🔒 Dirk Hartford – Constitutionalists v Nationalists with KZN the battleground

As the political landscape of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) heats up, traditional powerhouses like the ANC, EFF, and Inkatha (IFP) are locked in a fierce struggle for dominance, unveiling their election manifestos in the heartland of African and Zulu nationalism. Against historical tensions and present-day violence, a new dynamic emerges, revealing deep divisions over the values enshrined in the Constitution. With the rise of Jacob Zuma’s MK faction and the EFF’s ambitious bid for supremacy, KZN becomes a battleground where political aspirations collide, and the outcome will shape the future of South African democracy.

Sign up for your early morning brew of the BizNews Insider to keep you up to speed with the content that matters. The newsletter will land in your inbox at 5:30am weekdays. Register here.

By Dirk Hartford

All roads have led to KZN for the bulls of African and Zulu Nationalism – the ANC, EFF and IFP – as they launch their election manifestos in “newcomer” Jacob Zuma’s MK heartland. ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

A new configuration of political forces is constellating from the rotting ANC body-politic and revealing as never before the fundamental political dividing line in our democracy. 

Are you for or against the values embedded in our constitution? 

KZN – the hearts and minds of the Zulu people primarily – is the big political power project for them all. This is one reason why, at least since the Inkatha/UDF war in the 80s, it has been so violently and bitterly fought over till now.

There is a lot at stake, and the stakes are high – especially for politicians. They are dying like flies in KZN. When they are not busy killing each other, others are killing them.

Assassins, hit squads, construction mafias, taxi bosses, political murders, extortionist business forums, the RET faction and the 2021 uprising – KZN is the birthplace of them all. It’s not a terrain for the faint-hearted.

The EFF launched its election manifesto this past weekend at the Moses Mabhida stadium in Durban. They are the new 10-year-old kid on the block in KZN, and the far from faint-hearted Red Shirts were determined to make a grand showing of it.

The top leadership of the EFF had been in the province for a while, working the ground with their fighters. They already dominate student politics there, and all polls indicate they are growing strongly compared to everyone else, including in KZN.

However, their launch was a damp squib. Not only was Malema himself struggling with a streaming nose and a hoarse voice, which marred his usual oratory skills, but the stadium was only 70% full when the whole point for the EFF was to fill it and cook a snoop at the ANC. 

The biggest surprise of all was how dull the whole affair was. After a brilliant campaign throughout the country, including KZN, with packed regional conferences of thousands of fighters, Malema chose to crown it all by basically reading the EFF’s lengthy and detailed pie-in-the-sky manifesto.

Although the key slogan – “Land, Jobs and an end to load shedding” – the EFF are mobilising around was on every red shirt, in Malema’s speech, it was just part of a plethora of demands and declarations. The astute agitator transformed into a man revealing a lengthy tome – everyone got a copy of the EFF’s book-size manifesto – to his followers. Here is the truth – kneel here.

Malema is smarting from the EFF’s KZN experience. He went into the lion’s den to make a point and has come back crying that he has never experienced such levels of political intolerance, and he plans to lay a complaint with the IEC.

“I think the ANC killed more people in KZN than the IFP, and I think the ANC is at the centre of political violence in KZN. The level of intolerance is extreme,” he said.

Malema says the EFF is aiming to be number one everywhere but will be satisfied with second place. Several RET leaders, including Carl Niehaus, have already joined them, which is hardly surprising, as they are the natural pole of attraction for radical economic transformation types outside the ANC.

Instead, they were until Zuma came along with MK less than two months ago. MK has changed the whole ball game, especially in KZN and for the EFF in particular. In recent polls in KZN, the EFF barely featured.

Zuma’s MK has effectively assumed the leadership of the entire RET faction inside the ANC and started to organise itself under the banner of MK against what they call “Ramaphosa’s ANC”.

But isn’t that precisely the space that the EFF hoped to command? It is. But at this stage, Malema can only offer Zuma an olive branch.

Zuma is the man to watch. He has yet again come, apparently from nowhere, and shown he is a master magician of political power games.

The last time he did this, he returned from the disgrace of being fired as deputy President by Thabo Mbeki in 2005, only to unseat Mbeki at the next ANC congress and then succeed him as President of the country in 2009.

He led that campaign from the underground, and all the preparation for the launch of MK last December has been underground as well. Already, the poisons of the ANC’s underworld – who was a spy/impimpi for the apartheid regime being the most lethal – are starting to seep into the campaign, with social media buzzing with these allegations against both Ramaphosa and Zuma.

Zuma might be 81, but he still has plenty of moves. Even as the MK manifesto says 2024 is about the ballot and not the bullet, Zuma is stoking the fires of war against the Ramaphosa regime among the Zulu people especially.

In less than two months, he has addressed over 100 meetings of mainly Zulu speakers in KZN, Mpumalanga and Gauteng, charming often large audiences and church congregations with his trademark dance moves and the anthem of the armed struggle Umshini Wam (Bring me my machine gun).

It is something to behold seeing Zuma hailed as a guest of honour at several large church gatherings, sitting beaming while the choirs sing Umshini Wam to him.

In his campaigning, Zuma has thrown down the gauntlet on the constitution, saying, amongst other things, that it’s not working and the “Western legal system should be scrapped in favour of greater authority to traditional leaders”. He also wants to merge the Eastern and Western Cape to defeat the DA.

When Zuma attacks Ramaphosa, he is attacking the constitutionalists in Ramaphosa. To his credit, Ramaphosa flew his constitutional flag high at the close of his SONA speech. The battle lines are more clearly drawn now between those for and against the Constitution than ever before.

It’s only on this basis that Ramaphosa’s ANC could contemplate enlisting ex-President Thabo Mbeki’s support because otherwise, no love is lost between them.

The ANC will be seeking to outshine the EFF at Moses Mabhida Stadium next week, but it is already mortally wounded in KZN by the MK breakaway. Ramaphosa has already used both his January 8th and SONA speeches as campaigning tools, and we can expect the Manifesto launch to be more of the same. 

He needs to put a brave face on things under the circumstances, especially as there are only two real faces to choose from after the elections – the anti-constitutional block that will coalesce around MK, the EFF and their fellow travellers or the pro-constitution block coalescing around the DA and Inkatha’s multi-party forum – also including the likes of Rise Mzansi, Mmusi Maimane et al.

The opportunities opening up politically are a blessing, carrying significant risks and potentially great rewards. One can only pray that the RET types continue to abandon the ANC and that Ramaphosa constitutionalists accept the inevitable and throw in their lot with their constitutional allies outside the ANC post-election.

Read also:

Visited 524 times, 6 visit(s) today