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Zuma’s renegade MK Party labelled a visionless shell, but it cannot be overlooked

Zuma’s renegade MK Party labelled a visionless shell, but it cannot be overlooked
Former President Jacob Zuma is the face of the MK Party. Photo: Facebook

It is acknowledged that Jacob Zuma’s new MK Party has disrupted politics in its short, topsy-turvy lifespan, but the jury is out on whether it is all hype, no substance. However, if two by-elections are a marker – albeit in one KZN region – the party’s possible impact on the upcoming elections cannot be dismissed. 

Since its formation five months ago the uMkhonto weSizwe Party (MK Party) has been shrouded in secrecy, mystery and uncertainty, with a curious mix of built-in dangers for an early demise and at the same time prospects for growth.

According to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), the MK Party was registered in September last year by Jabulani Sibongiseni Khumalo. But it only came into prominence on 16 December 2023, with an endorsement from former President Jacob Zuma, who said he could not bring himself to vote for the “ANC of sellout Ramaphosa” and would, therefore, campaign and vote for the then mysterious MK Party.

Since then the party has attracted key Zuma supporters, those who hate Ramaphosa, proponents of so-called Radical Economic Transformation, tenderpreneurs, people associated with construction mafias and serial party hoppers, many of whom are hoping to use the party as a vehicle to board the gravy train.

MK organisers maintain they will deal the ruling party a big blow, especially with most polls predicting that the ANC will lose its majority for the first time since coming to power 30 years ago. As if this threat at the polls is not enough, the ANC now has to contend with an enemy within, putting out fires started by its former president, who is deeply disillusioned with the party, especially the president who replaced him, Cyril Ramaphosa.

The MK Party does not have a constitution, clear policies or membership lists, and its structures are haphazard. The party has failed to rein in populists from acting or making inflammatory statements

It has, however, still been making inroads in ANC constituencies, especially in KZN, Gauteng and Mpumalanga, despite ANC leaders calling it a party of renegades which will fizzle out before the elections.

In recent by-elections in KZN, the MK Party has given both established parties a fright. Following its successful debut in Vryheid, where it took votes off the IFP, it took a seat off the ANC in Phongola.

Read more in Daily Maverick: MK Party snatches votes from ANC in second Zululand scare

In its first by-election held in Abaqulusi Municipality earlier this month, the MK received 21%, eroding the foothold of the IFP and coming in third overall.

Read more in Daily MaverickStrong debut for Zuma’s MK Party 

Daily Maverick election analyst Wayne Sussman said: “It has now shown that it can not only take votes away from the IFP, EFF and NFP, but the ANC as well. Future by-elections in KwaZulu-Natal will give MK the opportunity to tackle the ANC in favourable areas such as uMshwathi (Wartburg) in the Midlands and uMzumbe (Mthwalume) in southern KwaZulu-Natal.”

On the other hand, the party did not feature in another by-election in KwaZulu-Natal, in Ward 11 (Osizweni) in Newcastle, Amajuba.

The ANC, which seemed to have been asleep when the MK Party emerged last year, is  now challenging its formation in the IEC  and also in the courts, for using the Umkhonto Wesizwe brand, which it says belongs to the ANC.

Read more in Daily Maverick: ANC demands Zuma’s MK party take the spear in ‘unlawful’ registration spat before electoral court 

Also, as the MK Party prepares for the upcoming elections, trouble is brewing inside its own structures, threatening its very existence.

It appears party leaders are having a go at each other,  with accusations and counter-accusations and a number of suspensions. 

This week uMkhonto weSizwe Youth League (MKYL) announced the suspension of two members for establishing a parallel structure – the MK Student Movement (MKSM) – without the nod of approval from leadership.

Minenhle Cibane, interim secretary-general of the MKYL, issued a statement declaring that Mnqobi Msezane and Thamsanqa Khuzwayo had been summarily suspended for participating “in a circus purporting to form a parallel structure that is not recognised by the MKYL and the MK Party”.

“We would like to reiterate to the ground forces and to all members of the MK Youth League that we do not recognise the so-called MKSM,” Cibane said.

This is the latest challenge facing the new party, which has been told by the IEC that it has to submit its list of party candidates ahead of the elections, now promulgated for Wednesday, 29 May.

