‘Stomach politics stops parties from merging’

MKMVA national spokesperson Carl Niehaus Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/Independent Newspapers

MKMVA national spokesperson Carl Niehaus Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/Independent Newspapers

Published Feb 18, 2024


Durban — Stomach politics, which refers to politicians caring about their own needs and which seems to override the interest of society, has led to political parties that have common objectives, either on the left or right of the political spectrum, avoiding mergers.

This was the view of political analysts who spoke to the Sunday Tribune. The number of parties registered for this year’s election has reportedly rocketed to more than 300.

University of KwaZulu-Natal political analyst Zakhele Ndlovu said certain parties could easily merge to form one bigger party. The Umkhonto weSizwe (MK) party, which former president Jacob Zuma supports, shares the same language as the EFF, African Transformation Movement (ATM) and PAC when it comes to radical economic transformation objectives, which makes it easy for them to integrate.

Former MK Military Veterans' Association activist Carl Niehaus did exactly that when he collapsed his African Radical Economic Transformation Alliance (Areta) to join the EFF.

“I cannot understand why the PAC (which is struggling to survive) would not be swallowed by the EFF if they are so serious about bringing the land back to its rightful owners.

“That is the biggest problem in South African politics because people are always thinking about their own self-interest instead of looking at the broader interests of society.

“So the politics of the stomach plays a big role in stopping these parties from being swallowed by one another because some people fear that they won’t have positions in Parliament and get an income,” said Ndlovu.

Ndlovu believed that MK was co-founded by people who have been sidelined by President Cyril Ramaphosa’s administration.

“They decided to break away from the ANC because the Ramaphosa faction is looking after its supporters and they are not giving the Zuma people positions of power and tenders,” said Ndlovu.

Legal analyst Mpumelelo Zikalala, who comments on political matters as well, said some leaders might differ with some of the policies of parties they generally support.

“They may have similar points when it comes to radical economic transformation (RET) but they may differ radically in terms of other policies.

“One bad thing about the conditions of political parties is that they do not allow a person to freely express himself outside the collective of a political party. “When you go to Parliament, you toe the party line even if you don’t wish to,” said Zikalala.

Political analyst Professor Lesiba Teffo, from Unisa, said the DA, FF Plus, IFP and ACDP were among the parties that signed the Multi-Party Charter SA in June last year to fight against alleged ANC’s corruption tendencies and stopping the EFF from ascending to power, could use their commonality to merge.

He said they avoided this because of “the politics of the stomach rather than serving the people they should be representing”.

He said the IFP, FF Plus, ACDP and others, despite their backgrounds, could still find each other and merge because of “their common interest that brings them together”.

The proliferation of parties, he said, was more rife among black people than their white counterparts.

“The DA and FF Plus have commonalities, and I don’t think that they even have problems among themselves,” said Teffo.

He said Al Jama-ah could also easily merge with the ANC because “it is not even going against the ANC or anything”.

“Those people who formed new parties in the past two years would be willing to go into a coalition with the ANC and that demonstrates that they have got no differences (with the ANC).

“They (the leaders) are just trying to secure themselves leverage to bargain for positions when the right time comes,” said Teffo.

Political analyst and media commentator Susan Booysen said most of the smaller parties waste votes because they won’t achieve big enough numbers to go to Parliament.

“It is part of the South African culture to explore new political parties,” she said.

Booysen said some leaders prefer to form their own parties for fear that if they join other parties they would face internal competition for seats in Parliament.

“That competition is not going to fade away if they form one party,” she said.

Booysen said the country might lose political diversity if parties were to merge.

She added that coalition politics, which parties preferred, had proved to be a failure in most cases.

Sunday Tribune