Andile Mngxitama’s party Black First Land First (BLF) appears to have kicked into elections campaign mode, releasing its first elections flier ahead of national and provincial polls later this year.
It will be the party’s first stab at gaining power, with Mngxitama telling The Citizen: “We want to have a percentage that can guarantee two-thirds [of the vote] is available to the ANC [allowing constitutional amendment] so that it has no excuses to implement Radical Economic Transformation (RET).”
He added: “The polls say the ANC may get 50% to 55%. We are aiming at no less than 10% … We want to be king makers to force the ANC to implement RET.”
To attract support, the often controversial party has not held back on making ambitious promises, including that there will be “free houses, electricity, water, health care, education, and transportation” for students, the disabled and the elderly.
They also promise land to “all who need it”.
Perhaps most uniquely, they declare that “no one must be unemployed”, but that those who happen to find themselves unemployed will be assured of receiving R5,000 a month.
Currently, South Africa does not offer universal unemployment protection – aside from the Unemployment Insurance Fund – so this would be a new item to add to Treasury’s national balance sheet.
The current number of unemployed South Africans is estimated at about 6.2 million, which would mean the BLF would need to find about R372 billion each year to fund its dole payments, amounting to about 8% of the country’s GDP.
Currently, South Africa will be spending about R193.4 billion in total on social welfare programmes this year.
Under a BLF government, this amount will also apparently increase dramatically, with the current child grant payment increasing to R2,000 per month from its current R410, and the pension amount shooting up to R5,000 from its current value of around R1,700 per month.
The BLF is guaranteeing “full employment” for all graduates too, along with “business support”, a home and school garden at every property and the teaching of “respect for elders and love for blacks”.
The South African government already spends more each year than it collects in tax (currently sitting at more than R1.2 trillion a year), meaning it has to turn to world markets for loans.
Treasury recently said it had increased borrowing by R25.1 billion in the last financial year to a total of R246 billion.
The country’s net debt was expected to be R2.28 trillion in 2017/18, or 48.6% of GDP, increasing to R3.03 trillion, or 52.2% of GDP, in 2020/21. Net debt is expected to stabilise at 53.2% in 2023/24.
However, the BLF appears to have pre-empted criticism that its welfare-centric approach to governance would require several hundred billion, or even trillions, more than government currently collects in revenue to be sustainable.
They claim “white monopoly capital steals over R100 billion annually” and “there is over R20 trillions [sic] worth of minerals underground”.
It was announced last year that the BLF was struggling to collect enough money to pay its R600,000 election registration deposit to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).
The BLF blamed the Oppenheimer family for the move, but BackABuddy’s Catherine du Plooy told The Citizen the removal of the campaign “had nothing to do with the Oppenheimers” and it was because it “did not comply with our terms and conditions”.
The BLF also claimed in December it was too broke to afford the legal costs to defend itself against numerous charges laid against it, which included hate speech and incitement to commit violence.
Earlier this month the IEC said it could not deregister the BLF from running for the 2019 elections despite several political parties calling for this after Mngxitama controversially called for the killing of white people in alleged self-defence last year in retaliation for what he described as white-sponsored violence involving black people in the taxi industry.
The IEC wrote a letter to the party warning that Mngxitama’s utterances were hate speech – which was in breach of the Electoral Commission Act and the constitutions of both South Africa and the party itself.
Those who took issue with the BLF’s comments included the DA, Congress of the People, Freedom Front Plus, labour union Solidarity and the South African Human Rights Commission.
The IEC has explained, however, that it has no powers currently to act against the party in terms of the Electoral Code of Conduct.
The SABC reported IEC deputy CEO Masego Sheburi saying: “The Electoral Code of Conduct is only applicable in terms of our law once an election has been called. Outside an election, which is the period we are currently in, the Electoral Code is not in force, so if these allegations had been made once an election had been called, the Electoral Commission would be in a position to act because it has certain rights conferred to it when an election has been called.”
According to reports, the Human Rights Commission has vowed to haul the party before the Equality Court.