The IEC has also stipulated that Zuma, who was sentenced in 2021 to 15 months in jail for contempt of court, will not be eligible to stand as a presidential candidate, despite him campaigning for the party at events in parts of the country.

Social media has been awash with video footage of MK leaders and organisers accusing each other of being mercenaries, even though Zuma himself has denounced powermongers within his party.

Bongani Khanyile – a serial party hopper who was accused of being one of the ringleaders behind the July 2021 riots in KZN and Gauteng, and who was recently expelled as the leader of the youth wing of Gayton McKenzie’s Patriotic Alliance (PA) after attending a  MK Party meeting o – has accused Jabulani Khumalo, who founded and registered MK Party, of planning to sideline Zuma and appoint himself and his clique to lead the party.

Jabulani Khumalo (second left) and former Jacob Zuma announces the formation of a new political party in Soweto,  16 December 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE/KIM LUDBROOK)

Khanyile has threatened violence against those in the MK fold who were saying Zuma is too old to lead. Khanyile was subsequently called into a meeting by MK leaders to explain his utterances

Militarism meets the Church

It is clear that the MK Party is ready to join forces with anyone who has an issue with the ANC and its leader Ramaphosa.

One of the leading members of the MK Party is former IFP secretary-general Ziba Jiyane, who fell out of favour with the IFP and in 2005 formed the short-lived National Democratic Convention (Nadeco).

Ziba Jiyane MK Party

The caption on Ziba Jiyane’s Facebook page says: “Hello dear friends, I am happy I am now with like-minded comrades who love me and I love them at MKP.” (Photo: Facebook)

The Mogoeng Mogoeng connection

Another aspect of the MK Party and its associated organisations became apparent last weekend when church leaders and party members attended the All African Alliance Movement (AAAM) conference to forge closer ties.

The AAAM political movement, as its leaders call it, will be remembered for announcing in 2022 that it will put forward former Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng as its presidential candidate, but nothing significant has happened on that front.

AAAM conference

There was a heavy security presence at the AAAM conference in Johannesburg on 17 February, ostensibly to guard church leaders. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

The event was held in Walkerville, south of Johannesburg, last Saturday. Dozens of delegates – some wearing church gear and others MK Party colours –  sang both religious and struggle songs. Others wore camouflage and military uniforms and carried high-calibre automatic rifles and shotguns

Reporters were later informed that the phalanx of armed men was there to escort and guard the church leaders, who, in the main, urged their followers to support the new Zuma party in the upcoming poll.

Former ANC MP Peter Moatshe was also in attendance at the AAAM conference on 17 February 2024. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

Peter Moatshe, a pastor and former ANC MP, addressed the gathering, saying they had a lot of faith in Zuma and the MK Party.

“We have to go out and convince people in South Africa to vote for the MK Party. This is not a political party, this is the movement of the people of South Africa. It is used by Almighty, the Creator of all things visible and invisible.

“We are going down the drain in South Africa today. Everything is going bad or worse; there is load shedding, the scarcity of water, everything. It is very clear money is being stolen,” he said,

This message was echoed by Archbishop Nchime Sophonia Tsekedi, an AAAM leader and convenor of the conference, who said Zuma was their last hope. “All those who are in Parliament were planted [there]; we are being ruled by co-ordinators, they take instructions from shady characters sitting somewhere else. It is only [former] president Jacob Zuma who doesn’t take instructions from those people. That is why they hated him so much, that is why [they] are always pushing propaganda against him,” Tsekedi said.

At the meeting, it was concluded that those present should go out and mobilise for the MK Party to “bring down the ANC”. Expectations that Zuma would attend the conference did not materialise.

AAAM conference

Delegates at the AAAM Thy Kingdom Come Conference in Walkerville, Johannesburg, on 17 February. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

KZN up for grabs

According to the IEC, more than 5.7 million people in KZN are registered to vote in the elections. Only Gauteng has more voters, with almost 7 million registered voters.

KZN is one of the battleground provinces and, according to most polls, the province will see a coalition government in power.

There are many smaller and newer parties that are expected to contest the election. But very few of them have received as much attention as the MK party.

