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MK party in Parliament? It’s all about Zuma — nothing more, nothing less

MK party in Parliament? It’s all about Zuma — nothing more, nothing less
Illustrative image, clockwise from top right: President Cyril Ramaphosa. (Photo: Shelley Christians) I EFF leader Julius Malema (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla / Daily Maverick) | Former president Jacob Zuma (Photo: Leila Dougan) | Democratic Alliance leader John Steenhuisen (Photo: Victoria O’Regan)

With many a poll predicting that Jacob Zuma’s uMkhonto Wesizwe party could win a not insignificant share of the vote on 29 May, there is a strong possibility of a new Parliament inhabited by both MK and the EFF — and things get especially interesting if MK vaults into third position above Julius Malema’s Red Berets.

A series of polls over the past few weeks indicated that uMkhonto Wesizwe (MK party) could become the third-biggest party in Parliament after the general election on 29 May. Some polls suggested that it could be the biggest party in KwaZulu-Natal, even if it wins just a quarter of the vote there.

It is worth injecting a note of caution here.

Polling is a relatively small industry in South Africa and several of the polls have been published by organisations which could be accused of bias.

At the same time, the best-resourced polling is done by the two biggest parties, the ANC and the DA. They do not make their polling public unless they feel there is a good political reason to do so.

ActionSA chair Michael Beaumont has a point when he suggests that a Brenthurst Foundation poll “paints the picture of a surging MKP at 13% — a practical impossibility for a party whose support is almost entirely limited to KZN and Mpumalanga”, and that this is “helpful to paint a narrative of DA growth and a useful stick to whip out the vote against the threat of a growing left alliance”.

However, the fact is that the MK party is well organised and appears to be well resourced.

Just one example: Lampposts in Randburg in Gauteng feature easily as many MK posters as they do posters for the ANC, the EFF and “Emigration sales”. The images of Zuma on these posters appear eerily like pictures the ANC and government once used and evoke memories of the time he was in office.

The fact that Zuma is addressing large crowds in different places certainly indicates that he is building momentum.

All this follows the testimony and the findings which placed him at the centre of State Capture, a period the ANC once referred to as “nine wasted years”.

How to explain this?

First, Zuma was easily the dominant political figure from 2005 until Valentine’s Day in 2018, when he was unceremoniously pushed out of the presidency. During that time he built up networks and patronage. And of course, he has immense name recognition.

Also, as previously discussed, his ethnic identity is an important factor, particularly in KZN.

Then there is our present lived reality. Most people in South Africa are poorer in real terms than they were when Zuma left office.

Looking for a saviour

Saftu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi recently repeated his apology for supporting Zuma in the period leading up to 2007, saying it was the biggest mistake of his life.

When asked why Zuma has so much support now, he told SAfm that people are so desperate that, “Faced with this crisis, they turn around to look for some saviour, including the people whose hands are dripping with blood in terms of creating the conditions that we are faced with today.”

Zuma repeatedly said that he “ended load shedding” when he was in office.

Of course, this is simply not true and a court found that the people who were running Eskom while Zuma was president helped create the current situation.

Vavi is correct when he says many people are desperate in South Africa. Who can blame them? Cyril Ramaphosa came into office promising major changes and to improve the running of the state.

Instead, the opposite has happened: the state has become weaker, violence has increased, crime has risen across the board and levels of poverty have gone up dramatically.

So, what could happen if MK does come third in the elections, and the party’s figures descend on Parliament in significant numbers?

If the MK does do well, it would be at the expense of the ANC, the EFF and the IFP. This may make the EFF too weak to be a useful coalition partner for the ANC. Certainly, if the EFF does lose votes to MK, its bargaining position will be weaker.

But, considering that Zuma is the leader of MK, it seems impossible for the ANC and MK to form any kind of coalition or working relationship.

Strange bedfellows

If the ANC does fall dramatically below 50%, it will have limited options.

It would not be able to work with MK, and the EFF may not have enough support to be a viable coalition partner, so what option would be left?

Strangely, it might well be the DA.

That party could do slightly better than previously expected, with the rise of Zuma increasing turnout for the DA among the white middle class.

As odd as it seems now, it may well be the figure of Zuma that forces the ANC into working with a party it has always rejected.

At the same time, it is still not certain who MK will have to represent it in Parliament and the provincial legislatures. The Electoral Commission has not yet released the parties’ candidate lists.

However, it is unlikely that many of the MK representatives will have experience in legislatures. And, considering that the party has, up till now, no defined policy or manifesto of ideas, it is not clear in which direction they would go in crucial parliamentary votes.

Unless there is a surprise, no major party will work with MK, apart from perhaps the EFF, and smaller parties like the ATM.

