Judges in MK Party/Zuma case against IEC, ‘took the soft option’ – Prof Theo Venter

Former President Jacob Zuma can contest the election as one of the candidates for the uMkhonto weSizwe Party. It follows after the Electoral Court dismissed the Independent Electoral’s (IEC) objection to Zuma’s inclusion because he has been convicted of a crime. It will mean that Zuma could be back in Parliament if the MK Party garners enough support on 29 May. Political analyst, Prof Theo Venter said in an interview with Biznews that the judges took the soft option rather than strictly adhering to constitutional principles. Zuma, he says has the cunning ability, like former U.S President Donald Trump to put the system under pressure. Venter said he believes that the five judges on the bench were swayed by extra-judicial issues like the potential for violence. Should the IEC decide to take the matter to the Constitutional Court, Venter said it would not be before the elections. He described the May elections as almost unpredictable, now. Zuma’s inclusion on the MK Party’s ballot is going to be a game-changer, Venter said. 

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Summary of the interview

In an interview with political analyst Theo Venter, conducted by Linda van Tilburg for BizNews, the discussion centered on the recent court battle involving the newly formed MK Party and the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) regarding former President Jacob Zuma’s eligibility for the May elections. Venter noted surprise at the court’s decision, highlighting the technical aspects versus arguments of potential violence raised during the case. He expressed concerns about the uncertainty and potential impact of allowing Zuma to participate in the elections legally, predicting a significant media focus shift. Venter outlined scenarios for the election results, ranging from the dominant ANC maintaining power to potential coalitions and shifts in parliamentary dynamics. He emphasized the unpredictable nature of the election, particularly with the emergence of the MK Party as a potentially significant player despite lacking traditional organizational structures. The interview concluded with a discussion on the post-election parliamentary process and the potential for further instability or horse-trading depending on the election outcomes. Venter’s analysis highlighted the complex and dynamic political landscape in South Africa, with implications for governance and coalition-building post-election.

Extended transcript of the interview ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

00:00:07:01 – 00:00:29:03
Linda van Tilburg: I am Linda van Tilburg for Biznews. This week, the newly formed MK Party was involved in a court battle with the Independent Electoral Commission on former President Jacob Zuma’s eligibility to be included on the list of candidates of the IEC party for the May elections. And we have Professor Theo Venter, a political analyst, to delve into this decision.

00:00:29:05 – 00:00:35:20
Linda van Tilburg: Well, thanks for joining us, Theo. And can we ask you this is not a surprise, is it?

00:00:35:22 – 00:01:20:04
Theo Venter: Well, in a sense, it is a surprise because I thought with five judges sitting on the bench, the technical aspects of whether somebody is eligible to be eligible to go to parliament or not would be decided on technical meant the opposition for Zuma was arguing, I would say, extra judicial issues in terms of the potential violence. And listen that the other the the the IEC argued strictly on the the clause that determined whether you pass the the the different hurdles or not.

00:01:20:10 – 00:01:58:19
Theo Venter: And they indicated at each level where he failed. But if you take the external view like the Mpofu did and you you take that approach, I think that judges were swayed. Now, we do not have a written outcome of the court case. They said it will be supplied later, but Nima does. But in any case, I think personally the judge just took the soft option yet, rather than to force the technical nature of what the Constitution says, what the Electoral Act says, and they look really at other issues.

00:01:58:19 – 00:02:28:02
Theo Venter: And so now we have a situation that in December, when it became known that Jacob Zuma will be the face of this party, which I was warned in September last year that an MK party has been established and I thought nothing of it. I thought it’s another weirdo organizing a small level name within the 378 parties or whatever are registered for national elections.

00:02:28:04 – 00:02:54:11
Theo Venter: Everything changed when Zuma announced that he will be the face of the party, and ever since then, I think the system was under pressure, not Zuma, the system. He has this canny ability of a few other politicians, and I can only think of Donald Trump having the same where he puts the system under stress and not the system and what we now have.

00:02:54:12 – 00:03:29:23
Theo Venter: Well, let me let me first argue. If he lost the case today. In other words, if his appeal didn’t succeed, he would have, I think, milked the media with this approach that I’m the victim in this case. The system is against me. The politicians don’t want me. And and you can you can actually write a book about all the arguments about being a victim and and while I’m saying it I wonder if he and Donald Trump kind of exchange notes or something because this there’s a similarity.

