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Watershed moment awaits KwaZulu-Natal where the election battle is new MK vs old ANC


Dr Imraan Buccus is a senior research associate at the Auwal Socio-economic Research Institute and a postdoctoral fellow at Durban University of Technology.

The critical choice facing voters is between sticking with the familiar but faltering ANC, or embracing the uncertainty of a new political force like MK and even a resurgent IFP.

Durban is apocalyptic as mountains of rubbish attract armies of flies on the once pristine streets of the city centre, with the health hazard even more threatening in its suburbs, townships and informal settlements.

Its tweeting, absentee mayor Mxolisi Kaunda twice survived a motion of no confidence in recent months. Let alone his ineptitude in running the last metropolitan council in ANC hands, his striking sanitation workers are a demonstration of the party failing on the most basic service delivery indicators.

As the country gears up for the general election on 29 May, all eyes are on the battleground province of KwaZulu-Natal, where political dynamics are shifting and new contenders emerging. With the recent formation of Jacob Zuma’s uMkhonto Wesizwe (MK) party, the political landscape in the province has become even more intriguing as it challenges the dominance of the ANC in a region long considered its stronghold.

KwaZulu-Natal has historically been a pivotal province in South African politics, and the creeping attraction of MK adds a new twist to this contest. Though not (yet) high-profile, the defections from the ANC to MK highlight the growing discontent with the ruling party’s performance.

Verulam, traditionally an ANC branch, recently defected to MK, citing a lack of communication from the ANC in addressing service delivery issues and the mysterious disappearance of its municipal councillor. This defection underscores the disconnect between the ANC leadership and communities at the grassroots level.

Similarly, in the traditional Indian townships of Phoenix, MK is making inroads, with prominent figures such as municipal councillor Roy Moodley and his party workers joining the ranks of his earlier nemesis.

Read more in Daily Maverick: 2024 elections

This shift in allegiance signals a further disillusionment with the ANC among Indian voters, who have historically held a potent swing factor, going back to when the Minority Front’s Amichand Rajbansi threw in his single vote in the KwaZulu-Natal legislature to give the ANC control over the province.

While MK feverishly mobilises on the ground, the provincial ANC leadership appears to be in disarray, described by one insider as “fast asleep, out of touch and quarrelsome”. The internal strife in the ANC serves only to weaken its position and further alienate voters who are seeking effective governance.

One of the factors driving the discontent with the ANC and the rise of MK is service delivery. Across KwaZulu-Natal, many communities continue to grapple with inadequate access to basic services such as water, sanitation and electricity.

Zuma has no match in KwaZulu-Natal when it comes to touching the ordinary masses with his heady brand of populism.

The failure of the ANC-led government to address these concerns has fuelled frustration and anger among voters, providing fertile ground for alternative political movements. Voters scarcely notice that State Capture by corrupt elements in and around Zuma is precisely the genesis of the country’s current woes.

The perceived lack of accountability and transparency in the ANC has eroded trust in the party’s leadership. Scandals, corruption allegations and internal power struggles have tarnished the ANC’s image and undermined its credibility as a custodian of democracy and good governance.

Against this backdrop of discontent and disillusionment, MK has positioned itself as a fresh alternative, glibly promising to prioritise the needs of ordinary citizens and restore integrity to the government. Zuma is a controversial figure with a polarising legacy, but this gets negated by him having no match in KwaZulu-Natal when it comes to touching the ordinary masses with his heady brand of populism.

But what about the party’s viability and long-term prospects? As a newly formed entity, MK lacks the institutional strength and organisational infrastructure of established political parties like the ANC which, come election day, will have every taxi in the country in its arsenal trotting its supporters to voting stations. MK’s election fate will depend on its machinery to mobilise voters.

In the final weeks leading up to the general election, the battle for KwaZulu-Natal will intensify as political parties ramp up their campaigns. The outcome of this contest will not only reshape the political landscape of the province, but also have far-reaching implications for the future of South Africa.

The critical choice facing voters is between sticking with the familiar but faltering ANC, or embracing the uncertainty of a new political force like MK and even a resurgent IFP. Whatever the outcome, 29 May will be a watershed moment in the province’s turbulent political history. DM

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Louis Fourie says:

    It’s just old ANC vs old ANC divided along lines of self-interest, sweeping up citizens with hate and division. These are not leaders. They are malignant narcissist surrounded by sycophants using poor people as props.

  • Random Comment says:

    In other words, it’s the VERY CORRUPT ANC contingent (incumbent) vs. the EVEN MORE CORRUPT, FORMERLY ANC contingent (challenger)?

    The outcome won’t be hard to guess: VERY BAD or EVEN WORSE.

    What a lovely province, cursed with absolutely awful politicians.

  • Ivan van Heerden says:

    Who is funding Zuma and his party of crooks? Mobilizing at the speed he has costs big moolah, I smell a Gupta somewhere, the stench is fairly unmistakable.

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