Of course, the level of organisation behind MK has already taken many by surprise (including the ANC). Its list may well reveal experienced and disciplined candidates. However, at the moment, there is no evidence that this will happen.

At the same time, MK is unlikely to be around for long. It is, for the moment at least, centred entirely around Zuma. He is almost 82 years old. It seems impossible to imagine that he could contest an election at the age of 87 in 2029 and that MK would survive without him.

All of this suggests that MK’s biggest contribution after the election would simply be to make the picture more chaotic and confusing. Unless a proper manifesto of policies and a list of experienced candidates emerges, it is hard to see what other role the party will play.

Which strengthens the perception that MK is all about Zuma. Nothing less and nothing more. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Marc van Olst says:

    The party is only there to get Zuma back into Parliament. Once there, it will be politically more tricky to prosecute him in the courts without there being a risk of a flare up amongst the populist masses. Malema used the same trick when his back was against the wall after all of his OnPoint misdemeanours. Our courts seem more reticent to go after MP’s…

  • James Baxter says:

    I totally support the assertion that MK is a potential candidate for being the third biggest party after elections. But questions arise as to Who or where is MK getting all the resources to grow so big so fast. But then why is our democracy so incapable of giving us a political party or leader who is capable of taking us into a place where we can compete on a global level with the likes of Dubai, Singapore, London, New York for attracting global economic resources. It’s like our politics is stuck in some cold war paradigm, when the world has moved on to AI arms race, China and US are slugging it out for the control of AI infrastructure going into the future but here in SA there is not even a promising AI project being incubated by silicon Cape or government or university. It is appalling to have UCT wits UKZN and all these institutions of higher learning but no intelligent young kid who is capable of taking SA into these technological spaces and whatnot

    • ST ST says:

      Just in the note of young people… There are a great many intelligent young SA’s representing SA overseas in different industries. You or may not know them. Yes they’re not at the same par. They’ve had and still do have many issues to contend with. SA people are capable. They system has let them down.

      • James Baxter says:

        I am so infatuated with Elon Musk. I imagine what would have happened had Elon Musk stayed in SA and built his empire here. I really respect Elon Musk immensely, he is my modern day messiah. Our cowntree needs to develop structures to allow citizens to grow like USA allowed my hero Elon Musk to grow. I think Elon Musk has allowed me to realise that hard work is a prerequisite and he has worked supre hard, and I am afraid that I will not work as hard as he did. I agree with you on that one

        • Kevin Venter says:

          What a crock! Had Elon stayed, he would not have had the opportunity or the buyout that then set him up to pursue Tesla and SpaceX. He was in the right place at the right time and that right place was definitely NOT South Africa. Modern day messiah? What is he saving the world from? You revere the man who invests in electric cars as an excuse to save the planet from exhaust fumes and then proceeds to build rockets that produce more emissions in a single launch than a whole country probably produces in a month? As for the so called Electric cars, what do you think happens to the batteries which are chemical in nature when they are spent? Add that to the frequency of his own travel on his jet and then perhaps apply some brain capacity on how much he is polluting the world. Just because he has got rich, does not make him any kind of messiah.

          • James Baxter says:

            He is taking us to Mars. How can he do that if he is not using the current rocket technology. There is no other way to go to Mars than to burn this amount of rocket fuel.

        • Kevin Venter says:

          “He is taking us to Mars”. I can assure you that he will not be taking you to Mars. He will be taking the few rich people who can afford it. Furthermore, you might want to think about that prospect a bit more. What is actually on Mars right now? The red planet where the temperature ranges from 20 degrees Celsius to -150 Celsius. For there to be ANY kind of Colony on Mars, the whole planet is going to need resources from EARTH.
          So the messiah that you are so blindly following and revering is actually furthermore going to do even MORE harm to to the planet that you live on, by pillaging it for the resources needed to sustain a colony on Mars. I will say it again, just because Elon got rich does not make him any kind of messiah. All the money blown in building rockets would be far better spent in fixing the wrongs that we are doing to the planet that we live on and making hit halfway better for everyone who is here.

    • Ashley Stone says:

      There are many corruption kings living offshore who would benefit by Zuma coming back and having a say. My bet is that is where the money is coming from. Just as Trump is desperate to reclaim the Whitehouse in order to make his many court cases disappear I believe the same applies locally. I am sure the Guptas et al are sending in loads of our money to “buy” the election.

  • paul Volker says:

    The 3 main Socialist parties make up a 60% voting bloc. The 3 of them could easily work together provided Ramaphosa goes. Imagine that??

    • Ben Lev says:

      I’d rather not. Chills. Thank you for ruining my coffee.

    • trevor mk says:

      hard to imagine Ramaphosa going from ANC, a controversial figure that is loved for no apparent reason. I can’t name 5 things ANC if benefiting from keeping him as a head of state with a SG like Mbalula no less.