00:03:30:01 – 00:04:05:07
Theo Venter: But that would have given him a huge benefit of the media. And so for now that he’s allowed to be on the ballot, his face is already on the ballot. And there was an argument whether his face could stay even if he isn’t there. His face can stay. Now, that wasn’t a difficult decision. I think the IEC tomorrow will decide he’s face going to stay because Buthelezi face is on the ballot and and then he deceased last year.

00:04:05:07 – 00:04:29:21
Theo Venter: So I don’t think the face is an issue but now that he’s allowed I don’t think the media attention will be so focused on his victimship. It would it would it would now focus on the issues that MK does not have I haven’t seen their Constitution, I haven’t seen their manifesto. I haven’t seen their election of leaders.

00:04:30:02 – 00:05:01:13
Theo Venter: I haven’t seen the structure. Nothing of the nature. So, yeah, we’ve got a political party that in some surveys may even get up to 20 to 25% of the vote in KwaZulu-Natal without any of these basic elements that one would expect from a political party. Therefore, we’ve got a different kettle of fish. We’ve got something here that I think is going to be a game changer in our election coming the 29th of May.

Read more: Jacob Zuma wins court battle, cleared to run in May 2024 election

00:05:01:15 – 00:05:06:03
Linda van Tilburg: So do you think we’ll have Zuma back in Parliament?

00:05:06:05 – 00:05:38:18
Theo Venter: I well, he’s number one on the list. So obviously the let’s just work out the calculations briefly. If we assume that there’s going to be a voter turnout of about 60%, that’s just assuming and the voting population in KwaZulu-Natal is given say 6 million. Now 60% of 6 million is about 4 million people that will go to the polls if the party gets 20% of 4 million.

00:05:38:23 – 00:06:10:04
Theo Venter: Well, that gives you 800,000 people, give or take 800,000 people divided by 50,000 gives you anything from 15 to 20 seats in Parliament. So MK will be in Parliament at the level which is equal to that the EFF had two elections ago and what COPE had three elections ago. So it’s significant if those numbers are sustainable.

00:06:10:06 – 00:06:48:02
Theo Venter: The big question here is can the MK party without the organizing structure that the others have and they sustain an election like this which is comparable to the media attention? What do I mean by that? Do you have the logistics to get people to the polls? Do you have the networks? Do you have all these organizing capabilities, which of course the ANC, has the DA has there are several other parties with nice party machinery that kicks into action when we approach an election.

00:06:48:08 – 00:07:09:16
Theo Venter: M.K. doesn’t have it. And so my expectation is, yes, they into the election now with Zuma, but whether it will have the effect that they think they’re going to have now that he’s allowed legally to participate in the election, I don’t think so.

00:07:09:18 – 00:07:28:12
Linda van Tilburg: Well, let’s just get back to the IEC, because their argument was quite sturdy. And as you say, they might have been other factors that persuaded the judges to decide that, you know, Zuma’s face can be on the ballot paper. What do you think is the position of the IEC? How would the IEC be viewed in, you know, after this?

00:07:28:14 – 00:08:00:11
Theo Venter: Well, I would play Zuma Zuma. If I’m the IEC, I’ll appeal this decision through the constitutional court because there’s a very, very important issue here. And the issue is that certain categories of people are not allowed to stand as legislators. And there’s a very specific arrangement. And I thought the arrangement is sturdy. Like you said, it’s cast in stone.

00:08:00:12 – 00:08:25:10
Theo Venter: But when the argument yesterday emerged about the remission of his sentence, is it a parole? Is it the remission? Is it the end of the sentence? I sense a crack in this sturdy argument and I think if we see the written arguments of the judges afterwards, I think they will be barking up that tree. And that is definitely appealable.

00:08:25:12 – 00:08:34:23
Linda van Tilburg: So did President Ramaphosa actually leave the door open for him by that decision of of the remission of his sentence?

00:08:35:00 – 00:09:00:18
Theo Venter: I don’t think Ramaphosa thought of that. Let me explain to you. There were several cases which Ngcukaitobi indicated yesterday where you get a sentence. Let’s say you get a sentence for life. That means for the rest of your life. But then you are given parole. And we can think of several individuals in that case. McBride. We can think of Oscar Pistorius.

