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Is RISE Mzansi just Songezo Zibi’s newest pet project?

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Is Rise Mzansi just Songezo Zibi’s newest pet project?

Songezo Zibi has shown promise as RISE Mzansi’s shining star, but his goals with the party may not be as clear-cut as they seem.

It may be quite simple to register a new political party in South Africa, but that does not mean that everyone should jump at the chance.

In case you did not know, it is surprisingly easy to register your own political party in South Africa. All you really need is about 500 signatures, R500 and the correct paperwork.

So when a former writer and editor like Songezo Zibi emerges as the leader of an up-and-coming political party – no one really bats an eyelid. But, when it comes to the health and future of our democracy, maybe we should be taking a closer look.

Songezo Zibi’s history

As far as South African political leaders go, Zibi is certainly not the worst we have seen. Before dipping his toe into politics, Zibi made waves as the former Associate Editor of the Financial Mail (2014), the Editor of Business Day (2014 to 2016) and the Spokesperson for Absa (2016 to 2021).

However, there is some concern that after conquering the South African media landscape, and then even moving on to being the non-executive director of the The Open Society Foundation for South Africa (2018 to 2023) and creating the Rivonia Circle think tank, that the general election is simply Zibi’s newest opportunity to prove that he can compete in a bigger pond, alongside bigger fish.

The secret power of the opposition parties

At this point, South Africans are pretty used to hearing vague promises of “a better future, free from political and government neglect & corruption.” However, from what Zibi has shared about RISE Mzansi’s goals so far, it seems like the true aim of the game may just be to be the thorn in the side of some of South Africa’s strongest political parties.

Voter turnout has been declining for years. And if the ANC does not manage to get that oh-so crucial majority in May, rising-star parties like RISE Mzansi will certainly find themselves inundated, and no doubt very flattered, with new offers and coalition deals in the near future.

What this means for the 2024 general election

The Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) lists 1758 political parties currently registered in South Africa (362 of which are registered at the national level). This means that come the 2024 general elections, 326 parties (at least those that can afford the IEC deposits for contesting provincial and national elections) will be vying for the 400 seats in the National Assembly.

And, while smaller parties like RISE Mzansi and their leaders know that they do not stand any real chance to compete with the country’s most popular parties – that does not necessarily exclude them from playing the game, or lavishing in the recognition and other benefits that come from playing the game well. This, of course, means that while these parties and their leaders are scrambling to irritate and appease each other – voters are left feeling completely overwhelmed by all of the choices (and all of the empty promises) that they will be faced with on voting day.