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The African National Congress is reputed for churning out lofty documents which they regrettably do not live up to.
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When the then New National Party strove to extricate itself from their ill-thought alliance with the then Democratic Party, now called the Democratic Alliance, the former went cap in hand to the African National Congress and cut a deal to bring to being floor-crossing in the political landscape.

The ANC, as the majority party in parliament, steamrolled the process and came up with stringent measures of how such crossing from one party to the next should be met. It is history that parties such as the United Democratic Movement, African Christian Democratic Party and Inkatha Freedom Party stood up to this in court challenging the constitutionality of crossing from one party to the other from a proportional list election unlike in the first-past-the-post type of election.

Suffice to say they were sent back by the Constitutional Court that ruled that the move was constitutional.

Every second year in September was a period of mayhem in municipal councils and all ten legislatures when the ANC would be on the prowl recruiting members of other parties to swell their ranks, much against the spirit of the law that spelt out clearly that whoever sought to cross from one party to the other should do so voluntarily. Word has it that in some cases cash was doled out while in others promises for enhanced positions were made.

Out of such exchange of political chairs some grasped the opportunity to form and register new political parties, taking advantage of the soft requirements of registering a political party with the Electoral Commission.

To light came parties such as Independent Democrats, that rose like a phoenix and was hailed as the best thing to have happened on the political landscape after breaking off from the Pan Africanist Congress. Where is it now? Where is the founder and leader, Patricia de Lille? She has moved on to greener pastures and left the party floundering and uncertain of its future, if any.

From the rib of the ID came the Alliance for Free Democrats while the Christian Party broke off from the Freedom Front+. These parties remained alive only to complete the period left of their tenure from the mother party. On their own they never won even a single seat, be it at local government level, provincial or national level.

For this or other reason there was a proliferation of political parties. Out of the Rev Meshoe’s ACDP came the Federation of Democrats, Inkatha saw the birth of Nadeco then Sadeco, The Pan Africanist Congress saw the Pan African Movement come up, the United Independent Front broke off from the Holomisa’s UDM while the United Party of South Africa, subsequently the National Alliance was a core of followers who would not join hands with the DP to form the Democratic Alliance.

While all this was happening, political analysts and other doomsayers foresaw that parties such as the United Christian Democratic Party would be obliterated from the political scene. The UCDP is still represented in parliament, the North West provincial legislature and several municipalities albeit with reduced majorities like all parties, even the ANC. Almost all those products of floor-crossing are nowhere to be seen in the corridors of parliament and the legislatures safe for the new kid on the block, Themba Godi’s, African People’s Congress and the ID whose future is highly suspect taking into account where the founder finds herself at the moment. The party did not even contest the recent local government elections.

The question that goes begging is what had informed our legal eagles to declare floor-crossing “harmless” politically only to have it scrapped by the same parliament in less than a decade.

The demise of parties that were formed at floor-crossing is an indication that they were not formed on the basis of substantive values and principles as opposed to those that have been in existence, even prior to democracy.

Parties that were formed off season from the ANC such as UDM and COPE have a better and greater chance to survive because countrywide consultations were mounted in bringing them to being.

Other parties that will continue to grace the political scene are the UCDP, FF+, Inkatha and the ACDP. Cynics may term them conservative but their members know what they are about. It is up to the parties themselves to get their ducks in the row. They have come through swollen rivers of floor-crossing, rebuke about their origins and being labeled as small parties by the self-appointed critics in the media world.

Multi-party democracy thrives on as many parties as there can be as long as they have sound principles.

It boggles the mind why there are no complaints about the number of parties in other countries such as Burundi, India, Israel and others yet in South Africa there is a feeling that some parties are a waste of time. While such parties are able to pay the ever-increasing registration fees for elections and have support in the form of votes it means they are viable and accepted by the public and should not be wished away.

The point we sought to make is that almost all political parties that were formed as a result of floor crossing have bitten the dust.

We may be wrong.

Sent by: Sipho Mfundisi
Deputy President: UCDP
Cell: 083 469 3473
P O Box 911 1151

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