Expulsions from MK party point to deep instability and mistrust

Expulsions from MK party point to deep instability and mistrust
Jacob Zuma seems to be one of the only constants in the uMkhonto Wesizwe party, which says it has expelled five members, including Jabulani Khumalo, who registered the party in September 2023. (Photo: Darren Stewart / Gallo Images)

The MK party has been hogging headlines – and the pre-elections discourse – in the past few months, and its court cases have been dramatic, with the party using them as rallying points to maintain a high profile. But the recent expulsion of party leaders suggests disintegration in the ranks. 

The only two constants in the uMkhonto Wesizwe (MK) party, it seems, are its name and the name of its leader, former president Jacob Zuma.

The dramatic expulsion of Jabulani Khumalo, the man who registered the party with the Electoral Commission of South Africa, and other leaders has exposed the party as highly unstable.

Khumalo registered the party in September 2023, but it came into prominence in December, when Zuma said he was ditching “the ANC of Ramaphosa” and would now campaign for the new party. Zuma is now on the MK party’s presidential candidate list, although this matter is in the Constitutional Court on 10 May.

The MK party is centred on the popularity of Zuma and some refer to the party as a “populist tribalist and anti-foreigner party”.

MK support according to surveys

Nevertheless, most pre-elections opinion polls predict the party will eat significantly into the ANC’s support  – especially in KwaZulu-Natal, where Zuma remains very popular – but it will also eat into the support base of parties such as the Inkatha Freedom Party and the Economic Freedom Fighters.

The latest Ipsos poll, which surveyed 2,545 registered voters in face-to-face interviews over a month, from 9 March to 15 April, predicted that the MK party will garner up to 8.4% of the national vote and the ANC could drop to about 40.2%.

KwaZulu-Natal is where there are more than 5.7 million registered voters – or 20.7% of SA’s electorate – and the Ipsos survey “suggests that MK could secure upwards of 20% of the vote in KwaZulu-Natal and thereby reduce the ANC’s national vote share in the region by five percentage points”.

Expulsion and denials

uMkhonto Wesizwe, Jabulani Khumalo

uMkhonto Wesizwe party founder Jabulani Khumalo (centre) outside the Gauteng Division of the High Court in Johannesburg on 26 March. Khumalo and four other MK party members were expelled from the party on 26 April. (Photo: Papi Morake / Gallo Images)

The MK party was thrown into disarray when, on the night of 26 April, it issued a statement announcing its expulsion of Khumalo, the man who founded and registered the party in September 2023. He was expelled along with Rochelle Davidson, Ray Khumalo, Bheki Manzini and Lebo Moepeng.

Khumalo was second on the MK party list for the National Assembly, with only Zuma above him.

All five were accused of working with “enemy” forces and receiving bribes to destabilise the party. Khumalo was singled out as having received funds and cars from sources in the ANC.

Nhlamulo Ndhlela, the MK spokesperson, has consistently confirmed that Khumalo is no longer a member of the party after a meeting at which Khumalo is said to have been present.

‘No room for love back’

Attempts by Khumalo to meet with Zuma and other MK party leaders to plead his case and reverse the expulsion have so far been unsuccessful.

Duduzile Zuma, who often airs her father’s position on many matters of importance, took to social media to announce: “Just checked President Zuma’s diary and there is definitely no meeting scheduled with former member of MK party [Jabulani] Khumalo and there’s definitely no room for love back.”

During a brief telephone conversation on 2 May, Khumalo told Daily Maverick that he was still a member and leader of the MK party, rejecting the statement that he and four other members had been expelled.

“We are not yet commenting on the so-called expulsion and other things. At the moment we are dealing with these issues internally as the leaders of the party … a number of issues, including things that were in a press statement [that said we were expelled from the party],” Khumalo said.

Asked if he had met Zuma to discuss his status in the party, Khumalo said: “We will be doing all of that and once we are ready, we will call a media briefing to tell you all [the media] about everything.”

Asked about rumours that some people were encouraging him to deregister the MK party, he said: “As I have stated, we will deal with these issues internally and we will make an announcement when we are ready.”