00:09:00:18 – 00:09:30:00
Theo Venter: So we can think of several people that had long sentences, then they receive a reprieve or a remission or a parole. The original sentence stand the fact that they only served, lets say two thirds or the third, or in Zuma’s case, virtually only two days or maybe a week, I’m not sure. And that is of academic importance. Now, the judges made that of significance.

00:09:30:00 – 00:09:56:09
Theo Venter: And that is a very, very serious change. And I am sure. And once the shock of the decision is over and I was worried when that every time a decision is moved out, it’s not 12:00, it’s 1:00, it’s not 1:00, it’s 2:00. Then I think our our noses for analysis picks up. Something is going on.

00:09:56:13 – 00:10:19:18
Theo Venter: They. But yeah, I don’t think this is the end of it but I don’t think anybody could do anything anymore towards the election. What we will what we will in the history pick up is the Zuma case. The Zuma guys will definitely be at this case and it may happen. That once he’s elected and he sits in parliament as a backbencher.

00:10:19:20 – 00:10:26:23
Theo Venter: And maybe even then, which means Parliament is now going to say, Sorry, sir, but you got in through the wrong gate.

00:10:27:01 – 00:10:38:18
Linda van Tilburg: And well so you think the Constitutional Court costs if the IEC appeals, the Constitutional Court can’t sit before the election? It will have to be after the election .

00:10:39:00 – 00:11:12:20
Theo Venter: Probably, probably and that is the that is the sense of the wheels of justice are turning slowly. And we know that the constitutional court justice, a very, very little time for for Jacob Zuma. Stalingrad standard. And so at least we can give Dali Mpofu the credit that he has lost so many cases over the last two years trying to get Zuma out of court and out of prison and out of this and out of that.

00:11:12:22 – 00:11:18:10
Theo Venter: At least this way he can tick off saying, well, at least this one, I got it right.

00:11:18:15 – 00:11:30:21
Linda van Tilburg: You said in the beginning, the judge just took the soft option. Do you think they were actually a little bit intimidated by the prospect of violence that some of the MK parties said they could be.

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

00:11:30:23 – 00:12:08:06
Theo Venter: Without doubt and what concerned me was the questions the judges asked during the trial indicated to me a level of uncertainty, a level of they are not exactly sure. And they grilled Ngcukaitobi on several issues about the IEC case. And I think that is where the difficulty started. And I would love to see how the written case is going to look what arguments.

00:12:08:06 – 00:12:34:18
Theo Venter: But I think the argument is going to center around the meaning of remission and Dali Mpofu, I think when he argued that this sentence was 15 months and it was remissed after three months, so they need to stop. I thought Ngcukaitobi was absolutely correct, saying, listen, whether I am and he even used the case of Robert McBride or Robert McBride took somebody.

00:12:34:19 – 00:13:19:10
Theo Venter: to court because this person called him a murderer because there was a case of the, the, the bombing at Magoo’s Bar and everything that so the case eventually the judges said, no, you are you are freed. You received the remission of your sentence. You even received an amnesty. Now an amnesty is if you look at the at the origin of the word amnesty, amnesia has some reference, it means if you received amnesty is the system has forgotten about your sin or the system has completely taken your sentence out of the system.

00:13:19:12 – 00:13:39:12
Theo Venter: But the original court case stands the original conviction stands. You can’t get away from that. And I thought that argument was a strong argument in the case of Zuma and that the fact that the only served a very, very small portion of his sentence was neither here nor there.

00:13:39:14 – 00:13:56:23
Linda van Tilburg: So what are you predicting now, if you can, at this stage for the election results? Because you said earlier that you think the ANC might push it over the line with some of the smaller parties. Now that MK seems a bigger factor. Do you still think so?

00:13:57:01 – 00:14:29:22
Theo Venter: No, I don’t think so. I, I looked at it and I thought there are four possible outcomes or scenarios, if you want to call it. The first one is the dominant party continues. That means the ANC gets anything above 46% and they have a coalition with one or two smaller parties. They make up the 51% to get Ramaphosa elected as president and they continue business as normal.

