South Africa’s Election Results Kick Off a Political Maelstrom

The African National Congress’s (ANC) poor performance in the country’s May 29th election has seen in recent days, the formation of a deadlock over coalition talks, the onset of several high-profile court cases, a surge of disinformation, the killing of an uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) party member, and the removal of many of the ANC’s top brass from parliamentary positions.

What You Need to Know:

The ANC lost 71 seats in parliament as a result of its drop in the polls, and as such, controversial Police Minister Bheki Cele, International Relations Minister Naledi Pandor, Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu, Defense Minister Thandi Modise, Administration and Public Services Minister Noxolo Kiviet, and Minister of Labour and Employment Thulas Nxesi, have all lost their parliamentary seats.

Interestingly, several ministers who had been implicated in the Zondo Commission inquiry into state capture, including Deputy Water Minister David Mahlobo, ex-Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba, and ex-Communications Minister Faith Muthambi, have held onto parliamentary seats.

As coalition talks continue, the ANC is grappling with the competing desires of its top brass and alliance members such as the South African Communist Party (SACP), the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), and the South African National Civics Organization (SANCO).

Early this morning, ANC member Boy Mamabolo, through his lawyers, claimed that he was unlawfully removed from the ANC’s parliamentary list. As a result, Mamabolo’s lawyers have given the ANC until the end of the day to reinstate him.

In addition to ANC infighting, there are the competing desires of the party’s possible coalition partners.

A statement released by the ANC after its National Working Committee (NWC) meeting held on June 4th outlined, “the national officials reported to the NWC that the ANC has repeatedly reached out to the MK [party] for an engagement meeting, with no positive response. Our door remains open as we continue to reach out to every party that is keen to contribute positively to moving our country forward.”

The MK party, under Jacob Zuma, has repeatedly called for a re-election, claiming the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) ‘stole’ MK votes and ‘gave’ them to the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the ANC.

Speaking outside the Electoral Court on Monday, Zuma stated, “As it is, we are opening a case [against the IEC] today and since we warned them and they didn’t listen, if they go to Parliament, there are a lot of us as uMkhonto Wesizwe (MPs) – we might just boycott going to Parliament.”

However, the MK party is not the only party threatening to boycott Parliament. Recently, the leader of the Patriotic Alliance (PA), Gayton Mckenzie, who campaigned on the single issue of removing illegal foreigners from the country, stated, “we hope to get the Minister of Home Affairs because we have campaigned on that ticket, and for me, if we do not get that, I will not be going to Parliament.”

The presence of foreigners in South Africa is a long-standing issue in the country. In 2019, xenophobic riots swept Johannesburg, leaving 7 dead. While in 2008, a spate of riots that were xenophobic in nature left 62 dead.

More recently, in February, on the eve of the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) semi-final between Nigeria and South Africa, the Nigerian embassy in the country released a statement warning its nationals to refrain from celebrating loudly if Nigeria was to win the match, for fear of xenophobic reprisals.

In the lead-up to the 2024 election, the PA picketed outside a Pretoria primary school over its alleged plans to teach Shona, a Zimbabwean language. After the picket, the PA’s Deputy President announced on X, “Today we went to Esikhisini Primary School to make sure that Shona is not taught at that school and we also made a call for Chair of [the] School Governing Body who is a Zimbabwean to be removed. Indeed, some kids [are] from Zim and they must be replaced by SA kids.”

However, Mckenzie is facing his own woes, with a Western Cape High Court today ordering him to hand over documents relating to a 2022 fundraising event that was held when Mckenzie was the Mayor of the Central Karoo Municipality. According to court documents, the event was held to raise funds for service delivery projects in the municipality, although the funds never reached the municipality’s bank account.

Making use of the opportunity, the DA’s Tertuis Simmers stated, “This PA-style corruption is why Beaufort West voters punished McKenzie at the polls last week, clearly showing him that his time is up. The DA demands that McKenzie and the PA abide by the High Court ruling and urgently account for the money.”

In addition to Mckenzie’s legal woes, there is a 1.6 million Rand bribery case being levelled against Zizi Kodwa, Minister of Arts, Sport and Culture, who has now resigned from his Ministerial position as a result of the court case.

Moreover, the Secretary-General of the ANC, Fikile Mbalula, is facing prosecution over a 2016 trip that he and his family took to Dubai. According to Barry Bateman, the Spokesperson for the Private Prosecution Unit, “despite shortfalls, the evidence suggests Mbalula has several benefactors who fund his lifestyle. The question arises, why were these leads not followed up? Claims made in affidavits were accepted at face value and not scrutinized. Considering the poor investigation and irrational decision not to prosecute, it appears to us that Mbalula has been protected by the police and the National Prosecuting Authority. This has only strengthened the Unit’s resolve to ensure Mbalula has his day in court.”

With coalition talks marred by the various legal actions facing the nation’s top political players, disinformation has also taken a toll.

On the 21st of May, just 8 days before the national election was set to take place, a letter allegedly sent by the US embassy in Pretoria began circulating on social media. The letter, addressed to Helen Zille of the DA’s top brass, outlined the embassy’s willingness to endorse the DA’s pursuit of an independent Western Cape, where the DA holds Majority.

Just after the election, another fake story began circulating, claiming the ANC had been sold to the Businessman Johann Rupert as well as the Oppenheimer Business family in exchange for it entering into a coalition with the DA.

Both stories have been marked as false.

Lastly, and in a tragic turn of events, this morning an MK party member was shot dead in Cato Manor, KwaZulu-Natal. Police have stated that they do not believe it was a politically motivated killing, although this murder follows that of MK members Bongani Mkhwanazi and Xolani Nzimande, who were shot and killed by ANC members in Katlehong, Ekurhuleni on May 26th.

So, What Now?:

As illustrated, South Africa is currently in the midst of a political maelstrom. Consequently, the ANC has hinted towards establishing a government of national unity, although not confirmed. Additionally, as the government is under time pressure to elect its President within 14 days of the election, the country’s parties are likely to be more willing to concede on certain demands as the deadline inches closer. However, there are parties such as the MK and PA stating they would rather boycott Parliament than concede, raising fears of possible political violence to arise.

However, due to the inherently complex nature of South African politics, only time will tell us how things will play out.

Bianca Bridger
Bianca Bridger
Bianca Bridger is a Political Science Graduate from the University of Otago, New Zealand. Currently working as an Editor for The ModernInsurgent and writing for Atlas News, her interests include conflict politics, history, yoga and meditation.

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