Disintegration in the ranks

After the “expulsion” of Khumalo and other leaders, some MK members said they heard about the expulsion through the media and that no concrete information had been forthcoming from the party leaders.

Many of the MK party’s ground force members, the people who are going out to woo voters, spoke to Daily Maverick only on condition of anonymity.

A prominent young member from Durban said: “We heard about the expulsion of Khumalo through the media. Within the MK structures the expulsion was described as ‘necessary’ because Khumalo has been receiving money and cars from MK party enemies.

“They say all of a sudden he is living a high life and driving expensive cars. Where did he get the money from? But I think the leadership was hasty in expelling these leaders. What if Khumalo goes to deregister the party from the IEC? We will all lose out.”

Another prominent member from Pietermaritzburg, who said he supported the expulsion of Khumalo and company, said: “You could see that Khumalo had other agendas. When we were celebrating in court after winning court cases, he didn’t show enthusiasm and other members and leaders were hugging each other. He just smiled. When the news emerged that he was embezzling money and getting cars from enemies of MK, it all made sense.

“To be honest [we] are worried about these things because we have to go out and convince people to vote for MK and when they ask about these issues, we don’t have clear and concise answers.

“But we will continue to work for the party because we didn’t join it because of Khumalo. We joined it because of Zuma and will continue as long as he is there at the top.

“My take is that you cannot keep people who are working with your enemies, especially when you are facing such a tough election ahead,” she said.

Zakhele Ndlovu, an independent political analyst and senior politics lecturer at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said that although the expulsion of Khumalo and company would not change many voters’ choices, it did point to instability in the party.

“I don’t think the latest expulsions will have an impact, despite the fact that one of those expelled is the founder of the party. Many people in the MK party are there because they support Zuma, and Khumalo does not have his own following outside the party. So this will not change the minds of people who [have] already decided that they will vote for the party based on their support for Zuma.

“Khumalo was virtually unknown until he came into prominence as the founding leader of the party. When it emerged that Zuma would be the presidential candidate of the party, nobody was surprised. But what these expulsions do suggest is that there is deep instability and mistrust within the party and many people who were aiming to join the party might be dissuaded from doing so, citing this instability.”

Ndlovu said the leadership squabbles were but one of the challenges facing the party. “The party is also facing allegations that it forged the signatures that allowed it to contest the elections. We don’t know how that will play itself out.

“There are also ongoing rumours that the party is getting financial support from Russia and other shady people. But MK is not alone there because there are many other parties that get their funding from unknown sources, and that is why the matter of funding of political parties should be thoroughly scrutinised,” Ndlovu said. DM

This article first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick newspaper, DM168, which is available countrywide for R35.



Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Johan Buys says:

    Honor, thieves, none

  • Kevin Venter says:

    I can only hope that this party and Jacob – Captain Corruption – Zuma, disappear faster than the money did while he was president. What an absolute waste of oxygen and space. South Africa will forever be remembered as the country that peacefully transitioned out of Apartheid, and then followed suit to all the other African countries, and systematically descended into a failed state thanks entirely to how easily corruptible the leaders are. A canana republic because of bush politics, what a tragedy.

  • Ben Harper says:

    Is this not a complete re-enactment of what the anc did to its own members in places like camp Quatro, fortunately for those on the receiving end it’s just expulsion and not the brutal end that befell those in the camps

  • Peter Doble says:

    “Highly unstable” is the understatement of the election. Tribalism, factionalism, nepotism, foreign influence and destabilisation. However it’s good to see the old criminal has shrugged off the serious illness which allowed him to avoid legal rulings, state capture findings and defying the Constitutional court.

  • Geoff Coles says:

    Populist, tribalist, anti- foreigner (meaning anyone not Zulu) and run out of KZN with a criminalleader!

  • PETER BAKER says:

    We are just witnessing the necrosis and putrefaction of the ANC and its many little septic tumors. It has to run its course for democracy to establish itself once and for all in our country. For me…it can’t happen fast enough.

  • Francis Mnyele says:

    They can’t have forgotten what they did to COPE when they were still in the ANC.
    They won’t be able to trust each other

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