Fri. Apr 12th, 2024

The uMkhonto we Sizwe Party (MK) and its leader, former president Jacob Zuma, have stirred controversy with recent pronouncements made during a party rally. While the MK party is yet to unveil a comprehensive manifesto for the upcoming elections, Zuma’s statements have already attracted attention for their socially conservative nature.

At the rally, Zuma proposed the establishment of a university for pregnant teenagers on Robben Island, advocated for the reintroduction of corporal punishment, suggested that children should have the right to report parental abuse to the police, called for mandatory military service for men after school to reduce crime, proposed outlawing same-sex relations and marriages, and recommended replacing Roman-Dutch law with African law as the common legal system.

Zuma’s remarks, seemingly targeting issues of social and family values, discipline, crime, and sexual orientation, diverge from the more economically focused slogans associated with him, such as radical economic transformation and opposition to white monopoly capital.

These statements also pose a challenge to the constitutional framework of South Africa, as many of the proposals would require amendments to the Bill of Rights. Zuma’s sentiments align more with traditionalist or Africanist values, reflecting a departure from the progressive nature of the current national constitution.

Critics argue that Zuma’s statements may be a form of populism, tapping into sentiments of older individuals seeking social coherence and discipline. However, it remains uncertain how these pronouncements will impact the MK party’s appeal to younger voters, a crucial demographic for success in the upcoming elections.

The controversial statements by Zuma highlight his discomfort with the current constitutional and political order, emphasizing a desire for a return to more socialist or statist principles within the ANC. Zuma’s stance also raises questions about his relationship with President Cyril Ramaphosa’s leadership style and the direction of the ANC.

As the election approaches on May 29, the decisive factors influencing voters remain multifaceted, with considerations ranging from economic conditions to service delivery and trust in political parties. While Zuma’s pronouncements may sway some voters, their overall impact is yet to be fully determined, with political dynamics playing a significant role in shaping public opinion.

Prof Dirk Kotzé is associated with the Department of Political Sciences at Unisa.

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