Former South African President Jacob Zuma has made a significant political move by publicly denouncing the ruling African National Congress (ANC) and declaring his support for the newly formed Umkhonto we Sizwe party ahead of South Africa’s forthcoming general election in 2024.
Zuma, who led the ANC from 2007 to 2017, expressed his backing for the new political formation named after the now-defunct military wing of the ANC, Umkhonto we Sizwe, which played a pivotal role in the struggle for liberation but was disbanded afterward.
In a notable statement, the 81-year-old Zuma urged members of the ANC and Umkhonto we Sizwe to vote for the latter, emphasizing his decision not to support the ANC led by President Cyril Ramaphosa.
“I call on ANC members, MK members, to vote for MK. That’s what I’m advocating. I won’t be voting for the ANC; I’ll be voting for MK,” Zuma affirmed.
The upcoming 2024 general election is anticipated to be fiercely contested, marking a pivotal moment for the ANC, which has governed South Africa since the historic election of Nelson Mandela in 1994. Recent polls indicate a potential decline in the ANC’s national vote share, possibly falling below 50% for the first time. This scenario could necessitate the formation of a coalition government to retain power.
Addressing journalists in Johannesburg’s Soweto township, Zuma framed his decision as part of an effort to rescue the ANC. His departure from the presidency in 2018, amid corruption allegations involving government and state-owned entities during his tenure, has been followed by legal challenges.
Zuma faced a 15-month prison sentence for defying a court order to appear before a corruption inquiry. Additionally, he pleaded not guilty to corruption charges linked to South Africa’s 1999 arms procurement deal, a trial plagued by significant delays.
While the ANC confronts competition from opposition parties such as the Democratic Alliance and the Economic Freedom Fighters, the role of smaller parties and independent candidates in potential coalition negotiations remains crucial.
Meanwhile, the ANC has signaled intentions to legally challenge the usage of the name Umkhonto we Sizwe by the new political entity, citing ownership of the name by the ANC.