Political parties are reluctant to share information or liaise on how they operate internally. In a democratic country such as South Africa, it is important that this information be made available to the public as evidence that parties are in fact democratic within themselves. This or lack thereof may be seen as an indication of how they may conduct themselves in public office.

On the 24th of April 2019, My Vote Counts (MVC) launched its Intra-Party Democracy (IPD) campaign at the District Six Homecoming Centre. MVC launched this campaign as part of its mission to promote and enhance transparency, accountability, fairness and inclusivity in the South African political system.

IPD can be understood as a set of requirements that political parties can and should use to allow for fair participation of its members. These include decentralising power instead of having it concentrated in one leader or a few members of the party, as well as inclusivity – allowing equal involvement of members in electing leadership, and policy formulation.

As part of our research, we sent a questionnaire titled, “How Democratic Are You: An Intra-party democracy (IPD) Questionnaire”, to every political party represented in the National Assembly (NA). The questions were informed by IPD themes which include membership audits, intra-party elections, accountability, policy-making and party constitutions, as well as disciplinary procedures among others.

Although most political parties did not respond, MVC managed to find evidence that suggests that some political parties may not be as democratic as they claim to be. The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) for example has delayed their elective conferences. The party has hereby failed to abide by the five-year and three-year terms for their National Executive Committee (NEC) and National Council (NC) respectively, as mentioned in their constitution.

Concentrated power – and by extension – the abuse of this power, infringes on fair participation of party members. The ANC, regardless of its Gender and Affirmative Action rule seems to exclude women from senior positions. The rule states that a quota of at least 50% of women must be reached in all elected structures of the party and yet, the “top six” structure is not bound by this rule.

It is not enough for political parties to claim that they are democratic in their internal operations if there is little or no evidence to suggest this, or even contradictory evidence. There are many more inconsistencies found by MVC in parties’ actual internal conduct that are in contrast to what is stated in respective constitutions; this includes both the Democratic Alliance (DA) as well as the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).

More research and dissemination of information will be done by MVC, by holding IPD workshops in various communities.

Read our policy brief here.

View the questionnaire findings here.

To read more about IPD and why we have launched this campaign, click here.

My Vote Counts NPC is a non-profit company founded to improve the accountability, transparency and inclusiveness of elections and politics in the Republic of South Africa. We work to ensure that the political and electoral systems are open, fair and accountable to the public and that they remain relevant in the changing South African socio-political context.