voter in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
voter in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

I have a ballot from the 1994 South African elections – the first truly democratic elections in that country and the one that saw Madiba become president. It’s a long, legal-sized sheet of paper with about 18 parties listed. Each political party registered for the election is named along with the party logo and a small picture of the party leader. This was so that people who couldn’t read or write could pick the person or the party they supported. So the ballot lists the ANC with its logo, and a picture of Nelson Mandela beside it.  The National Party had a picture of F.W. de Klerk, and so on. 


There is one party and one face missing from those elections – the Inkatha Freedom Party and Mangosuthu Buthelezi. The IFP boycotted the 1994 election, trying to hold out for a Zulu homeland within or without the new South Africa. The IFP were added to the ballot after the ANC offered Buthelezi a Cabinet post in the new ANC coalition government and just before the elections. But I returned to Canada before this happened, so no Buthelezi on my copy.

But I really wanted to talk about a small party that I have come to like, if only because it is just too cute for words. Sorry, no other words for it. It was one of the original parties registered in 1994 and, unlike most of the parties listed on my 1994 ballot, it is still in existence. It failed to run in 1998, but took part in the 2004 elections. It is the Keep It Straight and Simple Party, or KISS.  My ballot has KISS listed, with a lipstick kiss as its logo, and pictures of the party leader and her daughter.

KISS today has no candidate other than its leader, and only member, Claire Gaiford. This is how she describes KISS and its origins (follow the link to read a bit more from SA’s Mail & Guardian).

“People always ask me how do I join and I tell them you don’t have to join, just vote,” she says.”I was looking at the politics of the country and I thought to myself, well, one more fool won’t make a difference.” 

She asked her daughter to type a constitution, then put on some red lipstick and pressed her lips to the paper and KISS was born.