African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) President, Rev Kenneth Meshoe announced today that he is stepping down from Parliament for a while to focus on campaigning and fundraising for next year’s elections.
In a media conference to explain his temporary resignation from Parliament he said he aimed to raise election funding of R20 to R50m to raise the visibility of the party and to broaden its support base beyond its traditional Christian constituency in order to achieve its goal of achieving “double digit” representation in Parliament next year. Currently the party has three MPs.
He said his strategic exit from Parliament was his idea and has been under discussion among the party leadership since January. He said he is not leaving politics and he will remain the leader of the ACDP. He said Deputy ACDP leader, Wayne Thring, who is also the the party’s KwaZulu-Natal leader and a veteran councillor in the Ethekwini metro, will replace him in Parliament during his voluntary absence.
ACDP national executive committee chairperson Jo-Ann Downs said Meshoe has taken a sacrificial decision not to receive a salary during the time that he is out of Parliament. She said the ACDP is the only party in South Africa with conservative values which are in line with those held by the majority of South Africans. Asked about the ACDP’s target market in the 2014 polls, she said the party “will not be fishing in the Democratic Alliance’s Pond”.
Meshoe said while the party will set out to woo non Christian voters it will adhere to its Christian principles. He said other new initiatives to broaden its support base include direct approaches to the populous Zion Christian Church, targeting of disgruntled members of the ruling African National Congress and a campaign to ensure that members of all churches in SA are registered to vote. The ACDP will also talk to other Christian political parties with a view to promoting a unity process. He said talks with the UCDP have already started.
Education and housing will be major ACDP campaign issues next year, said Meshoe. The party also believes there is a need to look at reducing the power of unions in SA. He said the ACDP’s traditional pro-death penalty position is “under discussion” since a number of Catholics have joined the party.
Asked about his personal highlights in Parliament, Meshoe, who has been an MP since 1994, said it had been a privilege to serve in Parliament under the leadership style of former President Nelson Mandela that included “humility, nation building and promoting national reconciliation”. He said Mandela consulted opposition leaders ( regardless of the size of their parties) to a much greater extent than has been the practice of his successors.
He said Mandela also used to invite opposition leaders to meet all of his State visitors. He recalled a time when Mandela introduced him to the Pope, as the leader of the Christian opposition. The Pope responded by asking him if he indeed opposed Mandela, to which he replied, he did not oppose the President personally but he did oppose abortion on demand. He said the Pope then patted him on the back and said: “God bless you”.
“I believe I was the only one there who got a ‘God bless you’ from the Pope,” he said.
Meshoe also recalled that politics had been difficult during his first five years because MPs had been very intolerant of each others’ views. In those early days battles fought in the House had continued outside.
“Now the fights stay inside Parliament and we have lunch together,” he said.
“Politics in South Africa has matured and I will miss many colleagues.”