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By Eric Naki

Political Editor

‘It’s cold outside ANC’: Why some parties struggle while EFF flourishes

The ANC's breakaway parties struggle to gain electoral momentum, with some facing internal challenges. The EFF remains the exception.

The notion that “it’s cold outside the ANC” seems to be gaining ground as none of the political parties that broke away from it have made any serious electoral headway.

Prof Ntsikelelo Breakfast, political analyst and the director of the Centre for Security, Peace and Conflict Resolution at Nelson Mandela University, said electoral results pattern seem to reinforce this view.

He noted how none of the parties that broke away from the ANC, or that were established following the expulsions of their leaders from the ANC, had been able to grow since.

Breakfast attributed the annihilation of radical economic transformation (RET) faction in the party to the strengthening of the Cyril Ramaphosa camp which, he said, had been consolidating its power for some time.

He said the Ramaphosa camp was thinking strategically without making any noise about it and were consolidating their power.

READ: ANC rulers seem to be on a nostalgia trip for ‘good old days’

Breakfast said Ramaphosa’s supporters were thinking beyond his tenure, hence it was difficult for the likes of the RET – a small pro-Jacob Zuma clique within the ANC – to defeat them.

Moderates in the party had gained political strength since they took over the ANC during Nasrec 1 in 2017, and Ramaphosa had access to state resources as the country’s president.

The majority of these parties experienced a downward spiral in their electoral support and membership.

Those that saw far reduced parliamentary representation were the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), the United Democratic Movement (UDM) and the Congress of the People (Cope).

They were even overtaken by newbies, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.

Even when put together, the parties would not match the ANC’s support that was at 57% at the 2019 election.

READ: Decision by ANC to isolate EFF is an unwise one and could backfire

Even if it falls below 50%, they would still not reach the ANC’s strength without cooperating with the EFF and the Democratic Alliance.

Breakfast gave the PAC, the first ANC splinter in 1959, the benefit of doubt. He said it could have been weakened by the fact that it was banned within two years of its formation and, therefore, had not been able to entrench itself.

“The PAC conditions were difficult. It was banned and there was also the question of funding… You cannot operate an organisation without funds,” he said.

The PAC, founded by the iconic Robert Sobukwe on the ticket of strong Pan-Africanism and domination of the party by Africans, had dramatically lost electoral support and went down from six MPs in 1994, to only one.

Its future remains uncertain as it is one of the smallest parties in SA. Bantu Holomisa’s UDM had been on a downward spiral due to the defunct “floor-crossing” legislation, which allowed MPs to defect to other parties.

The UDM has only two MPs – Holomisa and his deputy, Nqabayomzi Kwankwa.

The next biggest post-1994 breakaway was that of Cope, formed by ANC members dissatisfied with Thabo Mbeki’s recall as president.

They entered the stage on the constitutionalism ticket as they rejected the Polokwane outcomes, where Jacob Zuma replaced Mbeki.

It was, however, consumed by factionalism, starting with a feud between leader Mosiuoa Lekota and deputy Mbhazima Shilowa, that Lekota won.

A new leadership tussle is underway, this time between Lekota and his deputy, Willie Madisha, after Lekota unilaterally and unconstitutionally expelled him and secretary of elections Mzwandile Hleko.

Cope is on the brink of disappearing due to never-ending leadership infighting.

Other breakaways include the African Independent Congress and the African Transformation Movement, but they have not grown beyond two MPs. Only the EFF continues to grow.

It currently has more than 40 MPs, up from six in 2014.