Parties built on personalities ‘face challenges’

Political parties built around personalities – in the absence of clear policies and principles – are taking a hammering, becoming politically irrelevant and unsustainable, with their support base and electoral numbers shrinking, according to analysts.

This, against the background of simmering tensions within the Congress of the People (Cope) likely to pit the Cope leadership – deputy president Willie Madisha, national spokesperson Dennis Bloem and secretary for elections Mzwandile Nhleko – against ailing party president Mosiuoa Lekota, in the congress national committee (CNC) over the weekend.

The CNC, the highest decision-making body in-between Cope national congresses, will be asked by the party top brass to ratify a decision taken this week to disband the entire Gauteng congress provincial committee (CPC) led by Thom Mofokeng, David Malatji and Lefu Hanong.

The incoming CPC is led by Debora Mothupi (convenor), Mxolisi Ntobela (coordinator), Terrence Monali (treasurer) and 15 executive members, who include ousted Cope-deployed Ekurhuleni councillor Ndzipo Khalipa.

With the change likely to lead to the recall of Mofokeng from serving as Cope councillor in Ekurhuleni – shortly after replacing Khalipa – insiders expect Lekota to disagree with the decision in the upcoming CNC).

Unlike the politically relevant Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), Cope, a splinter group from the ANC, has been plagued by myriad of challenges.

Political analysts were yesterday unanimous in outlining key difficulties faced by emerging political parties, with the personality cult topping the list.

Sanusha Naidu of the Institute for Global Dialogue said: “The challenge with smaller political parties is the personality question, resources, sustainability, viability and growing the electoral base. “The relevance depends on managing to maintain momentum, build, expand and deepen party electoral base, with internal political dynamics, internal credibility and legitimacy questions, being key factors.”

Unlike Cope, Naidu said the IFP has “a strong base at provincial level, appeal and support which extends to the broader national level – enough relevance to keep it afloat”.

She added: “The only party that came to the scene and that has managed to maintain itself in the way that we have seen, is the EFF (Economic Freedom Fighters).”

University of Pretoria politics lecturer Roland Henwood agreed: “Small parties are often built around an individual that left another bigger party. “It makes it difficult for such parties to last because they exist around a personality.”

University of South Africa political science Prof Dirk Kotze said the IFP has “a stable leadership under the stewardship of Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi”.

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