South Africa’s new Rise Mzansi party sees opportunities in tight election

By Thomson Reuters May 14, 2024 | 11:29 AM

By Estelle Shirbon

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa’s most competitive election since the advent of democracy could provide opportunities for new political party Rise Mzansi to make innovative deals and improve parliamentary oversight, its leader said on Tuesday.

With polls suggesting the African National Congress, which has been in power for 30 years, will lose its majority for the first time since the end of apartheid in the May 29 vote, smaller parties have come into focus as potential coalition partners or kingmakers.

Songezo Zibi, 48, who founded Rise Mzansi last year and has been campaigning on what he describes as social democratic ideas, said a good result for his party would be to get 5% of the vote, which would translate into 20 seats in the national parliament.

He did not rule out entering into a coalition with any other party, but said Rise Mzansi would not support anyone corrupt or suspected of corruption. He added that there were other ways to make an impact than being in government.

“There is an opportunity in this election to do some innovative trade-offs, to say ‘we will vote for political party A for premier, for president, but we insist on chairing … certain oversight committees’,” Zibi told Reuters in an interview.

South Africans vote for their national and provincial parliaments, which then elect the country’s president and provincial premiers.

Zibi said Rise Mzansi was also open to working with different parties or groups of parties on a case-by-case basis to help legislation get through parliament.

Zibi, a former editor of Business Day newspaper who also worked for Volkswagen, mining firm Xstrata and Absa bank before going into politics, said low turnouts in previous elections reflected widespread disillusionment with politics.

He said Rise Mzansi had adopted a grassroots-led approach to policymaking that was attracting support from young people and women fed up with the status quo.

He described the party’s goals as very concrete and local, for example ensuring that every home had running clean water and was within 15 minutes of a well-equipped and staffed public health facility.

To solve South Africa’s chronic power shortages, he proposed installing solar panels and batteries in every home within a decade to meet climate goals, lower the cost of electricity for families and small businesses and reduce pressure on the grid, which could then better serve large companies.

He said the main obstacles to growth were power cuts, poor infrastructure and corruption, and that by removing them South Africa could boost growth, attract investment, lower the cost of debt and increase resources to invest in public services.

Mzansi, which means “south” in Zulu, is a popular nickname for South Africa.

(Reporting by Estelle Shirbon; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)