    • Greeff Kotzé says:

      If the ANC is smart, it would ditch the SACP from the alliance and let them stand on their own two feet.

      Then they could eliminate a big chunk of their policy confusion and at the same time reinforce their social democratic, private ownership and pro-labour credentials to voters, further distinguishing their “yellow socialism” + nationalism from the socialism of the crimson reds. It makes sense at this point, since the majority of those who remain in the ANC leadership are distinctly more pro-business than the party of old (even if they’re still rather incompetent at supporting the business sector in practice), and they really need to start positioning themselves as a clear and lucid alternative to the “new left”.

      Then again, the higher-ups in the SACP were, in the tripartite alliance, some of the most prominent opponents to Zuma, and vocal about state capture before it became trendy to do so. Which should lead us to ponder whether MK really qualifies as one of “the main socialist parties”. Or to put it differently — if MK is JZ’s cult of personality, does that personality really offer any other ideology than base kleptocracy?

  • ST ST says:

    Zuma-regret is going to haunt those who should’ve done something for generations…if they can see the error of their ways and are capable of regret.

    First the ANC inc for letting him get away. The judiciary for not fighting harder. The IEC for even entertaining MK and Zuma for this long. Zuma supporters and voters for ignoring what they see all around them. The rest of us…maybe we could also do/have done something to fight this (!)

    • Jane Crankshaw says:

      Hehehehe! Zuma laughing at the taxpayer whilst doing a Trump! Self pardoning seems to be the order of the day! Decency, democracy and Globalisation out the window and corrupt Autocrats and hardline political power and self enrichment are becoming the new normal!

      • Kanu Sukha says:

        Don’t laugh … he may yet … like Putin just got 87% of the vote ! Wouldn’t that be MAGA .. sorry it is supposed to be MSAGA !

  • Geoff Coles says:

    Remember those t-shirts, 100% Zulu man? KZN seems a near delinquent province in every respect, a basket case.

    • J vN says:

      Can’t we organize a KZNexit, instead of a Capexit?

      Let’s grant KZN independence, build a wall on the Drakensberg and get rid of KZN and its awful inhabitants – Cele, the odious Zuma rabble, Schabir Shaik, Mhkize, the lot of them.

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    Violence is the bedrock of MK – the voter would do well to remember that and check out what political violence has done in other Pro- African states including Haiti!

  • Emil Bosch says:

    I’m a little bewildered by the state of affairs concerning Jacob Zuma. How is it humanly possible that a villain (in the true sense of the word) and the key figure in the State Capture debacle is placed on medical parole (as “he is too ill to stand trial”) and now starts a new political party with the view of entering parliament once more.

    Another South African mouths a racial slur and is imprisoned for five years. Jacob Zuma causes massive, massive (!) economic harm to South Africa with billions of rands lost during his term as President of South Africa and he is on medical parole. What exactly am I missing here?

  • Bob Dubery says:

    Zuma won’t sit in Parliament. If he does that, he gives up the perks he gets as an ex-President. But he’ll control whatever MPs MK do get. So that’s what this is about. He’s seeking to have some MPs that are beholding to him and that he can control. It’s about influence.

  • Malcolm McManus says:

    “Vavi is correct when he says many people are desperate in South Africa. Who can blame them?”
    To answer Vavi’s question. The people who didn’t vote for the ANC and the EFF in the last elections are the ones that can blame them. The same goes for the upcoming elections, if they vote ANC, EFF or MK. They will only have themselves to blame. Its a pity we will all feel the impact.

  • Geoff Hill says:

    Around 25% of households in Gauteng speak Zulu at home. MK will do well there.

    The ANC has from the start been heavy with lawyers and intellectuals. In Zuma, young people living eight-to-a-shack and going to bed hungry see someone who has walked in their shoes … albeit a long time ago.

    Since 1994, ANC has taken the black vote for granted. Zuma will not deliver post-election but he could take up to 20% of the ballot.

  • John Patson says:

    People will vote for Zuma for the same reason they voted for Johnson in the UK — he is a clown who entertains them.
    It is one of the problems of democracies, the clowns are usually only kicked out only after the damage they cause has been done.
    I disagree with the analysis that the ANC will not work with MK.
    The ANC has shown it has no scruples and will do anything to stay in power — even at a local level, kill opponents.
    In that scenario MK not having a coherent policy is a strength because they can easily bend the situation to their (cash) advantage.

  • Steve Davidson says:

    “Then there is our present lived reality. Most people in South Africa are poorer in real terms than they were when Zuma left office.”
    And as you said in regard to Eksdom, Stephen, the state of the country is all due to him! But wouldn’t it be great if he did stop being a coward and took up a seat in Parliament. He’d have to sit there taking unrelenting insults from the other parties for his crimes. Alternatively, if he is the coward we think he is, his mates will take it for him! That’ll teach the bliksems.

