🔒 Hartford: ANC’s 2024 troubles multiply – Zuma announces support for challenger party

As former President Zuma contemplates departing from the African National Congress (ANC), South Africa appears poised for a political earthquake. The announcement, set to be made in Soweto tomorrow (Saturday, Dec 16), has the potential to dramatically weaken the already labouring ANC as it heads into next year’s elections. Zuma personifies the radical economic transformation (RET) faction, which has a tumultuous history with current President Cyril Ramaphosa. Although details of tomorrow’s announcement have been kept tight, odds favour Zuma named as leader of a new, well-named political entity registered with the IEC three months ago to content the national elections in 2024. However, it could be possible that the King of Nkandla decides to throw his weight behind the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). Either way, the former president, whose popularity remains exceptionally high in his home province of KZN, will surely draw many votes away from the ANC.

UPDATE:

In a significant political development, former president Jacob Zuma announced he would not be voting for the ANC but for a new party, the Umkhonto We Sizwe (MK) Party, in the 2024 elections in South Africa. In a speech in Soweo on Saturday, this announcement was made, he said, after consultations with various societal leaders, including religious and traditional leaders, former combatants, and leaders of about 10 registered progressive political parties. He said these discussions aim to foster unity among historically oppressed and dispossessed groups in South Africa.

The MK Party seeks to address issues of land ownership, justice, and economic freedom, advocating for the return of land to its rightful African owners. The party emphasizes unity and collective effort in overcoming the current socio-economic crisis, drawing inspiration from the struggle against Apartheid. A Patriotic Front and a voting bloc are being discussed, focusing on a 10-point consensus program to navigate the crisis.

The party’s approach marks a shift from violent resistance to democratic participation, using the ballot instead of the bullet. This change is attributed to the sacrifices of past freedom fighters, signalling a peaceful revolution for radical change. The MK Party’s formal launch and its leadership announcement will occur in early 2024, amidst discussions on black unity and the Patriotic Front. The party’s formation and strategy reflect a renewed commitment to addressing long-standing socio-economic disparities in South Africa.

By Dirk Hartford

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If, as expected, SA’s former President Zuma does indeed announce that he is leaving the ANC tomorrow, it will be a watershed moment for the political party and the country. Chances of the ANC actually splitting in the run-up to next year’s elections will take a giant leap forward.

Because what Zuma symbolically and actually represents is the amorphous radical economic transformation (RET) minority faction in the ANC. In other words, all those in the party opposed to the dominant faction led by incumbent President Cyril Ramaphosa. The RET faction is sizeable and deeply embedded at all levels of the organisation, government and the public sector.

The RET faction, represented in Ramaphosa’s cabinet by Zuma’s ex-wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, was only narrowly defeated by Ramaphosa at the ANC’s national elective conference in 2017. Although Ramaphosa considerably widened his victory margin at last year’s national conference when he ran against disgraced RET faction leader Zweli Mkhise, it was not exactly a landslide.

The RET faction’s genesis was in the “tsunami” within the ANC under Thabo Mbeki, which led to the then-fired and apparently marginalised ex-deputy president Zuma ousting Mbeki as ANC leader at Polokwane in 2007 and then becoming State President in 2009.

Karl Marx once said that history repeats itself as tragedy and as farce. Sadly, the tragedy of the “nine wasted Zuma years” didn’t stop there, and Ramaphosa has added his version of the tragedy in his six wasted years to date. Ramaphosa’s bankrupt leadership has only provided grist to the mill of his RET opponents in the ANC and government.

So, what farce might Zuma and his RET acolytes have in store for South Africa? There seem to be only two possibilities, but who knows for sure when it comes to that wily old fox Zuma?

Either he is going to announce the formation of a new political organisation, which seems most likely – or he is going to join up with his erstwhile nemesis Julius Malema’s EFF. 

A development which has opened the second option is another Zuma lover, Carl Niehaus, yesterday announcing he was winding up his recently formed “political party” and throwing in his lot with the EFF. Malema has been openly extending an olive branch to Zuma recently, and rumour has it that they have also met secretly.

Zuma’s firebrand daughter Duduzile and his Gupta-linked son Duduzane are both close to and admirers of the EFF, though they have their political ambitions as well.

If Zuma were to link up with the EFF, and if the RET faction were to follow him, it would dramatically change the political scenario overnight. For starters, it would, in all likelihood, put paid to the DA/Inkatha coalition’s hopes of governing KZN after next year’s elections.

The KZN region is the ANC’s biggest and is already under the control of the RET “Taliban” faction. Although polls indicate that the ANC is in steep decline there, a hook-up with the rapidly ascending EFF with Zuma on board could be a liferaft for the Taliban bunch to retain KZN power by another means.

However, it seems unlikely that an old war horse like the 81-year-old Zuma would bow to the dictates of a new young stallion in 42-year-old Julius Malema, no matter how much in common they might have: primarily their mutual hatred of Ramaphosa and lust for power.

So, it is more likely that Zuma will form or join a new political party. And here there’s a strong hint: In September, a new organisation called Umkhonto weSizwe, headquartered in Durban and with a logo almost identical to that of the ANC’s armed wing MK, quietly registered with the IEC to participate in next year’s election. Rumour has it Zuma is to head up this organisation’s election campaign.

Despite his age, Zuma is not to be underestimated. Remember, before ousting Mbeki from power in 2007, his corruption-checkered political career appeared dead and buried. 

It is because, from being the head of the notorious ANC intelligence arm Imbokodo (“the rock that crushes”) in exile to his rise to power in the ANC and the country in 2009, he has used intelligence and spy craft and his hidden networks of ANC loyalists to do his corrupt bidding.

His fingerprints, and those of his RET supporters and his friends the Guptas, were all over “state capture” as the Zondo Commission has revealed. And whose hand was behind the anarchic 2021 riots in Durban?

Zuma’s influence remains potent among all those disaffected with the Ramaphosa faction’s leadership in both the ANC and in government. These malcontents lack a leader to rally around. Zuma stepping up to the plate might fill that lacuna. 

It’s a high-risk gamble. But what does Zuma have to lose? He could be joined by his old, thoroughly corrupt comrades from the ‘Premier League’ (the likes of the Free State’s Ace Magashule and Mpumalanga’s DD Mabuza, for example) who still carry sway with RET comrades. The greatest downside for him personally is that his move is a damp squib and RET forces within the ANC stay put for the time being and don’t join him.

If Zuma succeeds in constituting a significant pole of attraction, whether with the EFF or in his own political party one thing is certain: an even more tumultuous and chaotic situation will emerge in the ANC (and the country) in the months leading up to the election, now being widely speculated as to be held on May 22.

Expect heightened ethnic tensions, more, not less, corruption and incompetence, and ever more radical posturing as old ANC comrades seek to tear each other’s throats out before anything else. If nothing else, the transition to a post-ANC government is going to be very interesting.

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