In the lead-up to the ANC’s launch of its election manifesto at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban this weekend (Saturday, 24 February), MK Party organisers pitched their tents next to those of the ruling party and in some instances MK Party supporters tried to drown out ANC leaders and members, who were trying to rally people to attend the event.

On Thursday afternoon in Durban’s Chesterville, Daily Maverick met a 28-year-old man clad in MK T-shirt who asked his name to be withheld as he works for the eThekwini Municipality. His uncle was a former MK combatant and his family was staunchly behind Zuma, he said.

“I was behind the EFF but when (former) President Zuma started the MK Party, we decided to join. I cannot deny that Zuma stole the money, but he is the only leader who knows the struggle of the people. It was far more better when President Zuma was in charge, the economy was good and there was no load shedding. Zuma created more black millionaires than any other president in this country,” he claimed. 

He added: “The whole ANC is corrupt, but the ANC leaders betrayed him and sent him to jail. Zuma always says he does not want to be a president again, he just wants to help topple the current leadership so that right leaders can emerge.” 

The state of ANC in KZN

Bongekile Ngomana wears a T-shirt bearing the face of former president Jacob Zuma at the AAAM conference in Johannesburg on 17 February 2024. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

A survey conducted by Social Research Foundation (SRF), which interviewed 820 people in KwaZulu-Natal between January 31 and February 7, showed that the MK party could deal a serious blow to ANC’s bid to retain the province after the elections.

In the 2019 general election, the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal received 1.9 million votes (54.2%), down from the 2.4 million votes (64.5%) it mustered in the 2014 national election.

The SRF poll predicts that with a 66% voter turnout, the MK party could win 24% of votes in KwaZulu-Natal. The ANC is projected to win 25%, the DA 15%, the IFP 24%, the EFF 5% and others 6%.

The ANC has often dismissed the polls as speculative. While visiting the Moses Mabhida Stadium for a final inspection before the manifesto launch, Bheki Mtolo, the ANC KZN provincial secretary, told journalists that his party would emerge victorious.

“There were mistakes that were committed. But all in all, our people still have confidence in the ANC and they know that the ANC has made a difference in their lives, and they will still vote to renew the mandate of the ANC,” he said.

The enigma that is the MK

Even political pundits are puzzled on what the future holds for this new political party.

Professor Musa Xulu, a retired academic, said: “My take is MK is too shapeless in organisational terms for any assessment to be made. If anything, they are too sporadic. On average their voter is a Zulu ethnic voter whose loyalty is to Jacob Zuma, because he is a Zulu fighting Ramaphosa, who is a Venda. 

“Outside of that there is nothing. No ideology, no vision, no organisational structure, but a bunch of people on the periphery of political discourses. The real issue will start when the IEC asks for candidate lists. In all honesty I think the primary objective as per Zuma is to hit back at the ANC who he thinks treated him badly by not defending him in his corruption trials,” he said.

The cult of personality

Archbishop Nchime Sophonia Tsekedi,

Archbishop Nchime Sophonia Tsekedi, an AAAM leader, believes former president Jacob Zuma is South Africa’s last hope. (Photo :Felix Dlangamandla)

Zakhele Ndlovu, a senior politics lecturer at University of KZN, said MK’s over-reliance on Zuma and his popularity makes its viability and sustainability difficult, if not impossible.

“Zuma appeals to three groups. He appeals to tenderpreneurs who benefited from government contracts when he was the president of the country. He also appeals to traditionalists and/or nationalists who identify with him on the basis of him being one of them (amabhinca). In him, they see themselves. Those sympathising with him on the basis of him being a victim of political persecution. Zuma has played the victim card very well over the years,” said Ndlovu.

Ndlovu added: “Despite its limitations, the MK party is not only a threat to the ANC. It is also a threat to other parties as well, as the recent by-elections results have shown. The IFP, for example, is also vulnerable, especially after the death of Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi. On the outside, the IFP appears united but there are cracks and not all of its structures are fully behind the current leadership. Buthelezi, like Zuma, had a cult of personality that appealed to many Zulus beyond political affiliation.” DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Johan Buys says:

    imho all this is, is a tick box for the RET/Zupta side of ANC to try get a way to the dollar seats when the ANC needs numbers. Inside ANC they don ‘t have the clout to make cadre lists. Outside the ANC they get positions.

