Women Forward leader Nana Ngobese. Picture: Molaole Montsho

Rustenburg - The emergence of small parties contesting general elections in South Africa is a sign of a growing or maturing democracy, according to Woman Forward.

"Small parties are a sign of growing or maturing democracy that shows that differing opinions or views are beginning to find expression in the political space.

"Women Forward is not a small party, its leadership has been participating in civil society organisations at different levels, be it at community level or international, here we are just entering the political arena," said North West leader and premier candidate Bosa Ledwaba.

"The future for the party is very bright. We are going to be the majority party in the North West after the elections. Our manifesto is the only one showing how we are going to eradicate sexual gender based violence and we have a real plan on that. I tell you castration as one of the points in the plan, will definitely do the work,"  she said.

"We commit to working towards the improvement of the environment in all communities with a focus on home grown community solutions that aim to protect and support the environment to avoid situations such as what is happening in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape. We are going to cut tens of millions of condoms paid for by the current government to buy sanitary  pads for school girls to avoid them missing schools like it is rampantly happening.  

"We want land with land rights to be given to women for residence and agriculture. We are the home for everyone including people living with disabilities, LGBTIQ community, men and children."

Women Forward was founded in June 2008 by Nana Ngobese, the granddaughter of former African National Congress president Albert Luthuli. The party contested the 2009 general election and garnered  5,087 votes.

The party focuses on gender equity and equality.

Women Forward is one of the lesser known parties contesting the May 8 general election along with new comers African Content Movement (ACM) which also believed it would command a respected representation in the North West province.

ACM received a major boast to its election race when the now-defunct Mazibuye African Congress (MAC) 300 000 strong members joined the ACM, founded by controversial former SA Broadcasting Corporation chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng.

The other newcomer is the African Transformation Movement (ATM).

The newcomers are jostling for political positions with parties that have less seats in the National Assembly (NA).

The African People's Convention (APC), which has one seat in the NA, aimed to collect at least a million votes out of the more than 26 million registered voters in the general election.

Party leader Themba Godi said a million votes would push the party's seats to at least 25 and representation in all the nine provincial legislatures.

"This we believe will be a good enough number for us to have a substantive impact on government policy and governance issues,"  he said.

The APC obtained 30 676 votes in 2014, giving the party one seat in the NA compared to 35 867 votes the party received in the 2009 general election.

In the North West province the party increased its votes to 4,398 in 2014 compared to 3,744 in 2009.

In its manifesto, the ACP commits to  good governance, fighting  corruption, transforming the economy, creating jobs and delivering basic services to the people.

Another party to watch in this election is the Mosioua Lekota-led Congress of the People (Cope).

Lekota believes the electorate are now more wise, and know they are not obliged to vote for the party they voted for previously. He expects a huge shift of voters in the coming general election.

"I expect that in this election many people, many will change and many will try to look for different men and women, follow church goers and so on who are reliable and make their marks next to them. I think it will be different whether we like it or not is is not going to be like what is was like last time,"  he said.

"Some of the people voted for us then, because they understood what we were saying to them what was not the right. We did not become a government, if you do not become a government you cannot do those things that you want to do for the people,"  he said responding to the declined in Cope voters since 2009. 

The party collected 1 311 027 votes in the the 2009 general election, and won 30 seats in the NA. In 2014, the party's support declined to 123 235 votes and managed to secure only three seats.

In the North West, Cope received 93 898 votes in 2009 and was represented in the North West provincial legislature but by 2014 it received only 8,692 votes and lost its representation in the provincial parliament.

The general elections will be held on May 8, with 48 political parties contesting the election.

African News Agency (ANA)