Johannesburg - The Economic Freedom Fighters are set to lock horns with their former founding member Kenny Kunene, vying for the votes of prisoners in the general elections.
EFF commissar for justice Dali Mpofu has been hard at work forging an alliance with the Corrections and Civil Rights Movement, a prisoner-focused political party led by former convict Golden Miles Bhudu.
There are an estimated 165 000 prisoners in South Africa – making it an important constituency for smaller parties that are hoping to make it to Parliament.
Kunene, a former prisoner and now businessman and politician, also hopes to garner support in prisons for his Patriotic Alliance, which he leads with business partner Gayton McKenzie, another former convict.
The Patriotic Alliance was founded last year after Kunene resigned from the EFF. It has already participated in a by-election – in Ward 4 of Vredendal in the Western Cape this year – where it lost the ward but received 23 percent of the votes.
Mpofu confirmed that an agreement with the prisoners’ party was a possibility, but downplayed the focus on the number of votes the party hopes to get from an alliance with prisoners.
“They are an important constituency not only because of their numerical strength, but also because these are people who owe a debt to society and, as the EFF, we do not believe they should be ignored.
“Their reintegration into society is crucial, and as we talk about economic freedom we must also deal with some of the socio-economic conditions that lead to people landing up in jail,” said Mpofu.
Bhudu told The Sunday Independent this week that prisoners across the country had given the party a mandate to find a political home which could advance the rights of prisoners.
This included the issue of overcrowding in prisons, the rehabilitation of prisoners and their successful reintegration into society, which were some of the most important issues to prisoners.
However, said Bhudu, the EFF was the only political party that had welcomed them, after failing to get an audience with the ANC and its alliance partners.
“It is only the EFF which was willing to listen and take us seriously,” said Bhudu.
Bhudu dismissed suggestions that his movement would face serious competition from the Patriotic Alliance for the votes of prisoners, saying the alliance was made up of its former members who had no legitimacy.
He said the movement had a lot to bring to the table for the EFF, claiming they had more members than the SACP, PAC, Sopa and Azapo combined. “Statistics show that there are about 1.5 million people who pass through South African jails and police stations on an annual basis.
“If you also consider the family members, relatives and people close to prisoners and people who are sympathetic to the strife of prisoners in this country, one would be foolish to underestimate the votes of prisoners,” he said.
Patriotic Alliance general secretary Kunene said they were not worried about the EFF’s sudden focus on prisoner votes.
He added that they had started their campaign a long time ago.
“It is a very important constituency and we started a long time before they even though about it.
“The president of the Patriotic Alliance (Gayton McKenzie) and I have been there and we know the challenges they face,” said Kunene.
Kunene said the alliance with Bhudu meant nothing despite his links to many prisons.
“We don’t weigh our campaign against what other parties are doing, we are doing our own thing and we are going to be the biggest surprise in this election,” he said.