  • Patrick Mavhivha says:

    Vavi is a bitterman with no come back strategy. Moeletsi Mbeki told COSATU in 2004 to leabe the alliance, they did not listen. Politics is about exploitation of one by the other. They don’t want to acknowledge world history. Allow Zuma to contest elections. In full support of the cominig Progressive Alliance.

  • kevin gill says:

    I think it’s smoke and mirrors. Take the flak away from the ANC, let everyone forget what the past, and make the ANC look good in comparison.

  • William Dryden says:

    Zuma cannot get into parliament as he has a criminal record, and still has to answer regarding the armaments debacle.

  • Alley Cat says:

    “Its list [MK’s list] may well reveal experienced and disciplined candidates”. Wow?? WHERE will they find these? They don’t exist in either the ANC, EFF or any of the other parties, except MAYBE the DA. THAT would be an impossibility, to win over DA candidates to the MK!

  • Johan Buys says:

    This just a leapfrog exercise.

    The senior people in the zupta part of ANC knew that they would not get positions under the status quo. So by moving outside, the ANC will need to do a deal, which deal will include positions. There is no chance of the ANC doing a parliamentary deal with the DA, or at least far less of a deal than with the couple of seats MK might have in Parliament.

    The splintering we all should hope for is that the ex-UDF part of ANC (which was btw much larger than the ANC or SACP or Cosatu) breaks away and joins the more rational middle.

  • Johan Buys says:

    Comments can be sent to [email protected]

    One should be careful about not cancelling some of the good things for fear of the likely bad things.

    For example we should be doing a lot more with sustainable harvest of some very unique plants. For me there is nothing wrong with allowing say 50 hectares of cultivated XYZ plant that would do well inside a National Park, doubly so if we then process and extract domestically instead of shipping it to Swiss labs.

    We probably have the same fears about who gets to own what and what happens if they mess up. Land use should be subject to leases only and strict lease conditions : not sold ever. The tenant messes up, the land immediately reverts. Nobody should be able to secure 10 hectares for game lodge with traversing rights and then on-sell the land a few months later having done nothing but front and flip.

    If you traveled the southern Karoo over decades, one thing that quickly became crystal clear was the difference between adjoining farms where one brother still carried on with goats, cattle and sheep but the other went back to relying on game meat, hunters and tourism. The game side farm is pristine, the other looks like a war zone of erosion.

  • Peter Worman says:

    There are strong rumours that MK is behind the intimidation of municipal workers wanting to return to work after the illegal strike and this seems to be the MO of the MK, if you dont support us we’ll beat you up. Heaven help us if they become the dominant party in KZN but who really knows?

  • D'Esprit Dan says:

    You discount the option that if the ANC is seriously wounded, they it would recall Ramaphosa to allow Zuma back into the fold. Given that there is no morality in the ANC, it would be easy to do.

  • Uno Pereira says:

    Dear mr.Grootes, your analysis is not only contradictory but also very naive. As you say and I quote ” Of course, the level of organisation behind MK has already taken many by surprise” but then in the paragraph you go on saying that “At the same time, MK is unlikely to be around for long. It is, for the moment at least, centred entirely around Zuma”. Doesn’t this sound like bad analysis to you? If the MK party has surprised everyone so far, just a few months into their public presence, how can anyone hope to predict what the far future hold? Are you trying to appease your readers or yourself? This analysis has a similar tone to what I heard ( and disagreed with) when Zuma was about to finish his first term as president, that he wouldn’t last long, that he caught everyone by surprise but that his second term would be short lived. It’s all bedtime tales to help us sleep at night. The MK party is well financed and it must have a long term plan in place, if everything we hear about Zuma is true about his connections with Russia or with anyone else who is willing to pay well for his influence. There is a new cold war being fought and Africa, as always, is in the crossfire. If we continue on hearing (and writing) these fairytales disguised as analysis, then we will only know what is really happening when it has already happened and when it’s too late to stop it. If you really want to do a proper analysis then ask every possible “what if” before stating any scenario as unlikely

  • Jarrod Livingston says:

    I don’t think there is a chance of a an MK/EFF/ANC coalition however there is a probable chance of a DA/ANC coalition as said above.

    Another thing to note is the biggest weakness that the MK and EFF have is that they are both struggle parties. Struggle parties can rise very quickly but are likely to fall quickly.

    A DA/ANC coalition will improve the country even though it isn’t ideal…

    But I believe once the country starts to see improvements in crime and unemployment rates (whether it’s from DA/ANC or the MPC), those struggle parties will likely dissipate overtime.

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