Skip to main content

A look at some of South Africa's parties

  • Story Highlights
  • South Africans head to polls on Wednesday
  • Ruling African National Congress expected to retain power
  • New political parties may siphon the ANC's share of national vote
  • Next Article in World »
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font

(CNN) -- There are 40 parties vying in South Africa's elections, with 26 participating nationally and 14 provincially. Though South Africa's opposition parties remain generally weak, the ruling African National Congress worries that, collectively, they may eat away at its majority.

Mothers and their children wait in line for early voting Tuesday in Alexandra township.

Mothers and their children wait in line for early voting Tuesday in Alexandra township.

So the ruling party has brought 90-year-old Nelson Mandela out of retirement to take part in two of its election rallies -- a strategy aimed at reminding South Africans that their most adored politician remains a loyal member of the ANC. And that the ANC under Zuma, despite its imperfections, is still the ANC of the man who helped bring democracy to South Africa.

The following is a look at the primary players in South Africa's elections.


The party is selling itself as a party of clean governance offering honest leadership. Its members criticize the ANC under Zuma for failing to uphold the rule of law and the constitution, which Cope says it will protect. It wants to change South Africa's electoral system so leaders are elected by voters and not their parties.

Cope's presidential candidate, Mvume Dandala, is a former priest who was also an anti-apartheid activist. Cope has become an alternative for the country's middle class, which traditionally voted for either the ANC or the Democratic Alliance. It is also targeting those who are dissatisfied with the ANC's delivery of services and rampant corruption, and those who do not want Zuma, who was acquitted of rape in 2006, to become president.

The Democratic Alliance

This opposition party has a strong support base among white people and South Africans of mixed race. Its stronghold is the Western Cape. In the 2004 elections, it won 12 percent of the national vote, and it has become the ANC's most vocal opponent.

More recently, it has vigorously opposed Zuma's presidential bid and is legally challenging the dropping of his corruption case. It is led by former journalist Helen Zille, a former anti-apartheid activist who is white but speaks Xhosa fluently. Xhosa is the main ethnic language spoken in the Eastern and Western Cape. The Democratic Alliance has had various election campaigns that have not gone down well with black South Africans.

According to its own post-elections report, its "Fight Back" campaign of 2004 alienated black voters who saw it as aggressive and offensive. Its latest poster campaign also has caused controversy. It reads, "Stop Zuma vote DA." Despite the growth of its black support base, most black South Africans still consider it a white party that is concerned only with promoting white interests.

The Inkhatha Freedom Party

This party, headed by Mangosuthu Buthelezi, has its support base mainly in one province, Kwazulu Natal, among Zulu speakers. It got 6.97 percent of the vote in 2004.

The United Democratic Movement

This party was formed by former ANC member Bantu Holomisa. Its stronghold is in South Africa's Eastern Cape, where many ANC leaders are from, and it got 2.28 percent of the vote in 2004.


The Independent Democrats

This group was formed in 2003 by Patricia de Lille. De Lille blew the lid on corruption in South Africa's 1999 multibillion-dollar arms deal and was a witness in the case against Zuma. Her support is mainly in the Western Cape, where she is from, and she got only 1.73 percent of the vote in 2004.

All About South AfricaPoliticsAfrican Politics

  • E-mail
  • Save
  • Print