FF Plus attributes gains to its fight-back slogan
Driving from his hometown in Stilfontein to the OR Tambo Airport in Johannesburg in 2017, FF Plus leader Pieter Groenewald came up with the idea for his party’s slogan, Fight Back South Africa.
And that is exactly what the FF Plus did in the 2019 national elections, gaining significant growth in the country, including a large chunk in the Eastern Cape.
Groenewald said he had felt so strongly about the slogan that he had started testing it out a few months after he was elected party leader on November 12 2016.
“In conversations with people after the 2016 local government elections, I told them it was time to fight back,” he said.
“These same people agreed and I could see from their reactions that they liked it.
“They wanted to fight back.”
Groenewald then discussed the new slogan with the party’s structures.
“Not everyone approved, but I felt very strongly about it.
“As the leader, I wanted to go into this election with the fight-back slogan.”
Groenewald announced the slogan in 2018 at the party’s office in parliament.
This was in reaction to the National Assembly’s decision to allow the constitutional review committee to start a process to look into amending the constitution to allow expropriation without compensation.
“There was a calculated reason behind it. I did not just decide to use any slogan,” he said.
The FF Plus, often dismissed as a fringe party, saw massive gains in the Kouga, Koukamma, Dr Beyers Naude and Blue Crane Route areas in the Eastern Cape.
Groenewald said it was for this reason that the party had started its election campaign in Port Elizabeth in October.
“We saw from early polls that we were getting huge support from the Eastern Cape.”
Eastern Cape FF Plus leader Piet Mey said the party’s gains in the four areas had been surprising.
“It is very good results. I am really surprised,” he said.
Mey said the expectation had been that the party would double its seats in parliament from four to eight, but early results were telling a different story.
“So far it is really, really positive,” he said.
The FF Plus secured its biggest increase in Kouga, up from 2.59% in the 2014 general elections and 0.7% in the 2016 local government elections to 6.57%.
In the Dr Beyers Naude region – which was formed in 2016 – the party jumped to 3.26% from a measly 0.19%.
There was a similar story in the Blue Crane Route, where its support rose to 2.74% from 0.17% in 2016 and 1.19% in 2014.
In Koukamma, the party jumped to 4.29% as of 4pm on Thursday, up from 0.22% in 2016 and 1.55% in 2014.
Mey attributed the results in the province to the party’s slogan and its campaign against affirmative action and the expropriation of land.
“Our leader also played a big role during this election.”
He said the party had campaigned hard in the Eastern Cape.
“It was really hard work. We started about four months ago and addressed people all over the province.” In 2014, the party obtained just 0.39% of the vote in the province, with no seats in the provincial legislature.
As of 9pm on Thursday, the FF Plus had 0.97% of the provincial vote and 2.64% nationally – placing it in fourth place nationally, ahead of the IFP and UDM.
The party was founded on March 1 1994 by members of the Afrikaner community under Constand Viljoen, after he left the Afrikaner Volksfront.
It was the main opposition in parliament after the historic 1994 elections but saw a massive drop after 1999, taking only between 0.8% and 0.9% of votes in all elections after that.
Political analyst Aubrey Matshiqi said the gains for the FF Plus were, clearly, at the expense of the DA.
“The irony about that is that it is in policy proposals from the ANC regarding black economic empowerment and land,” he said.
“When the DA starts saying race is a predictor of those disadvantaged in SA and goes further to say it embraces black economic empowerment, obviously it risks losing support within its traditional base.”
He said the FF Plus had lost a lot of voters in 1999 to the Democratic Party (now the DA), but these voters had likely returned to the FF Plus.
“The DA attracted these voters but the messages coming from the DA now have alienated them.”
Political analyst Mcebisi Ndletyana said right-wingers gaining traction at the polls was a global phenomenon.
“It is on the rise even in countries like America.
“It is not entirely exceptional and it has to do with the economic hard times faced by a country,” he said.
“When people face problems they tend to look inward to protect themselves.
“Self-preservation kicks in, which leads to xenophobic populist sentiments,” he said.
Ndletyana said this selfpreservation would likely see more white and coloured voters turning to right-wing movements in the near future.
“That is why there is a resurgence in the Western Cape, North Cape and the Eastern Cape with the likes of the FF Plus.”
But political analyst Daniel Silke said early trends showed that just as the EFF was removing populists from the ANC, so the FF Plus was taking conservatives out of the DA.
“And it’s not a bad thing for either party.
“Removing the extremes can cement the moderates – if played correctly,” he said.
Silke said the increased FF Plus vote was largely at the expense of the DA from its more rightist flank.
“It may well be both land and race issues that play into this voting group,” he said.
Constitutional law scholar Pierre de Vos said it appeared many right-wingers were abandoning the DA for the FF Plus, which was ironically using a similar fight-back slogan to the one used by the DP in 1999 to woo the same voters from the old National Party.