of a demarcation dispute.
Disgruntled ANC members broke away from the party in protest against government’s inclusion of the town into the Eastern Cape, rather than having it reincorporated into KwaZulu-Natal.
In the August 3 polls, the AIC won 55 seats – up from the 17 it secured after the May 2011 local government elections.
“We expected more; we worked hard,” said party leader Mandla Galo this week.
However, the AIC is often accused of getting its votes through deception.
Its proximity to the governing party is confusing ANC voters. The two parties have similar colours, logos and names, and follow each other on the ballot paper because of the alphabetic sequence used in South Africa’s voting system.
In February, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) revealed in Parliament that it was reviewing the practice whereby parties whose names and colours are similar follow each other on the ballot paper.
According to Reverend Bongani Finca, commissioner of the IEC, international observers said this could confuse voters.
ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said the ANC would approach the IEC to seek guidance on how the confusion could be resolved.
Galo dismissed this view when he spoke to City Press this week. “That is psychological warfare from the ANC. If you check our emblem against that of the ANC, they are totally different.
“And the way our colours feature in the background is totally different from the ANC,” he said.
“We have been increasing our numbers in every election. Are you saying all those people are confused?”
But how is a party, whose stated mission has been about the reincorporation of Matatiele into KwaZulu-Natal, getting seats as far as George, Cape Town and Ekurhuleni? “The people of Matatiele are scattered all over,” said Galo.
The party launched its election manifesto in Tembisa, on Gauteng’s East Rand, in June.
“We went door to door in the build-up to that event. We met a large number of people from Matatiele and Flagstaff in that region. They are everywhere,” he added.
In 2006, the AIC contested only the Matatiele Local Municipality and managed to get 10 seats.
In 2011, it contested seven municipalities and got 17 seats in municipalities across the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.
This time around, the AIC contested 54 municipalities across the country, including the metros, and managed to get 55 councillors – including four seats in Johannesburg, four in Ekurhuleni, one in Cape Town, one in Nelson Mandela Bay and one in George.
Despite its failure to get Matatiele reincorporated over the past 10 years, the AIC has shown remarkable staying power.
Residents voted in a referendum in October 2009 to decide whether they wanted to stay on in the Eastern Cape or be reincorporated into KwaZulu-Natal.
The results were never released publicly, despite then cooperative governance minister, the late Sicelo Shiceka, promising to do so by Christmas Day that year.
Galo said there was a high possibility that the party would return to the Constitutional Court – which, in 2006, found that Matatiela’s re-demarcation was invalid – to demand the release of those results.