G-SPOT

Political bed hopping on as SA elections approach

Parallels are emerging between Kenya and South Africa as election fever kicks in

In Summary

• New parties are suddenly being formed and old alliances are forgotten for new coalitions.

• South Africa’s politicians seem to be as inclined as their Kenyan counterparts to jump ship and shop around for new partners in the run-up to elections. 

A woman sits in front of campaign posters as she waits to cast her ballot, during the Jubilee Party primary elections, at a polling centre in Nairobi, Kenya April 26, 2017
A woman sits in front of campaign posters as she waits to cast her ballot, during the Jubilee Party primary elections, at a polling centre in Nairobi, Kenya April 26, 2017
Image: REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

You know how in Kenya you can always tell an election is coming up by the way new parties are suddenly formed and old alliances are forgotten for the bright, shiny promise of new coalitions? 

Well, South Africa’s politicians seem to be as inclined as their Kenyan counterparts to jump ship and shop around for new partners in the run-up to elections. 

That said, perhaps the South Africans have been less prolific than Kenyans on account of the fact here they elect parties and not individuals. That means you the voter go to the voting booth, put your mark against your political party of choice, and then the party decides who to appoint to Parliament, municipality, etc., to represent you.

 
 

Next year will see the country’s local government elections. Unlike Kenyans, who vote for every single elected office holder at one go, the South Africans have two separate polling dates two years apart.

However, there is a change to the system on the cards, if Mmusi Maimane, the former leader of the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA), has his way.

Maimane resigned as party leader and as an MP last year after he was ‘handbagged’ by his predecessor Helen Zille. 

During his time outside Parliament and power, Maimane has been working with other political leaders, such as Congress of the People (Cope) leader Mosiuoa ‘Terror’ Lekota, to change the way MPs, premiers and councillors are chosen.

By the way Lekota, a former Defence minister and ex-ANC chairman, broke away from the ruling party in the 2008 election year and got back into Parliament on the strength of his own party.

Lekota has sponsored a bill in Parliament on behalf of Maimane, which, if it passes, will pave the way for individuals to be elected. 

They claim this will be one way to end corruption. All I can say is good luck to them, but perhaps they should look around the continent and see where this idea has worked in the same way.  

 
 

Meanwhile, for Maimane, an earlier dalliance with another former DA leader, Herman Mashaba (as mayor of Johannesburg, who quit last year, citing differences with DA party leadership) seems to have been set aside.  

Mashaba has his own party now, the Action SA party, which just recently suffered a defeat when the Electoral Commission rejected its application for registration. A terrible body blow ahead of the 2021 elections. So they will have to look for a new name.

Meanwhile, Maimane’s latest flavour of the month is a “symbiotic working partnership” with a newly formed civil society organisation (and I say, wannabe political party), the United Independent Movement.

The UIM is the brainchild of wealthy businessman and former ANC security adviser Neil De Beer, who resigned from the ANC after 32 years of membership. His UIM shares a vision with Maimane’s OSA to educate South Africans about their power and fundamental right to elect independent candidates to office.

Already the constitutional court is playing ball. In a judgement in June, the court ordered Parliament to change the electoral laws to allow for independent individuals to stand for election to Parliament.

This new pairing, Maimane and De Beer, reminded me of when Kenneth Matiba and Martin Shikuku got together. Strange bedfellows, if ever there were such.

Speaking of Shikuku, I’m reminded that he also switched parties at least four times in his career. From the Nairobi People’s Convention Party to the Kenya Afrtican Democratic Union, where he joined Daniel arap Moi and Ronald Ngala before they crossed over to Kanu.

Expelled from Kanu, Shikuku joined the original Ford before hiving off to form Ford-Asili, which he later led after Matiba lost interest. 

As for Moi, who incidentally was sworn in as Kenya’s President for the first time on this day 42 years ago, he only hopped parties once but in the end, some might argue he managed to change the Kanu he joined into as close a copy of the Kadu he left.

Follow me on [email protected]