Party Political Manifestos: Meaningful or Meaningless? Volume 2


Volume 1 is also included below




This March Newsletter ANC ACTION SA IFP FF+

Churchill once said, “This document, by its very length, guarantees itself against being read.He must have been talking of party-political manifestos!

Samuel Johnson once said, “Your manuscript is both good and original; but the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good.

As Hermann Pretorius of Daily Friend adds, “The ANC Party Manifesto is both naïve and terrifying; the part that is terrifying is naïve and the part that is naïve is terrifying.”

By Steuart Pennington

The IEC tells us that 380 parties are lining up to contest the National Election and 1414 the Provincial Elections. YIKES, does that mean 380 manifestos will be put out there to enable us curious voters to decide before May 29? Maybe a few Vulcans will read one or two ( but I suspect not!

A couple of questions:

  • How many of the 380 Party Leaders will anyone listen to?
  • How many voters will read a single 30–50 page manifesto from start to finish? I’d guess 1%, if that.
  • How much difference is there between the various manifestos in terms of wish lists, or are most of them letters to Father Christmas?  As my summary below indicates.
  • Do manifestos make a clear distinction between what they gonna do and how they gonna do it??

I spent considerable time wading through four manifestos:

  • ANC
  • Action SA
  • IFP
  • FF+

I was particularly interested to try and understand the CLARION CRY of each party – what they intend to shout from the hilltops.

Then I wanted to understand their VISION of what each Party intends to deliver to WIN the hearts and minds of the voters

And then, what are their top 7 to 8 critical deliverables?

See below – it was a slog, but I hope it will allow you to briefly understand what these 4 party’s election campaigns are all about, and in particular save you the graft of reading through 4 x 30 – 50-page tomes.

A couple of things are obvious:

The promises raised by these four Parties, unlike the previous four I reviewed last month (RISE MZANSI, DA, EFF and CHANGE STARTS NOW#) are surprisingly different, with considerable variations in their goals and success measures (the what) and the manner in which these promises will be delivered (the how) varies even more.

The website links to the four parties can be found here:

#CHANGE STARTS NOW has pulled out of the May 29 elections, what a duffer.


Having read through these four manifestos, these are my observations:

The ANC manifesto is full of glaring contradictions, a kind of Liquorice Allsorts with socialist rhetoric overlaying increased Marxist centralisation with token private sector involvement. How do 2.5 million job ‘opportunities’ financed by government constitute employment growth? Surely employment growth happens via the private sector? Surely real growth in industrialisation is a function of private sector investment rather than government spending? How does ‘strengthening’ health services happen with the implementation of an unaffordable NHI? How does Education improve when the budget has been cut, when more teachers are leaving the profession than are being trained, and the evil of SADTU receives no attention? Why is no mention made of a turnaround strategy (read privatisation) of SOEs?

For me this manifesto was ‘same old same old’; many false promises against a proven 30-year track record of poor delivery, with the notable exception of the protection of the poor through a social wage.

Action SA’s single-minded focus on fixing local government resonated; their manifesto dealt with little else. I found it easy to read and well set out, the best of the eight I reviewed. The six focus areas are clearly stated with several easily measurable deliverables or ‘success measures’. In many ways, it’s like reading through a business strategy document: clear goals, clear success measures with no waffle on ‘activity’.

I hope this message has been communicated to many of the newly registered voters, voters who are sitting on the fence pondering who to vote for.

The IFP manifesto is very comprehensive with a 13-Point Plan, all 35 pages of it. It is similar in many ways to the FF+ manifesto in that it focuses on a range of ‘tribal’ challenges of concern to the Zulu nation, respect for traditional leaders, Ingonyama Trust, the autonomy of the King etc. But unlike many of the other manifestos, it had several clear success measures in respect of SAPS, SANDF, SOEs, land reform, education, job creation and the approach of partnering with the private sector. Their President Velenkosni Hlabisa has clear intentions of maintaining the legacy of Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi and championing the pride of the Zulu people.

The FF+ manifesto clearly recognises that they are a minority party only able to enhance delivery through partnerships with other like-minded, parties. The manifesto embraces the concept of a subsidiarity role – those functions which are performed effectively by subordinate or local organisations belong more properly to them than to a dominant central organization. The manifesto also makes mention of a new dispensation rather than an improved government. The strong sense of community values, the rights of minority groups, and the ethical behaviour of political parties is a trend throughout – clearly keeping the ANC and the EFF out of government is the FF+ driving mission. This manifesto creates a sense of pride in the contribution the FF+ makes despite the minor size of their parliamentary presence.


I have to say in all this reading that the Action SA, Rise Mzansi and FF+ manifestos are refreshingly different from the ANC, DA and EFF tomes. If their leaders have done a good enough job of getting out there and talking to communities who are looking for something new in terms of improving their personal circumstances, these parties may gain considerable votes from the ‘old guard’ parties. Without a doubt, if they enter into coalitions with other similar-minded parties, the political landscape in South Africa will begin to change incontrovertibly. Pray that political principle doesn’t give way to Patriotic Alliance-type expediency, and ANC-type double standards.


As party lists come out, I wonder how many of those implicated in the Zondo Commission, or who have been fingered for malfeasance, or who have controversial and questionable ‘service’ records, or who are just downright incompetent, will appear? It already seems that the 97 senior ANC leaders, fingered in Zondo commission, will be nominated based on their ‘right’ to contest their possible omission rather than the ‘responsibility’ of the ANC to do what’s ethical and honourable and in the best interests of the country. Will Veterans’ League president Snuki Zikalala comment, “the ANC would find itself in a “tricky” position if it allows those implicated in state capture to stand as public officials” be taken seriously?


In SA we love to extol the virtues of ‘Ubuntu’ – I am because we are. Yet when I see the lame excuses used by party executives for nominating individuals who have questionable track records to their ‘leadership lists’, one wonders if this is a dark side of ‘Ubuntu’ – cadre protection, followed closely by cadre deployment, endless suspensions on full pay, permitting incompetence, tenderpreneurship, and callous service delivery?

In summarising, I have attempted to focus on the nub of each party’s deliverables, not easy and may be contested!