The year is 2009 and the ANC is still reeling from a bruising 2007 Polokwane national conference where the party emerged more divided than it ever had been.
Not only did the party’s two senior leaders — in Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma — battle it out for the top job, but the Polokwane outcome led to a breakaway which saw a swathe of senior leaders leave the party to form the Congress of the People (Cope).
Elsewhere in the country, while accepting Zuma’s presidency, ANC structures were worried about the party’s electoral prospects. After all, Zuma was, and remains, a polarising figure — loved and loathed in equal measure.
All but one province was as concerned. For the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal, Zuma was their trump card.
They were banking on “the Zuma effect”, as then-ANC provincial secretary Senzo Mchunu put it, to finally dislodge the IFP from the provincial government, once and for all. After all, Zuma was a Zulu from Nkandla. ANC leaders had reasoned that this would be ammunition in their electoral arsenal — to convince the province’s rural poor who were sceptical of the ANC.
Having narrowly pipped the IFP by a few percentage points to garner 46% of the provincial vote in 2004, it was enough for the ANC to form a coalition government under premier Sbu Ndebele. The latter appointed some IFP leaders into his government, although he was to fire them later. But that is a story for another day.
However in 2009, largely owing to the Zuma effect, the ANC won 62.9% of the votes in KwaZulu-Natal, to add 13 to its tally of provincial seats. Conversely, the ANC lost votes in all other provinces and also dropped a few percentage points from the all-time high of 69% that Mbeki achieved in 2004.
2009 election is one the IFP would like to forget. It was routed at the polls, losing 12 seats in the process.
The IFP admitted that Zuma’s Zuluness had played a part in its poor electoral showing.
Party founder Inkosi Mangosuthu Buthelezi told City Press in 2019 that members who deserted the party for the ANC did so on ethnic grounds.
“Those who (left the IFP) were completely basing that on ethnicity, saying: ‘Maybe it is the turn of the Zulus to have a head of state.’ Some people even in the IFP were talking about this. There was a false (belief) that a ‘Xhosa nostra’ was dominating the government,” Buthelezi was quoted as saying.
Fast forward to 2021 and it is exactly the “Zuma effect” that has come back to haunt the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal particularly.
This explains why premier and ANC provincial chairman Sihle Zikalala seems impotent and unable to express any view that may pit him against some of Zuma’s supporters. Zikalala is also faced with his own political uncertainties as the term of the provincial executive committee (PEC) that he leads has ended. In seeking re-election, he must be careful not to upset any constituency. This is why Zikalala told this reporter on Thursday last week that a presidential pardon for Zuma — who is serving a 15-month jail term for contempt of court — was desirable. He is placing the political hot potato firmly on the palm of President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Enter Ngizwe Mchunu
Among those who have been driving the #FreeJacobZuma campaign is erstwhile Ukhozi FM DJ Ngizwe Mchunu, who has been a regular feature at Zuma’s Nkandla home over the past few weeks. He was also at Nkandla on the evening of Wednesday, 7 July 2021, as the media camped outside the former president’s homestead counting down the time to his incarceration.
He also flanked Zuma as the former president met his supporters a few days earlier, on Sunday, 4 July. It was also no coincidence that Mchunu was to resurface in Johannesburg a week later to “address the nation” at KwaMaiMai — a traditional medicine market and hostel inhabited by people of KwaZulu-Natal origin. He gave President Cyril Ramaphosa and Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo three days to release Zuma. Before long, the violence which began in some parts of KwaZulu-Natal had spread to Gauteng.
The hostel dwellers who previously pledged their support to the IFP vowed to defend Msholozi (Zuma’s clan name).
Mchunu was also in Nkandla when the now deposed leader of Zulu regiments Zihogo “Mgilija” Nhleko brought amabutho to Zuma’s homestead to pledge their support. Nhleko was roundly criticised by Buthelezi for disrespecting the Zulu royal family for involving the supposedly apolitical regiments in the ANC’s factional battles. But the tension between the two men also stems from their political differences, with Nhleko having defected from the IFP to the breakaway National Freedom Party formed in 2011 by Zanele kaMagwaza-Msibi.
Asked about the presence of Zulu amabutho at Nkandla, Zuma gave one of his usual evasive replies. “As a Zulu, I’m part of amabutho, so they came to see their colleague,” said Zuma.
So, not only did the ANC grow its electoral support in 2009 in KwaZulu-Natal, but it also ended up with former IFP members who were not steeped in ANC culture. It is these kinds of “new members” that the party cannot control. They descended on Nkandla in their hundreds.
Where it all started
As Ramaphosa addressed the nation on Monday night, for the second time in two days, announcing his decision to deploy the army to restore order, South Africans were still trying to make sense of the developments of the past few days. How did we get to 200 malls and shopping centres being looted and vandalised within a space of four days?
Sources within the SA Police Service and some of the organisers told of a meeting on Tuesday evening, 6 July 2021, after the arguments in the Pietermaritzburg High Court where Zuma’s lawyers had sought to stay his arrest.
At least two senior members of the #FreeJacobZuma campaign said they had been incorrectly advised by some members of the legal team that the reservation of the judgment by Judge Jerome Mnguni meant that Zuma would not be arrested until Friday, 9 July — when Mnguni gave his ruling.
Unknown to them was that the reservation of the judgment had no bearing on the original order of the Constitutional Court for Zuma to be arrested on Wednesday, 7 July.
Whether this was deliberate or a case of poor understanding of the law on the part of the lawyers is not known. But the result was that the former president only had an inebriated Edward Zuma as his “defender” when the phalanx of police cars approached his Nkandla residence on Wednesday night before his arrest.
Based on the wrong advice, the organisers of the Nkandla rally of Sunday, 4 July had planned for a shutdown for Friday, 9 July. With Zuma now in jail, they merely put their plans into place — leading to sporadic skirmishes between the police and the “invisible” rioters on the day. But while the police had their hands full putting out the small fires, they took their eyes off the dangerous threat that posed a risk to the country’s security and economy. This is the unholy alliance between some people who identify themselves as MKMVA in KwaZulu-Natal and disgruntled former truck drivers who accuse foreign nationals of taking their jobs.
This is the grouping that was accused of being behind attacks on trucks on the N3, earlier this year. By Saturday morning, 23 trucks had burnt in Mooi River and the police were in no position to head off the situation. A senior source in the police department admitted failure to foresee the Mooi River incident may have fuelled the flames of unrest — that has since morphed into mass looting and an expression of desperation by unemployed South Africans.
While Ramaphosa announced the arrests of 489 suspects for the looting and violence that engulfed the two provinces, the masterminds behind the riots are still free. They lit the match and watched the inferno grow out of anyone’s control. DM