Bad blood between CR, Julius & Zuma should keep RET bloc out of power-share…

A lot of “bad blood” between President Cyril Ramaphosa on the one hand and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) Julius Malema and Floyd Shivambo as well as MK leader Jacob Zuma is likely to prevent a coalition between the Radical Economic Transformation (RET) parties and the ruling African National Congress (ANC). Instead, the ANC is more likely to team up with the opposition Democratic Alliance-led Multi-Party Charter (MPC) for a post-election coalition government. So says Senior Africa Analyst Ziyanda Stuurman of the Eurasia Group in this election preview with BizNews. “…in a lot of conversations I’ve had with political leaders as part of my day job, a thread that’s very clearly coming through is that none of them want the EFF anyway close to real power or authority. And I think that that’s a pretty powerful kind of motivating force, particularly then when you add the MK into that sort of mix.” She also says that MK is not just an ANC problem, but “an everybody’” problem – and that its advent on the political scene is changing the campaign strategies of a number of parties.

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Summary of the interview

In an interview between BizNews journalist Chris Steyn and Ziyanda Stuurman from the Eurasia Group, they discussed the impact of former President Jacob Zuma’s MK party on the upcoming elections. Stuurman noted that MK has significantly influenced various parties’ strategies, especially in KwaZulu-Natal, complicating dynamics for parties like the ANC, IFP, DA, and EFF. Despite some viewing MK as solely an ANC problem, recent by-election results suggest fluidity in support across parties.

Regarding MK’s potential national vote share, Stuurman indicated varying projections, with estimates ranging from 10% to 35% in KwaZulu-Natal. However, she expressed skepticism about MK’s governance capabilities, considering its lack of serious policy and reliance on Zuma’s influence. Stuurman predicted that if MK secures a substantial vote share, they may seek power through transactional politics, possibly becoming kingmakers in coalition negotiations.

Stuurman also discussed the possibility of Radical Economic Transformation (RET) parties forming a bloc and their influence on potential coalition scenarios. She suggested that if the ANC fails to secure a majority, they might prefer a Multi-Party Charter option over aligning with RET forces to keep parties like the EFF at bay.

Lastly, Stuurman deemed a government of national unity involving MK, EFF, ANC, and Multi-Party Charter parties as unlikely due to significant ideological differences and leaders’ inability to prioritize public interests over personal politics.

Full transcript of the interview ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

Chris Steyn (00:02.289)

MK and coalitions have become bywords for the upcoming election. We speak to Africa analyst, Ziyanda Stuurman of the Eurasia group based in New York. Welcome Ziyanda.

Ziyanda Stuurman (00:17.398)

Thank you so much for having me.

Chris Steyn (00:21.777)

How would you describe the impact former president Jacob Zuma’s MK party has had on the political landscape in the run up to the election?

Ziyanda Stuurman (00:32.182)

Yeah, I think it’s been an incredibly powerful impact. It’s, I think, scrambled a couple of different parties’ strategies around what they’re thinking about, how they’re approaching the election. I think particularly the very fascinating dynamics in KwaZulu-Natal have been even further sort of complicated by the entrance of the MK. It’s very interesting because…a lot of parties like the Inkatha Freedom Party, the Democratic Alliance, and even to a certain extent the EFF, are all insisting that the MK is an ANC problem, that the ANC is going to have to figure out what to do with that party and its campaign strategy. But I think the interesting thing about the by-election results that we’ve seen in February and March, and given that the MK has contested in about three or four of those by-elections, they really suggest that there’s actually some fluidity and movement between some supporters from the ANC, from the IFP and the EFF into the MK. And so therefore, it’s not really an exclusively ANC problem, it’s an everybody problem.

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And I think that if you see a push by the MK into provinces like Mpumalanga, possibly the North West, even into Gauteng, that becomes an even more sort of complicated and scrambled picture. So it’s, yeah, I think it’s had a large impact. I don’t know if it’s going to be as big as the media impact. You know, this is a party that’s made a huge splash. Of course, Jacob Zuma, for many people, the last time they saw him was July 2021, having a huge impact on politics. So I don’t know if we’re really going to see the same sort of big media splash actually at the ballot box, see it actually manifest there. But it’s definitely changing, I think, a lot of campaign strategies for a number of parties.

