2014/03/02 DURBAN. IFP President Mangosuthu Buthelezi. PICTURE: SIYANDA MAYEZA

We surpassed all the predictions, and are returning to Parliament with 10 members, says Mangosuthu Buthelezi.

Durban - As the first glow of election fever subsides, analysts are ascribing a wide variety of meanings to the results. Writing in Business Day this week, Aubrey Matshiqi admits quite freely, “Maybe not in this column, but in my writing in the weeks to come, I will try to contaminate my opinion with facts”.

For now, he says, what we have are subjective and selective readings of the results.

As the leader of one of the contesting parties who was in the thick of the fray, my opinion is based solidly on the facts. Throughout this campaign, I spoke frankly to the electorate about how the political landscape was about to change. Twenty years into democracy, we were set for some dramatic shifts, and the results prove that we are heading in a new direction.

Overwhelmingly, the focus has been on the ANC’s percentage drop which cost it 15 seats in Parliament, the DA’s percentage increase, the strong showing by the relatively new EFF (Economic Freedom Fighters), and the “decimation” of Cope .

But other changes are worth noting. The Minority Front, the United Christian Democratic Party and the Azanian People’s Organisation will no longer be represented in Parliament. Instead, Parliament will see some new parties: AgangSA, the African Independent Congress, the National Freedom Party and the EFF. The APC, PAC and ACDP decreased their percentage of the vote, while the FF+ and UDM increased their percentage.

In the midst of all this change, one thing stayed the same. The IFP remained the fourth largest political party in South Africa.

Cope has effectively been replaced by the EFF, swopping one fiery opposition leader with another. Those angry, disappointed or disillusioned enough with the ANC and DA want someone who speaks their language of anger and frustration.

The EFF is attractive because it offers immediate solutions, regardless of whether they are realistic, actionable or in the best interests of South Africa.

I think many unemployed and struggling South Africans voted EFF for the same reason that so many unemployed and struggling South Africans buy lottery tickets. The chance of it changing their personal circumstances is basically non-existent. But imagine if it did.

The IFP retained its position as the voice of reason for those who cannot vote ANC when the ANC has become corrupt; will not vote DA as it is perceived by some as a “white” party; and know better than to vote EFF when the EFF’s policies will sink South Africa’s economy almost immediately. Much has been made of the percentage decrease the IFP received. But this is in line with the realignment of politics at this point in our democracy, towards a predominantly two-party system.

As the DA grew, the overall number of seats in opposition outside of the DA shrunk. This suggests that voters who subscribe to the policies of smaller parties feel that the threat from the ANC is big enough at this point to warrant supporting its numerically strongest opposition. In part, this accounts for the large percentage of Christian voters who gave their vote to the liberal and secular DA, while believing in the policies and values of the ACDP.

Along the same lines, one could argue that it was the new threat of the EFF – which many see as the Mr Hyde of the ANC – that had the constituents of smaller opposition parties panicking enough to rather strengthen the DA. So a reduced percentage was expected.

Those who habitually predict the IFP’s demise foretold that we would be decimated. Even IPSOS had us at 1 percent. But we surpassed all the predictions, and we are returning to Parliament with 10 members. That means 10 strong voices bringing reason, integrity and direction to debates in the National Assembly.

* Mangosuthu Buthelezi is the leader of the IFP.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.

The Mercury