It is often tempting to vote for small parties in elections. They have personality, they’re anti-establishment, they’re idealistic. But also, they suck.

South Africa is overrun with political parties. We can all name perhaps a dozen, but below them there’s a whole school of small fry you’ve probably never heard of.

The IEC has a grand total of 52 parties on the national election ballot, which is a new record.

There are clever ones, like the African Movement Congress (AMC), which presumably hopes to capitalise on deceiving voters. The name of its leader, Roy Chockalingam Moodley, may ring some bells, albeit for all the wrong reasons.

There are idealistic ones, like the Organic Humanity Movement. Started by a young mother of four, it hosts outdoor social events for its members and actually has election posters up in my home town. It calls itself “the party to end all parties”. It wants to abolish political parties, fix our “broken political system”, and have people live free of government and corporate interference. It has hardly any funding and no paid staff, but it sounds fun.

At the bottom of the ballot is Xiluva, which means nothing deeper than “flower”. It was formed by a political itinerant, Bongani Baloyi, who came through the Democratic Alliance (DA) Young Leaders Programme to become mayor of Midvaal at the tender age of 26, where he had an excellent record for eight years. He left the DA in 2021 to pursue “other opportunities”, only to resurface as ActionSA’s Gauteng provincial chairperson. From there, he nastily sniped back at his erstwhile employer for a while, before falling out with his new bosses, too. Baloyi, in his new incarnation as the founder of Xiluva, preaches inclusivity, but says it is aimed at people aged 18 to 48, so consider me excluded.

Then there’s Sizwe Ummah Nation, Able Leadership, the Free Democrats, Conservatives in Action, Citizans (sic), the All Citizens Party, 19 parties with Africa in their names, three parties with Change in their names, 10 Congresses, 10 Movements, and a few more.

Moving the needle

They all use nice words like “empowering” and “freedom” and “sustainable” and “accountable” and “grassroots” and “democratic” and “inclusive”.

There are also seven independent candidates of whom I’ve never heard and who are very poorly accommodated in South Africa’s broken electoral legislation.

The only small parties that even move the needle on the Brenthurst Foundation’s March 2024 survey on smaller parties are, in order of apparent popularity, ActionSA, the Inkatha Freedom Party, Build One South Africa (BOSA), the Patriotic Alliance (PA), the Freedom Front Plus (FF+), the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP), the African Transformation Movement, Rise Mzansi, the United Democratic Movement, the National Freedom Party, and the Cape Coloured Congress.

It is impossible to tell how much support they actually have, because they all poll within the margin of error, but even the most popular does not break 2%. One or two of them might get a little more than that. (The IFP polls at 2.8% in the Social Research Foundation’s daily tracking poll, assuming a 60% turnout.)

Even these larger minnows are very limited in their infrastructure and party organisation. Most are built around a single charismatic leader, and have fairly generic manifestos that say they’ll do better than the ANC.

The SRF’s founder and former IRR CEO, Frans Cronjé, likens them to dinner parties involving a founder and some friends. They have character, they’re entertaining, and they afford its leaders some social status, but ultimately, they’re pretty inconsequential.

Not interested

According to the Brenthurst Foundation Vote Navigator, an online quiz that asks questions in a rather leading (if not outright biased) fashion, at least two of these minnows (ActionSA and BOSA) more or less match my political views.

I’m not interested, however. The thing is, however nice their manifesto sounds, their ability to achieve any of their objectives will be extremely limited.

ActionSA might get a small handful of seats in Parliament. BOSA might get between one and four, depending on what number you pick from polling error margins. Rise Mzansi might get a seat for its leader, Songezo Zibi, who seems a nice enough guy, but rather more firmly left-wing than I used to think. A few other small parties may get a small number of seats.

Here and there, these parties might snatch a juicy position or play kingmaker in some coalition or another, but not without being a toady doing some larger party’s bidding.


I’ve also been burnt voting for smaller parties. Over the years, on occasions when I felt my vote – at least nationally – would not influence the balance of power between the ruling party and the official opposition, I’ve voted for small parties that closely aligned with my views.

