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2024 ELECTIONS

Silent MK voters were from the ANC — Duduzile Zuma

Silent MK voters were from the ANC — Duduzile Zuma
Illustrative image: uMkhonto Wesizwe party member. (Photo: Gallo Images / Fani Mahuntsi) | Former president Jacob Zuma. (Photo: Gallo Images / Darren Stewart) | Screen at the IEC Results Operation Centre on 30 May 2024. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

Jacob Zuma’s MK party has damaged the ANC in the national and provincial elections, in part because the party knows the ANC so well, say insiders.

The uMkhonto Wesizwe party founded by former president Jacob Zuma has flipped voting districts in KwaZulu-Natal from the ANC, said Daily Maverick election analyst Wayne Sussman, who has projected the governing party to be knocked down to 45% of the national vote.

As predicted, the MK party is giving the ANC a bloody nose in KwaZulu-Natal and is likely to emerge as a change-maker in the 2024 elections. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Elections dashboard

“Obviously we are feeling excited, we were not expecting this but we are happy with it. It shows that the people have come out and responded to our call… silent MK voters who come from the ANC. Some of them wear the [ANC] T-shirts but voted for us and obviously people want to see change,” said Duduzile Zuma who, with her father, are among the key faces of the party. 

mk party anc duduzile zuma

Duduzile Zuma at the IEC Results Operation Centre in Midrand on 30 May 2024.(Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

Despite an early positive showing at the polls, she still alleged sabotage by the IEC, a constant refrain of the party which is also facing an investigation in terms of the Electoral Code of Conduct. This came after its members disrupted a voting station in Hammarsdale and spread disinformation on social media, alleging IEC malfeasance. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Early surge by Zuma’s MK party in rural KZN shows potential to lead provincial legislature as ANC falters

The next question facing the party, if its winning trajectory is sustained as the counting is completed, is who will be KZN premier should it do well enough to form a government on its own or in coalition. The party has been beleaguered by infighting with different people claiming to be the leaders. 

“President Zuma, throughout the campaign, has been saying ‘there are no positions (in MK), so the discussions have never been had. We will probably discuss as national leadership and see who is appointed. I last spoke to my father last night. He lost his only surviving brother, but he is doing OK,” Duduzile Zuma said.

Jacob Zuma is said to run the party as a patriarch and he could have a final say on positions.

Targeting the ANC’s base

Early in the counting process, the MK party took a strong lead in KwaZulu-Natal on Thursday while also taking second place in Mpumalanga and performing beyond expectations in Gauteng while results from most voting stations were still outstanding.

Political pundits say the MK party’s performance can be attributed to several factors, chief among them Jacob Zuma himself.

The party was registered with the IEC in September 2023, but came into prominence only when Zuma announced on 16 December that his conscience would not allow him to vote for “the ANC of Ramaphosa”. 

Since Zuma’s announcement, he and the MK party seemed to have been a magnet for free publicity, almost immediately dwarfing the coverage of all other political parties but the ANC.

Sussman said there was no doubt that MK would be the story of the 2024 general elections as the party that single-handedly brought to an end the ANC’s 20-year rule in KZN and the ruling party’s majority nationally.

He said in many areas where the ANC had an unassailable lead in KZN, the MK party had not only taken over, but also decimated the ANC’s support.

Read more in Daily Maverick: It’s now time for South Africa to take Zuma’s MK party seriously

MK regional leaders (many of the MK interim regional leaders are former MK soldiers) said it helped that they knew and understood the ANC, its weak points and its strengths.

Dumisani “Ngwane” Khanyile, the party’s King Cetshwayo regional coordinator and a neighbour of Zuma in Nkandla’s KwaNxamalala area, told Daily Maverick that hard work and determination were at the heart of the party’s success.

“First, we pulled it off because we were united in our approach and we had one mission in mind – that is to free a black man by achieving a two-thirds majority. We made it very clear to every volunteer, foot soldier of MK that [winning] two-thirds starts from [voting districts]. 

“We worked very hard to establish programmes that were diverse, such as meet and greets, motorcades, door-to-door programmes, to ensure that MK’s mandate, of which is the people’s mandate, reach[ed] every corner of our country. We worked collectively together with our youth league and women’s league to achieve our goal,” Khanyile said.

Another MK leader from Durban’s inner west region, a former MK fighter who is now a civil servant, a teacher, who asked not to be named, said many people were tired of ANC promises and were seeking change.

“We humbled ourselves and went down to the people and they accepted us.”

Protest vote

Zakhele Ndlovu, a senior politics lecturer at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said the new party found fertile ground, as the combination of the arrogance of the ruling party, poverty, unemployment and lack of service delivery had made many people susceptible to ethnic mobilisation.

He said the absence of Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the IFP leader who died in 2023, opened a space for Zuma to exploit “as the most prominent Zulu politician”.

“Look, there is no way that the MK party on its own, as it were, without policies and permanent leadership, could have pulled it off. It was Zuma who was able to use his real or perceived persecution or prosecution to turn the tables on the political establishments.

“Many people who voted for the MK party did so as a protest against the establishment. In Zuma and his MK party they see their saviours, people who sympathise with their plight.

Ndlovu said he now expects some local ANC councillors in MK strongholds to resign to force by-elections “so that the MK Party can have a foothold in the local government sphere”.

“It remains to be seen whether the MK party will be able to sustain itself going forward, because what is holding together the party is Zuma. Without him the party is dead. There are many potholes ahead that the party will now have to navigate and these will determine whether the party survives or not,” he said. DM

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