South Africa: Campaign process

Extracted from: Susan Booysen & Grant Masterson 2009 "Chapter 11: South Africa" IN Denis Kadima and Susan Booysen (eds) Compendium of Elections in Southern Africa 1989-2009: 20 Years of Multiparty Democracy, EISA, Johannesburg, 412-414).

Political parties participating in South African elections are required to submit themselves to a binding code of conduct as stipulated in Schedule 2 (Section 99) of the Electoral Act of 1998. Campaigning, the conduct of political party officials, adherence to dates for the submission of various election-related documentation, and the promotion of political party materials are included in the code of conduct. According to Schedule 2 of the Act all political party candidates must:

  • publicly state that everyone has the right to:
    1. freely express their political beliefs and opinions;
    2. challenge and debate the beliefs and opinions of others;
    3. publish and distribute their own elections materials;
    4. lawfully erect banners and billboards as well as any other forms of public advertisement as stipulated by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) in relation to elections;
    5. canvass support for a party or candidate;
    6. recruit members for a party;
    7. hold public meetings; and
    8. travel to and participate in public meetings.
  • publicly condemn any action that undermines the conduct of free and fair elections; and
  • accept the results of an election or challenge that result in a South Africa court.

Furthermore, the code of conduct stipulates, amongst other things, that there needs to be satisfactory representation of women within the political party membership (without the exact specification of what shall be interpreted as 'satisfactory'), and that all political parties must ensure the facilitation of women's participation in the activities of their political party. Political parties are permitted to campaign from the announcement by the president of South Africa of the election date, until 24 hours prior to the commencement of voting.

The process of campaigning in the 2009 election can be illustrated with reference to the four best-performing parties of this election. Foremost was the intense campaigning between the ANC and Cope. Cope nationally and in the Eastern Cape province, and the IFP in KwaZulu-Natal, were the main targets of the ANC campaign. Once the formal campaign started (with the promulgation of the elections date about seven weeks prior to the 22 April 2009 election) campaigning tended to settle down. In the preceding period, however, there were many instances of electorally inappropriate, albeit not outright violent, behaviour that was reported (Booysen 2009). The ANC campaign was well-resourced, with estimates ranging from R200 million, upward to R400 million, spent (Mail & Guardian 2009). The DA campaign was high-profile and focused on projecting the DA as a political party that posed a governance alternative to the electorate. The Cope campaign struggled with finances, human resources and electoral inexperience. Its campaign demonstrated how tricky it is for a new political party to perform when it lacks the finances and resources of established parties. It also has to muster the technical campaign experience to make the grade in sophisticated campaigning. The only other relatively substantial party, the IFP, was in decline mode and focused on a campaign that had the mobilisation of core IFP support as its target. This party too could not match the ANC in terms of campaign resources and presence. The very small parties with previous campaign experience, as well as the host of new electoral entrants, also suffered from inexperience and lack of resources. For most of them campaigning was a luxury and votes gained were unlikely to have been in response to effective campaign targeting. (Also see section on funding of political parties.)


BOOYSEN, S 2009 "The political environment of Election 2009" IN EISA Election Update South Africa No 1.

ELECTORAL ACT, 73 of 1998, [www] [PDF document, opens new window] (accessed 26 Feb 2010).

MAIL & GUARDIAN 2009, 17 April.