00:14:30:00 – 00:15:10:04
Theo Venter: That’s the one scenario that scenario is possible, especially when we have a low voter turnout, because with the low voter turnout that is below 60%, it benefits the bigger parties like the DA and the ANC. Their systems are better. The logistics are better and all those kind of that’s the first scenario. The second scenario is a scenario where the ANC, due to the efficiency of the effectiveness of MK in KZN and in Gauteng and in north west and in Mpumalanga so at least in four province, make up, let’s say, 10% of the national vote.

00:15:10:06 – 00:15:33:06
Theo Venter: It sounds like incredible, but it is possible. Statistically, that means the EFF is going to lose votes because a lot of the MK guys are currently voting EFF and they will now move to MK because now they’ve got a home, a political home, despite the fact that this party doesn’t have a manifesto nor elected leadership, what of what?

00:15:33:12 – 00:16:01:03
Theo Venter: Doesn’t matter. They vote for Zuma and they vote for that kind of approach. That means the ANC can then be pushed down to a point where they have 38% of the vote, or at least below 40% of the vote. The EFF and MK together have 20% of the vote. What what is the options for the ANC? Now, the ANC must start looking at a grand coalition.

00:16:01:05 – 00:16:29:09
Theo Venter: Now it approaches the DA with 20% of the vote, so that will give them 50% plus. The question is what happens to the MPC the multiparty charter? Are they going to fall apart under this scenario? So there is a fear among the members that the DA may jump ship or something like that, or even the IFP may jump ship if they are doing well.

00:16:29:11 – 00:17:03:06
Theo Venter: So that scenario I would call looking for friends in some way or another the scenario where the MK even does better. And the EFF also I would call the revenge of Zuma. In other words, he always said, I’ve got a surprise for you. I’ve got some things now he’s doing it. And so it will it will bring and that’s why I call this court case.

00:17:03:06 – 00:17:29:21
Theo Venter: And the decision of the court case as being part of the game changer. But there’s also a scenario where M.K. gets only two or 3% of the vote because they are not organized and the ANC gets what we think it will get and it will the main opposition, the multiparty conference will be the main opposition, the EFF will suffer under these conditions.

00:17:29:23 – 00:18:04:00
Theo Venter: And then we were concerned really about nothing. So the MK brings in a level of uncertainty into the election. They’ve only been polled once. And in that poll and we’re not exactly sure about the integrity of that poll, they received 24% of the vote in KZN which is incredible. And then the only other three things we have about them are three by elections in which they participated, where they’ve got sizable support, one in Mpumalanga, and two in KwaZulu-Natal.

00:18:04:01 – 00:18:15:08
Theo Venter: Then if you take that small little sample in those three elections, then we have an element in this election that is almost unpredictable.

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00:18:15:10 – 00:18:19:12
Linda van Tilburg: Well, it’s unpredictable. It’s going to be quite unstable in parliament, it seems.

00:18:19:14 – 00:18:47:08
Theo Venter: No, not in parliament. Remember what happens in parliament, and this is quite interesting that you mention it and ten days after the election or ten days after the election result that has been confirmed, Parliament must sit, and then the first order of business is the old government then stops to govern. This takes over, in our case probably.

00:18:47:08 – 00:18:49:02
Theo Venter: The Acting Speaker.

00:18:49:04 – 00:18:50:15
Linda van Tilburg: Yeah.

00:18:50:17 – 00:19:17:11
Theo Venter: And, and he or she will then ask the 400 members of Parliament for nominations for the President and then the President gets elected and then he takes over and then the whole system runs the normal way. But let’s say they can’t get a president elected this there’s just no nobody that gets 50% plus one. What is the scenario then?

00:19:17:11 – 00:19:48:00
Theo Venter: Well, according to the constitution, the parliament then disbands and the new elect will be proclaimed within, I think, 14 working days. And then we will have a second election to see if we can get a better result. So we must also bring that into consideration because if these numbers are looking like they’re currently looking, we are really going to have an interesting composition of Parliament.

00:19:48:00 – 00:19:50:04
Theo Venter: 30 years after 1994.

00:19:50:08 – 00:19:57:20
Linda van Tilburg: And there’s going to be a lot of horse trading. It’s going to be interesting to watch that as well. Thank you, Professor Theo Venter, for speaking to us.

00:19:57:22 – 00:19:59:02
Theo Venter: My pleasure. As always.

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