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Security forces ‘ready’ to deal with any unrest following ConCourt Zuma judgment, says Ramaphosa

Security forces ‘ready’ to deal with any unrest following ConCourt Zuma judgment, says Ramaphosa
People block a road in Jeppestown, Johannesburg on 11 July 2021. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed) | Residents flee from police following sporadic looting at Letshoho Mall in Katlehong. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla / Daily Maverick) | Former president Jacob Zuma. (Photo: Leila Dougan)

President Cyril Ramaphosa says that while he is sure former president Jacob Zuma will ‘respect the rule of law’, any violence after the Constitutional Court ruling to uphold the IEC’s decision to bar Zuma from standing for Parliament will be dealt with.

On talk radio station 702, President Cyril Ramaphosa said that security forces were standing by to crack down on any unlawful behaviour that may stem from the Constitutional Court barring former president Jacob Zuma from standing for Parliament.

“I am not concerned about this instigating violence. President Jacob Zuma should be the one person who respects the rule of law. We have a rule of law that governs us — once the Constitutional Court decides, that is it. Should there be any threats of violence, our security forces are ready to deal with that and we will not mince our words when it comes to that,” he said.

The apex court ruling will prevent Zuma from becoming an MP for the next five years, a prospect that his party is not thrilled about.

After the judgement was delivered by Judge Leona Theron, the uMkhonto Wesizwe (MK) party said the ruling was “disappointing”. It insisted that the party would get a two-thirds majority in the upcoming general election and Zuma would again be President of South Africa.

However, if Zuma is ineligible for a seat in the National Assembly, he has absolutely no chance of being President again.

The last time Zuma’s support base was unhappy — when he was incarcerated in 2021 for contempt of court — they rioted in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

The MK party called for calm and said  Zuma would soon make a public address.

“We call for calm among our people and emphasise the importance of maintaining focus and unity, while urging everyone to remain dedicated to giving the MK party and President Zuma their well-deserved two-thirds majority.

“This heavily flawed and conflicted judgment is not the end but rather a pivotal moment affirming that the MK party is the right choice for the black poor and downtrodden. The MK party leadership, led by President Zuma, will address the nation in the next few days after consulting with the legal team on the course of action,” the party said.

It said the ConCourt judgment, “has reinforced our conviction that the current system, where just 10 unelected individuals can make lifetime decisions for 62 million people, is fundamentally flawed. Worse still, in this current case, six of the 10 judges were glaringly conflicted, raising serious questions about their refusal to recuse themselves”.

“However, we are not deterred. If anything, the People’s Mandate rally has demonstrated that South Africans from all walks of life love the MK party and President Zuma and that a two-thirds majority is a reality.”

“The ANC goes on”

Ramaphosa defended the manner in which the ANC handled Zuma’s decision to back the MK party in the upcoming elections, saying that it was done according to the party’s constitution.

His comment comes amid criticism that the ANC dragged its feet when it came to disciplining its former leader, even when it was obvious that he had violated the governing party’s rules.

“The ANC has seen a number of political parties springing up by people leaving the ANC. When you say we deserve this, I do not think it is an appropriate description, because in the end people do what they want to do, when they leave the party, and recently we had a secretary-general [Ace Magashule] who was expelled from the party and formed his own party.

“Now we have a former president, before he was in the disciplinary process, who went to form his own party. In the end, people choose what they want, but the ANC goes on. In many ways, we are becoming stronger as people have left our family. They think by leaving our family we are going to be weakened and they are in for a surprise, because the members of the ANC and its supporters are determined to ensure that the ANC continues leading this country,” he said.

In January, the ANC suspended Zuma for “actively impugning the integrity of the ANC” by campaigning to dislodge the organisation from power. The decision to suspend Zuma was made unanimously by the ANC’s National Executive Committee.

This was after Zuma ditched the ANC for the MK party in December 2023.

When announcing his support for the MK party, Zuma accused Ramaphosa of being an agent of “white monopoly capital” and of being against the progress of black professionals and intellectuals.

“I cannot, and will not, campaign for the ANC of Ramaphosa,” he said.

Earlier this month, the ANC halted plans to have Zuma appear before the party’s National Disciplinary Committee at the ANC’s headquarters, Luthuli House in Johannesburg. MK supporters had vowed to gather outside the building in a show of support for Zuma.

ANC Secretary-General Fikile Mbalula said the party was avoiding large gatherings at its headquarters which might end in chaos and the hearing would be held after the general election.

IEC reacts

The Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) said, “The judgment will not affect the ballot papers for the 2024 national and provincial elections in any way. The photograph of Mr Jacob Zuma will remain in the cluster of identifiers of uMkhonto Wesizwe (MK) party. The name of Mr Jacob Zuma will, however, be removed from the list of candidates nominated by the MK party.”

The IEC said the ruling had clarified the role of the commission in qualifying candidates nominated to stand for election to the National Assembly.

“Now that the matter has been settled by the highest court and given that the constitutional uncertainties have been clarified, the commission can continue with final preparations for free and fair 2024 national and provincial elections single-mindedly, without apprehension that the elections are susceptible to challenge,” the IEC said.

Khumalo vs Zuma

In other developments, the stage is set for another court battle for the leadership of the MK Party. It has been reported that Jabulani Khumalo, the founder of the MK Party who was dismissed by Zuma last month, is challenging Zuma for the leadership of the party and the Electoral Court has agreed to hear the case and has asked Zuma to file replying affidavits to counter Khumalo’s claim. The matter has been brought on an urgent basis.

In an affidavit filed last Thursday, Khumalo said he formed the MK party last year and applied to have it registered under his name on June 1 2023.

“In light of this information recorded and recognised by the IEC, Mr Zuma is neither the party leader, the president nor member of its executive committee. I am the president,” Khumalo said.

Khumalo said Zuma, who was only the face of the MK’s election campaign and held no official position in the party, took a unilateral decision to expel him.

A court date has not yet been released.

SANEF Slams the MKP

Meanwhile, on Tuesday the South African Editors Forum (SANEF) issued a statement slating the MK Party for the “harassment and ill-treatment” meted out to journalists covering the party’s election manifesto at Orlando Stadium at the weekend.

The forum said it has received a number of complaints of harassment, intimidation and aggressive behavior towards journalists covering the event, with some female journalists saying they were even sexually abused and others claiming that they were elbowed by men wearing military uniform.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Zuma’s MK Party trades on identity politics, invoking Zulu nationalism and traditional leadership

“SANEF condemns the acts of violence against journalists and calls on the leadership of Jacob Zuma-led MK Party to act against those involved. We will not tolerate such behaviour at political rallies, where political principals often fail to call their supporters to behave accordingly and afford the journalists the space to do their work,” SANEF said in a statement.

The forum said last month it shared its Statement of Commitment on Media Freedom and the Protection of Journalists, with The Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC), which expands on Item 8 of the Electoral Code of Conduct on the role of the media. This document states that the media must be enabled to perform its constitutionally mandated duties and functions in the public interest without fear, threat, or undue restriction.

“It is disheartening that the MK Party bullies disregarded this important principle last Saturday. Unfortunately, we have not heard a word from the party’s leadership, in response to these dreadful incidents,” said the forum, urging MK Party to take stern actions against those harassing or intimidating journalists. DM

This article was updated with new developments on Tuesday May 21, 2024.

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