Sun. Jul 21st, 2024

The recent announcement by former President Jacob Zuma that he will not campaign or vote for the African National Congress (ANC) in the upcoming general election, choosing instead to support the new MK party, continues to reverberate within the ANC. Zuma’s decision, viewed as a significant move by a former ANC president, has stirred controversy and is seen by some within the ANC as having a “counter-revolutionary” agenda.

While not a de jure resignation from the ANC, Zuma’s move is considered a de facto resignation, severing his current association with the ANC. This decision follows a pattern set in 2018 when the African Transformation Movement (ATM) was formed with Zuma’s approval, albeit with a more muted response from the ANC.

The contestation between Zuma and President Cyril Ramaphosa’s ANC revolves around the claim to represent the “genuine” ANC and its liberatory symbols. Zuma accuses the ANC under Ramaphosa of deviating from the party’s revolutionary agenda and seeks to re-establish the “real” ANC. The focus on MK (Umkhonto we Sizwe), the ANC’s armed wing during apartheid, becomes a key element in this ideological contest.

Zuma’s emphasis on MK and Struggle songs aims to solidify his image as the custodian of ANC legacy and exile history, portraying himself as a leftist within the party’s ideology. The naming of the new party as MK reflects Zuma’s attempt to control symbols that resonate with his political identity.

Despite ideological differences, the MK party is not perceived as posing a counter-revolutionary threat comparable to movements like Unita or Renamo in other African countries. MK lacks potential support for a counter-movement, and its connection to external interests is minimal. While ideologically distinct from the mainstream ANC, MK’s political appeal is expected to target former Radical Economic Transformation (RET) supporters, disgruntled ANC members in KwaZulu-Natal, and those aligned with Zuma’s African nationalism.

The MK party’s impact is anticipated to be significant in KwaZulu-Natal, where the ANC has already experienced declining support. In the rest of South Africa, however, MK is likely to be one among the smaller parties without strong appeal to the youth demographic.

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