    Prediction : after the election a dozen prominent former ANC members get the nod for MK cadre spots even if on day of election they were thought to be ANC loyalists.

    Jump the Q

  • D'Esprit Dan says:

    The conspiracy theories and victimhood are straight out of Trump’s playbook. Pathetic, cowardly and a cover for some of the worst elements of our society in the 21st century

  • Domini Canton says:

    Ummm isn’t he supposed to be in prison or hospital

  • Peter Merrington says:

    This could prove diverting provided that nobody gets killed in the exercising of their democratic rights. Bring on the pantomime without slaying one another. The dude in the photo in the straw camouflage outfit, with the Kalashnikov, intrigues and alarms me. I hope he does not stumble in his costume and shoot his foot off or anybody else’s. Perhaps he’ll get a seat in Parliament. Or maybe its Monty Python.

  • James Baxter says:

    President Zuma is a politician in the truest sense. Many a politician are just fellow travellers who view politics as an amusing past time. But President Zuma eats and breathes politics. And I have a feeling that MK is going to disrupt SA politics in the not so distant future. And this disruption will leave a lot of part time politicians unamused

  • Lebitsi Leburu says:

    This one will collapse faster than COPE. Ace Magashule, Makjosi Khoza, AAAM, PAC and others are all waiting to pounce. That is apart from the turmoil already in MK. Zuma, as usual will bring in his lapdogs lie he did at the ANC and no one is going to oppose him. ANC owes Ramaphosa an apology for stopping him using the 9 wasted years analogy.

  • Denise Smit says:

    I thought the church stand for peace and love and doing unto your fellow as you would want for yourself. Why the camouflage and weapons then. Who is the church fighting against and why the need for protection

  • Beyond Fedup says:

    Not even a soapie could conjure up such nonsense! We obviously have an enormous amount of the most stupid people in this country. They accuse the anc of being corrupt, which of course it is – corruption, criminality, incompetence, hypocrisy and thieving is their DNA, and yet they support the thief-in-chief of corruption who led and allowed state capture to strangle and destroy this country. You can’t make this shit up!

  • Rodney Mattheys says:

    This is a real circus. JZ783 should be retired to his firepool at Nkandla. Why is he still stirring up nonsense ? He sold our economy to the Guptas and destroyed all the soe”s and govt structures resulting in 28 million citizens dependent on social grants. Ironically those are now voting fodder for CR who he now despises. Didn’t CR recently allude to them losing their grants if ANC voted out?
    My take on why Zuma is still active is that after the election he hopes to have enough power to convince the next president to have ALL CHARGES against him dropped AND to pay the R28million he owes in legal costs fighting the charges. Should this happen, it is my prediction that he will happily retire to his firepool.

  • Carl Nielsen says:

    Any thoughts that this might be an ANC trojan? They know they going to loss votes probably mostly to EFF. Enter MK to mop up votes that would have moved to EFF then post election ANC and MKP suddenly all reconciled.

    • DaveH KZN says:

      Absolutely Carl. DM did not publish my first attempt on Friday so I’ll try again here:

      This is not my idea. I share this opinion because I have daily contact with people on the ground. I live in KZN.

      The ANC has known for a few years now that they will lose ground. This MK Party is PLAN B and it has been purposly concocted by the ANC for some time now (probably with the help of another Bell-Pottinger type). The MK Party will attract many votes. A coalition with MK will give the ANC a majority again so South Africa will be back to aquare one.
      Zuma doesn’t care to get back into Parliament again because he would otherwise lose his Presidential Pension but his influence will be felt throughout Government again. So we can expect another four years of unabated looting. They also know that a coalition with the EFF will be a disaster… too many egos at play not to mention the negative economic impact this will have from international investment.
      All the threats by the ANC against MK are a smokescreen or fake news. We are being duped again. Why was JZ “suspended” and not expelled??

      I am hoping that the Multi-Party Charter will start campaigning in earnest so that the people on the ground are aware that they have an alternative choice.

  • VW M says:

    The problem the last 30 years has always been a lack of alternatives for ANC supporters disillusioned with their party. Thus every new party that springs up are sure to siphon some supporters away from the ANC.

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