Chris Steyn (02:42.321)

That’s what I want to ask you. According to your projections, and I know they are very difficult to make, what percentage of the national vote is MK likely to get?

Ziyanda Stuurman (02:51.958)

That’s a tough one. It’s hard to read the tea leaves, I think, in a really sort of mixed environment this way. The number of different polling houses that have tried to either project and sort of try to model some data…I think it’s SRF, the Social Research Foundation, has them possibly as high as 25% in KwaZulu Natal.

I know there was an ENCA poll a couple of weeks ago that had them as 35% in KwaZulu Natal. So those are really, really big numbers, I think. And…it really depends on when that data was collected. I think if you had collected it in the immediate aftermath of Jacob Zuma launching the party on the 16th of December, you’d probably get numbers as high as that. Now that all of the parties launched their manifestos with the EFF, IFP and ANC, all competing to launch their manifestos in Durban specifically, I think maybe those numbers have moderated a little bit. There’s really something to be said about mobilising supporters in the last couple of weeks of an election. We know that the ANC and the EFF to a certain extent are really particularly good at getting voters out to marches, to stadiums and to filling up stadiums. The IFP did a particularly good job in this cycle of filling up Moses Madiba.

So we’re really talking here about a lot of competing interests in KwaZulu-Natal, and I don’t know that there’s going to be one party that just runs away with the numbers. I think it may be a kind of shuffled and unbalanced sort of vote share. That being said, I think it’s reasonably possible to find the MK somewhere in about…maybe 10, 15% in KwaZulu-Natal. That’s a respectable number. That I think will translate, we’ll hear what the IEC says about seat calculations, but I think that will probably translate to three or four seats in the National Assembly. And so in that sense, and that’s just from KwaZulu-Natal. If they, again, catch fire to a certain extent in Mpumalanga, Gauteng, elsewhere, they may pick up a seat or two there as well. But I’m a little bit more measured in my calculation of what may happen with MK and I don’t know that they’ll get to 30% to 25% etc.

Chris Steyn (05:34.481)

Well, if they do get a powerful share of the vote, how do you think they are likely to use that?

Ziyanda Stuurman (05:40.854)

That’s a really good question. I don’t think that this is a particularly serious party. They don’t have a serious governance agenda. Their policy is made up on the fly. Often, whatever it is that Jacob Zuma says, they sort of tout as their policy. A lot of that has been around possibly reversing the Civil Union Act. He’s said things about conscripting young people into the military, sending pregnant mothers to Robben Island, those sort of strange socially conservative, weird, I guess, sort of policy proposals, and I think in any other cycle, if they didn’t have Jacob Zuma, this would be a party, a fringe party that we’d be talking about, maybe a 1% sort of, you know, attraction or vote share. And I think that really to me shows that this is a party that is really built around the sort of cult of personality of Jacob Zuma. I think you can see it in the people that it’s attracted, Visvin Reddy, you know, Bonginkosi Khanyile, these are all sort of, again, fringe political figures. And so in that sense, I think that they’ll govern exactly, that their policy agenda will be exactly that, the sort of strange, mavericky, you know, constantly trying to get something from the ANC, probably. You know, I think they’ll be an incredibly sort of transactional party. Again…if they end up even with the 10, 15, maybe even 20% in KwaZulu-Natal, that puts them in quite a powerful position as a kingmaker in terms of, you know, they could sway the control of KZN possibly between the ANC or, you know, the IFP plus the DA, FF plus, et cetera, in KwaZulu-Natal. So I think you’d see…you know, demands from them basically for positions, contracts, you know, procurement processes, etc.

Chris Steyn (07:50.417)

Now if all the Radical Economic Transformation parties formed a bloc, what percentage of the vote could that possibly amount to?

Ziyanda Stuurman (07:59.926)

That’s a very good question. I think if you’re looking at KwaZulu-Natal, the EFF is at about 10% there. They got 10% in that province in 2019. I think sort of paired with the MK, if it does particularly well, it could get about that sort of 20-ish percent together.

