A record 48 political parties will contest this year's elections. Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA)

Cape Town - Twenty eight parties have registered to contest provincial and national elections in the Free State on 8 May, 12 more than the 2014 polls.

A total of 48 parties, the most ever, will contest the elections nationwide.

While this is not significant in terms of the impact on the top three parties in the Free State - the ANC, the EFF and the DA - analysts say it mirrors the discontent of South Africans at national level.

Gareth Van Onselen, of the Institute of Race Relations, told African News Agency (ANA) that "increasingly people are not feeling they have a natural home".

"They don't feel anyone represents them," said van Onselen.

He says the Free State has shown a steady decline in the ANC's share of the vote, both in absolute terms and percentage terms. 

In 1999, the party ruled the province with 80.79 percent of the vote. By 2014 that support dropped to 69.85 percent.

Van Onselen said there was little evidence to suggest this would be reversed in the upcoming election.

The discontent in the province is not surprising - the Free State has been at the forefront of the state capture scandal with Ace Magashule a central figure in graft allegations. Magashule was elected ANC provincial chairperson in 1998 and while the party's votes grew marginally in 2004, the next two national and provincial elections saw a marked decline in support .

In a recently published book, Gangster State: Unraveling Ace Magashule’s Web of Capture by journalist Pieter-Louis Myburgh, the now ANC secretary-general's alleged capture of the Free State is detailed.

It paints a picture of a network, run by Magashule, for almost a decade. Millions of rand of taxpayers money was allegedly stolen - the beneficiaries of the looting allegedly included the Guptas, former president Jacob Zuma and the former provincial premier himself.

Associate professor of politics at the University of Johannesburg, Dr Ncebisi Ndletyana told ANA that the book "will most likely have impact in the Free State".

"It shows why things have not been functioning in the Free State, especially the municipalities. So possibly, quite likely."

He said some of the contents of the book had also been confirmed at the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture.  

Ndletyana said new small parties could pull new voters into the electoral process, but it was difficult to determine how significant an impact they may have: "It depends on their identity and target support if they have an impact. African Transformation Movement (ATM), (started by Jimmy Manyi) for instance, that party is going to rival the ANC because they will speak to the same constituency and also that church-related constituency that the ANC has always appealed to in the past. There was a by-election in an area in the Eastern Cape. ATM won about thirty percent of the votes there."

He said some of the new parties had been started by individuals who have not made it through the ANC, "like Hlaudi Motsoeneng, it's ego, he's an egomaniac".

"Its often individuals who think highly of themselves and are over ambitious like Jimmy Manyi and Hlaudi."

Political analyst Ralph Mathekga says the Free State has a reputation for occupying centre stage of corruption in the country: "The ANC has problems there, internal divisions and splinter parties at local government level. It has become a very tense province, so its no surprise to see so many political parties want to contest the elections."

He believes Myburgh's book could impact the middle class who are "likely to be more critical when looking at the ANC after a book such as that".

Despite the high levels of support for President Cyril Ramaphosa, political analysts believe the extent of the alleged looting in the province could cost the ANC dearly at the polls. 

African News Agency (ANA)