Prof. Michael Herbst

South Africa’s recently formed gay and lesbian political party has dropped out of this year’s election race.

Last month, Michael Herbst, founder of the Equal Rights Party, made international news when he announced that the party had registered to contest the upcoming national elections.

He said that he hoped to secure a number of seats in Parliament in order to tackle issues affecting gay and lesbian people, including so called ‘corrective rape,’ African anti-gay laws and bullying of LGBTI youth.

On Wednesday, however, Herbst admitted to Mambaonline that the party had failed to secure sufficient funding to go ahead with its plans.

All political parties have until close of business today to pay a R200,000 deposit to the Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) in order to contest the national elections on May 7.

Herbst, a retired UNISA professor of health studies, said that despite his best efforts to raise the money locally and internationally, he had not been successful.

“I’m very disappointed because I believe that I have a calling and responsibility towards the LGBTI community,” he said.

Herbst added that he backed the failed last-minute legal bid by Julius Malema from the EFF (Economic Freedom Fighters) to force the IEC to reduce the prohibitive election deposit.

“My feeling is that they [the government] are making it impossible for smaller parties to take part, because they know that smaller groups can add a lot of pressure on them,” Herbst said.

On Tuesday, the Pretoria High Court dismissed the EFF’s application. Herbst blamed Malema for the legal defeat; commenting that his saying that the EFF was able to pay the deposit had led to the judge’s ruling that the application was not an urgent one.

While disappointed, Herbst insisted that he still has hopes for the party’s future.

“Well, it is still registered and we’ll see what we can do; see if we can get a better structure and organisation and see what happens with the next election.”

In May 2012, the GLBTI Party of South Africa was launched by Nicholas Gregory, a marketing and design executive from Bloemfontein, with the intention of contesting this year’s elections.

After the party issued a few press releases it appeared to fizzle out and is not listed as being registered with the IEC. Its website also no longer exists.

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