ANC loses bid to remove Zuma-backed rival from South African election ballot

By S’thembile Cele and Ntando Thukwana

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress lost a bid to have a rival party endorsed by its former leader, Jacob Zuma, removed from the ballot before elections in May.

The decision by the Electoral Court means Zuma’s uMkhonto weSizwe Party can take part in the vote, potentially eroding support for the ANC as it campaigns to avoid losing its national majority for the first time since coming to power three decades ago.

Support for the ruling party is in decline because of voter dissatisfaction with its failure to end daily power outages, create jobs, and effectively deal with rampant crime.

The rand weakened as much as 0.4% after the ruling and traded at 18.9563 per dollar by 11:39 a.m. in Johannesburg.

The court’s decision “sharpens the focus on the vote outcome,” said Robert Hoodless, co-head for forex and macro analysis at InTouch Capital. “This leaves the ANC in a somewhat more problematic position, and with it under pressure in the polls, some see a risk that it gambles with economic policy just to stay in total power.”

The ANC had sought the so-called MKP’s deregistration after arguing that it illegally used a logo similar to one used by the ANC’s military wing, which is known as uMkhonto weSizwe. The Electoral Court dismissed the application in a judgment handed down on Tuesday.

“There is nothing unlawful about the registration” of the MKP, Judge Leicester Adams said in the ruling in Johannesburg. “The application is dismissed with no order as to costs,” fellow Judge Lebogang Modiba said.

Launched in September 2023, the MKP gained national attention in December when Zuma publicly endorsed the party and said he wouldn’t vote for the ANC. Zuma, 81, ruled South Africa for nine years that were marred by scandal, including allegations of deep-seated corruption and the looting of billions of taxpayer funds. He has denied wrongdoing.

Jacob Zuma, former president of South Africa.

Opinion polls in South Africa suggest the ANC will lose support to the MKP in the election. A survey conducted by the Brenthurst Foundation and the SABI Strategy Group this month found that the ANC’s share of the vote may drop to below 40%, compared with 58% in the last election in 2019, and that the MKP would garner 13% of the ballot.

MKP leaders have threatened civil unrest should the party be excluded from the election. That warning raised fears of a repeat of violence that erupted in July 2021, when more than 350 people died after Zuma was arrested for contempt of court.

ANC Chairman Gwede Mantashe said after the ruling that his party sees no threat from the MKP.

“That is not where the threat comes from,” he said in an interview with Bloomberg TV. “It is going to be a nuisance, but the threat is coming from” the Inkatha Freedom Party in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province, he said.

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