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Fact-check — Is Jacob Zuma’s MK now the biggest party in South Africa?

Fact-check — Is Jacob Zuma’s MK now the biggest party in South Africa?
Former President Jacob Zuma addresses the All African Alliance Movement members at White City Community Hall on 5 January, 2024 in Soweto. (Photo: Gallo Images/Fani Mahuntsi)

Two days after its launch, former president Jacob Zuma’s MK party claimed on Facebook that it had already attracted one million members within 48 hours. It offered no evidence that this was the case. So is the MK party now the biggest?

Watch the video on YouTube.

No, it’s not.

But let’s rewind: A video published on TikTok in mid-February purports to show thousands of supporters of former president Jacob Zuma’s MK party flocking the streets wearing green. 

That video subsequently racked up hundreds of thousands of views after being shared across social media platforms. 

As AfricaCheck has established, the video was actually taken in the Dominican Republic in May 2023. It has nothing whatsoever to do with South Africa, with Jacob Zuma, or with the MK party.

But that video isn’t the only hyperbolic claim that’s being made about the levels of support for the MK party, which was only launched in mid-December 2023.

Two days after its launch, the party claimed on Facebook that it had already attracted one million members joining online within 48 hours. It offered no evidence that this was the case. 

On the same day, however, clearly after being met with some scepticism, the MK party Facebook account posted: “For the non-believers, numbers don’t lie” with a web traffic dashboard showing 1,781 visitors per minute to the MK website at that moment in time. 

Is it genuine?

There’s no way of knowing if that graphic is genuine. But even if it is, visits to a website do not translate into signed-up party members.

In January, Zuma told supporters in Mpumalanga that his party would “win the elections by a two-thirds majority”. 

This clearly isn’t going to happen: there’s no reputable poll currently predicting that any party will win the elections by a two-thirds majority, let alone one which was launched less than six months ahead of the elections.

Since then, there have been a few MK events which have been well-publicised flops — including a “mass activation” by the party in Umhlanga in February, which reportedly drew just 60 supporters. 

But this doesn’t actually represent the full picture. 

For a start, if you scroll through the party’s Facebook account, you will see photos of MK events that have clearly attracted fairly large crowds, at least in KwaZulu-Natal. 

This is not hugely surprising, given that a January 2024 poll found that Jacob Zuma’s popularity in KZN is still as high as 63% among registered voters in that province. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Fact-Check — If you don’t vote, is your vote automatically assigned to the ANC?

But much more significantly, there have been two by-elections so far in KZN where — although voter numbers were small — the MK party made a pretty impressive showing. In its debut by-election in Vryheid in northern KZN, it brought home around 20% of the vote. In its second contestation in Phongolo in February, it took 28% of the vote.

This correlates pretty well with a mid-February poll by the Social Research Foundation, which put the MK party’s support in KZN at around 24%, the vast majority of those votes taken from the ANC. 

Analysts extrapolate from this that the party could take around 5% of votes nationally, probably the equivalent of about 20 seats in the National Assembly. 

It’s a far cry from the two-thirds majority its supporters keep touting, but it is pretty remarkable for a fledgling party whose only well-known face is Jacob Zuma — and it could be enough to put the party in an interesting negotiating position in the post-election coalition struggles. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Karin vdK says:

    Trump in the US.,Zuma here…why do people think its OK for proven no good-doers
    to lead a country?the mind boggles(and respect for humanity diminishes)

  • Iam Fedup says:

    No right-thinking person could believe that Zuma and MK could do a good job, but then we have to remember that the loud but useless Malema has managed to get quite a few votes for his scoundrels. Why? Human psychology tells us that people are not rational, and vote with their hearts, never mind the reality of the evidence. Anybody can make a few rabble-rousing speeches and garner support. Trump did it, Boris Johnson did it, Hitler did it, Verwoerd, Johnny Vorster, and PW did it, Nasser did it, and there are dozens of other examples. Human beings have a great capacity for stupidity.

  • M D Fraser says:

    The ‘Big Man’ syndrome following is absolutely typical of a population devoid of common sense, devoid of logic and worse devoid hope. When you have nothing, and nothing to lose, you follow the biggest mouth. Once he get’s in , he uses that mouth to ‘eat you’. Problem is there is no generational transfer of knowledge, or experience. We are all so f*cked ! Even worse, talking about it on this forum means absolutely nothing ! Gnaw free T-shet, gnaw free footpussel, gnaw free trunspot… oh dear !!!

  • Ivan van Heerden says:

    Just another party looking for some cash for votes from the entirely corrupt ANC who will Fellate whoever to stay in power and keep the cash taps flowing for Comrades. At least now they are a multinational whore not just a local one. Viva Comrades!! Amandlaaaaaaa

  • Denise Smit says:

    This party will also take away votes from the EFF and ATM and all the populists and ethnic groupings but not from the more future planning parties. They are all so against Ramaphosa and the ANC but will they form a coalition with the ANC afterwards, or will the ANC be willing to form a coalition with them after all the badmouthing?

  • Rae Earl says:

    KZN as a province has huge and frightening issues which are ongoing. Massive storm damage to infrastructure, a volatile population as evidenced by the riots a couple of years ago; a bankrupt capital riddled with corruption, and a premier holiday destination teetering on the verge of collapse. None of these things have been rectified or even attended to by the ever useless ANC local and central governments. And this same ANC learned most of its destructive tricks from one Jacob Zuma when he was president of SA. And KZN voters are supporting this wrecking wheel of a thoroughly corrupt politician. ??? Their votes in his favour will be KZN’s downfall.

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