I’ve voted for the KISS Party a couple of times while the ANC was at its most dominant. It essentially consisted of its founder, Claire Gaisford, who is an old-school classical liberal. The most votes she ever won was 6 514, or 0.04%, in 2004, which is miles short of the 0.25% needed to secure a seat in the National Assembly.

In 2019, I voted for the Capitalist Party of South Africa (ZACP, also known as the Purple Cows), in the belief that even a single parliamentarian espousing libertarian values would add value to the public debate. They needed something like 45 000 votes for one seat. They got a whopping 15 915 votes, or 0.09%.

On none of these occasions did my vote count, and in practice, that means my vote strengthened the largest party.


Even the parties that can secure a few seats, however, will not make a material difference to how the country is run.

At the start of the year, I wrote that our New Year’s resolution ought to be to vote the ANC out of power. It is now fairly clear that it probably won’t lose power.

It will retain power, perhaps outright, but most likely by leading a coalition government.

If the ANC gets close to 50%, it will form a coalition with rats and mice for which I wouldn’t vote anyway. My vote cannot influence that outcome, and will have little impact in that case.

If it gets closer to 40%, it will need to partner with a larger party, which again excludes the smaller parties that I might have voted for.

If that larger party is the EFF or MK, my vote again has little purpose.

I want that larger party to be the DA, both because a coalition involving the EFF or MK would be disastrous, and because the DA can actually make a difference.

The larger the share of the vote that the DA wins, the more stable a potential coalition with the ANC will be, and the more powerful it will be as a junior coalition partner.

ANC and DA

If a coalition between the ANC and DA happens, the DA should drop the rest of the Multi-Party Charter like hot potatoes. They only cause grief and infighting, and since their purpose was to help secure a majority, they are no longer needed.

But, I hear you say, won’t the DA have to sacrifice its classical liberal principles if it goes into coalition with the ANC?

The answer to that is no, it probably won’t. Of course there will be compromises, but if the DA negotiates shrewdly it can avoid violating its principles and also avoid sharing culpability for the ANC-led government’s failures.

(One hopes that the DA has had the wisdom to quietly begin those negotiations early, because after the election they will have at most 14 days before the new National Assembly must hold its first sitting and elect a new president.)

The DA can survive a coalition with the ANC in one of two ways.

It can secure one or more key cabinet positions, where it can clearly delineate for what it will take accountability, and use it to exercise a moderating influence over its larger coalition partner. Securing the Finance Ministry would be first prize, and would be worth it even if it got nothing else.

Perhaps the better option is to secure the chairs of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committees, perhaps along with the National Assembly Speaker position.

That would give the DA a powerful platform from which to exercise oversight over government, and from where it can build its reputation among the voting public while it regroups and figures out how to break through that 25% glass ceiling in 2029.

In none of these scenarios will my vote for a small party that aligns with my views – say ActionSA (which is too xenophobic, anyway) or BOSA (which is too religious, anyway) – be of any real value.

Clear choice

Provincially, the choice is even more clear. I live in the Western Cape and want to be sure the DA returns to government here.

Whatever happens, a vote for a small party would be wasted, and would only serve to undermine the only national outcome I can foresee that isn’t entirely catastrophic.

It also helps that despite my somewhat ambivalent views about the DA, its leadership, its public image, and parts of its manifesto, the party – after some years in the ideological wilderness – has firmly repositioned itself along non-racial classical liberal lines. This is thanks to the excellent work of IRR alumnus Gwen Ngwenya as the DA’s head of policy. (She left last year for a cushy corporate job; Mathew Cuthbert now occupies that position.)

That means my choice is based purely on political and economic principles. The more common basis for voting in South Africa, identity, does not enter into it.

All that is why I’m over the small fry, will unapologetically vote for the Democratic Alliance on all three ballots next week, and encourage all my readers to do the same.

[Image: Eurasian minnows in the Aquarium du Val-de-Loire in France. Photo: Wikimedia Commons]

The views of the writer are not necessarily the views of the Daily Friend or the IRR.

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Ivo Vegter is a freelance journalist, columnist and speaker who loves debunking myths and misconceptions, and addresses topics from the perspective of individual liberty and free markets.