Kanthan Pillay. Picture: SUPPLIED
Kanthan Pillay. Picture: SUPPLIED

Capitalist Party founder Kanthan Pillay doesn’t mince his words. Affirmative action is "abhorrent"; the DA — a party he used to support — is a "clusterf**k of note" that is talking about including "constitutional blacks in its line-up"; and DA leader Mmusi Maimane is an "ungrateful little sh*t-head".

It’s a straightforwardness that may be unusual in politics. But, then, so is the party the former YFM CEO launched with little over a month to spare before the May 8 elections. The Capitalist Party (ZACP) — popularly known as the "Purple Cows" — is based around the number 10: 10 leadership members; 10 core principles; 10 plans of action. And not all of the 10 party leaders have met each other in person; they were recruited via social media, and communicate via Skype and Google Hangout.

"This is going to be difficult for many people to wrap their heads around," Pillay says. "The core team of myself, [IT businessman] Neo Kuaho and [legal consultant] Roman Cabanac recruited the rest of the team, primarily by looking across the entire spectrum of business and social media as well, to get a sense of people whose views … resonate with our 10 core principles. So I, for example, have never met Gideon [Joubert] in person. Ditto in the case of Louis Nel, who is in Durban."

It was lack of political choice, and ideas around affirmative action in particular, that pushed Pillay — a firm believer in the principles of meritocracy and equality of opportunity — to strike out and form a new party.

"The idea right now where you have white kids who have eight As who cannot get into medical school, yet black kids with a 70% pass rate are getting into medical school because the state is imposing a quota — how abhorrent is that?" he asks.

"It’s nuts. The state has decided they’re not ticking the boxes."

I don’t have to justify [promotion of firearm access], do I? I just need to get people to vote for it
Kanthan Pillay

It’s not the only controversial stance the party has taken. In light of the recent mass shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand, and that country’s response to ban automatic firearms, the Purple Cows’ promotion of firearms for self-protection has been met with disbelief.

Pillay makes it clear that he doesn’t own a gun, because he’s never needed to. However, he says: "I have daughters and I do want them to be in a position where, if they happen to be out at night and suddenly end up with a flat tyre in the middle of nowhere, [having] a firearm can mean the difference between life or death.

"We’re not advocating an American-type scenario where any idiot can pick up an assault rifle at a Walmart. If you teach kids at school the safe, competent use of firearms and get them licensed, we’re not giving them guns, we’re teaching them the skill of how to shoot, and when they do become adults — and if they choose to actually carry firearms — they are equipped to do so."

But how does he justify this promotion of firearm access in a country with one of the highest murder rates in the world, alongside high levels of violence in schools?

"I don’t have to justify [it], do I?" he says. "I just need to get people to vote for it."

He continues: "Do we trust the government with our health care? No. Do we trust the government in terms of our personal safety and security? No. Do we trust the government not to actively steal from us? No. Do we trust the government to look after our children? No … But we’re happy to say that this incompetent government must be the only people capable of carrying firearms. Are we serious?"

Pillay is as unequivocal when it comes to the ZACP’s emphasis on the free-market economy. Far from disadvantaging the poor, he believes the market empowers them, and that no country has been pulled out of poverty without capitalism.

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.

"The reason China is pulling a million people a month out of poverty is it embraced capitalism in its business dealings," he says. "The reason Russia is going to overtake the UK in terms of size of economy within a year is [it] tossed aside communism and embraced capitalism. Look at Vietnam, Rwanda, Ethiopia — all former communist countries that have embraced capitalism … and their economies are flourishing. Yet [SA is] turning around and saying: ‘Socialism will work; we just haven’t done it right so far.’

"Right now we have 17-million people who are on welfare, and 14-million who are employed. How can we sustain that when, of that 14-million, only 7.5-million pay income tax?"

It is those 7.5-million people — those who Pillay says are paying taxes and keeping the economy alive — the ZACP message is targeting.

"The government said: ‘It’s unfair that you have it [money] and you need to be giving more of it to people who have not earned it.’ We’re saying: no, actually. If you’re earning your own living, and if you are hiring other people, and if you’re paying your taxes, you should be proud of what you do to build our country and not feel guilty about it."

But what impact can a party such as the ZACP have, when it’s up against much larger, more established political players? In Pillay’s view, the more small parties there are in a country, the closer that political system comes to real democracy.

"There are so many countries in the world where governments have [run on] coalitions," he explains. "Angela Merkel’s government in Germany has been a stable one. She’s presided over an extremely stable Germany for over 13 years based on coalitions which have shifted slightly. Coalitions keep us honest. It’s impossible for one member of the coalition to exert undue influence — that goes against the principles of the others."

What it means

The ZACP believes it will win votes for its stance on affirmative action and a free-market economy

This is why he believes the DA is running scared of the Purple Cows. "[The DA has] been putting out messages that say if we split the vote, that’s going to be dangerous. The DA doesn’t have a hope in hell of governing in this coming election — it cannot form a government without a coalition."

He’s scathing about how far, in his view, the official opposition party has drifted from its original purpose. "We [the ZACP] refer to them as ‘ANC lite’. Their policy now is: ‘Look, vote for us, we’re less corrupt ... Vote for us, we have blacks too.’ It’s absurd."

He takes aim, too, at DA leader Maimane, whom he considers ungrateful for wading in on social media, "guns blazing", after Helen Zille’s controversial comments about colonialism on Twitter.

"A responsible leader would’ve picked up the phone and told her to go back and delete the tweet, as people might misinterpret it," he says. "[Instead] he forces a showdown on social media with the woman who single-handedly mentored him to power."

As for the purple cow logo, Pillay admits the motif was "shamelessly stolen" from the book of the same name by advertising doyen Seth Godin.

"In the book, Godin says if you want to stand out in a crowded field, you have to be something so entirely different that no-one can forget you — like the purple cow."

Time will tell if the ZACP has the wherewithal to stand out in next month’s elections. But Pillay himself is philosophical about the matter. "May 8 will tell me whether I was a total screw-up or not," he says. "At least I know I’m not casting [about] for a job and can return to be a productive member of corporate [SA]."