That’s, again, as I was just saying, a big sort of swing one way or the other. And that may sort of require, I think particularly in KwaZulu-Natal, may require a level of political maturity from some of the bigger traditional parties that we haven’t seen so far. I think…that may be the type of situation that pushes the ANC and the IFP together in KwaZulu-Natal, for example. It may be the type of thing that, you know, where again, the big traditional parties there, DA, IFP, ANC, they have to come together to form a bloc and a sort of stable coalition. You know, in a lot of conversations I’ve had with political leaders as part of my day job, a thread that’s very clearly coming through is that none of them want the EFF anyway close to real power or authority. And I think that that’s a pretty powerful kind of motivating force, particularly then when you add the MK into that sort of mix. I think similarly at the national level, the EFF has been on a sustained bump in terms of their polling numbers since their anniversary celebrations in I think it was June or July last year. And they’re polling at about, depending on the polls, you’re looking at 15 to 18%. You add another two, three, 4% from the MK… again, you’re looking at possibly at the national level, another sort of close to 20%. So we’re, I think, talking about a situation here where these parties, specifically the MK, but to a certain extent, the EFF as well, are angling for these sort of powerful kingmaker positions. And I think we’ve seen, you know, the Patriotic Alliance, for example, in Gauteng, a couple of other sort of very transactional parties that have popped up in the last few years, that becomes part of that narrative, that they could be kingmakers and it takes just a percent or two, you know, for them to swing a lot of things in either direction.

Chris Steyn (10:47.217)

Quite so if the African National Congress does not get an outright majority and it’s now faced with these two choices, the RET forces on the one hand, the Multi-Party Charter led by the opposition Democratic Alliance on the other hand, are you saying that they are more likely to go with the Multi-Party Charter option to keep the EFF out of power?

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Ziyanda Stuurman (11:12.342)

I think so. And especially if there’s the possibility of the MK being able to influence again policy making processes. I often remind people that there is a lot of bad blood between specifically Julius Malema and Floyd Shivambo on the one side and Cyril Ramaphosa on the other. Ramaphosa chaired the disciplinary panel that expelled the two of them from the party. And truly, honestly, if it wasn’t for that process, I think both of those men would still be in the ANC today. And they’d probably be close to a cabinet position or some sort of other powerful appointment. So there’s no love lost between those two men.

And I think very, very similarly, I struggle to see a scenario in which, you know, Jacob Zuma and Cyril Ramaphosa could kind of patch things up again and work together in a coalition. So that’s always sort of interesting colour and context to think about the choices that the ANC will have to make.

Chris Steyn (12:21.201)

Yes, also economically that may be the preferred option for the country. But may we look at a possible third scenario, a government of national unity where MK and the EFF and the ANC and the Multi-Party Charter are accommodated in a peaceful solution. Do you think that could happen?

Ziyanda Stuurman (12:49.334)

I think the chances of that are probably pretty slim. I think that across those five or six parties, just themselves, there are big, big, big ideological differences. And yes, it would create the political unity that I think a number of South Africans may want to see. Our politics has become more hostile. It’s become more high stakes, there’s more to lose across the board in terms of having bad policymaking or governance over the next couple of years. But I think the thing that’s always missing from the equation is that we haven’t really seen our leaders be able to put petty personal politics aside to come together effectively. I think it’s heartbreaking, honestly, to see how dysfunctional the city of Johannesburg has become. And it’s ordinary people now who are bearing the brunt of poor water infrastructure, so much happening around the electricity situation, roads falling apart, basic infrastructure just no longer being able to support the residents of the city of Johannesburg. So I think we’re all, at the end of the day, poorer for a situation where our politicians can’t come together and put the public’s interests first as opposed to essentially their own desires.

Chris Steyn (14:25.073)

Thank you. Thank you. That was the Ziyanda Stuurman of the EurAsia Group speaking to BizNews about the upcoming election. I’m Chris Steyn. Thank you.

Ziyanda Stuurman (14:37.814)

Thanks so much Chris, that was great.

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