What You Need to Know:
The National Executive Committee (NEC) of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress has today announced its intention to suspend 81-year old former President Jacob Zuma from the party.
ANC Secretary-General Fikile Mbalula, claimed the suspension came as a result of Zuma’s continued support of the newly formed uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) party, despite his ANC membership.
Mbalula stated that Zuma was “actively impugning the integrity of the ANC” by campaigning to dislodge the organization from power.
“As we speak now Jacob Zuma has been suspended by the ANC because he said that he is going to support the MK Party, which many of us believe he has formed” President Cyril Ramaphosa
“He says he wants to remain a member of the ANC and the ANC constitution does not allow that”… pic.twitter.com/T0ymZGIUVJ
— MDN NEWS (@MDNnewss) January 29, 2024
The NEC invoked article 25.6 of the ANC’s constitution to bring about the suspension. The constitution’s clause states, “If justifiable exceptional circumstances warrant an immediate decision of temporary suspension of a member without eliciting the comment or response of such member as contemplated above, the NEC, the NWC, the PEC or the PWC, as the case may be, may summarily suspend such member.”
The suspension comes at a time when preliminary polls suggest that the ANC may for the first time receive less than 50% of the vote in the nation’s upcoming elections.
A document released by the ANC Secretary General’s Office, cited Zuma’s address to members of the uMkhonto we Sizwe party in December of 2023 as a key impetus for the former leader’s suspension.
The document reads as follows:
Dear Comrade Zuma
SUSPENSION IN TERMS OF RULE 25.60 OF THE ANC CONSTITUTION
The National Executive Committee (NEC) of the African National Congress met on 26 and 28-29 January 2024. Amongst other matters, it considered your address to the so-called uMkhonto weSizwe Party on 16 December 2023, at the Ipelegeng Centre in Soweto, Johannesburg, and your subsequent pronouncements and activities in support of, and participation therein.
A link to the text of your address titled: “President JG Zuma Address to the Nation”, was posted later on the same day via the X-account of the JG Zuma Foundation (Official). The text is attached hereto as Annexure A for ease of reference.
In your address you make the following statements, amongst others:
“I have decided that I cannot and will not campaign for the ANC of Ramaphosa in 2024. My conscience will not allow me to lie to the people of South Africa and to pretend that the ANC of Ramaphosa is the ANC of Luthuli, Tambo and Mandela.”
“I therefore wish to announce that in 2024, I will vote for the Umkhonto We Sizwe (MK) Party. It has already been registered with the IEC with my knowledge and blessings, in response to various pleas expressed to me by some religious leaders, traditional leaders, former combatants and other leaders in society. I call on all South Africans to join me in taking the important step and to vote for the MK Party and any other progressive party which seeks total liberation and the return of our land to its rightful owners, the African people.”
“We are also discussing the formation of a Patriotic Front and a voting bloc after the people’s victory in the 2024 election to pursue a minimum consensus programme of no more than 10 points of agreement to get us out of the present crisis, which is in the process of being formulated.”
The document goes on to claim that Zuma’s statements at this address were a direct violation of the ANC oath of membership, alongside several other constitutional provisions including, “Joining or supporting a political organization or party, other than an organization in alliance with the ANC, in a manner contrary to the aims, objectives and policy of the ANC (Rule 25.17.13).”
A Corruption Scandal:
Zuma, who served as President from 2009 to 2018, was forced to resign his post after a series of corruption allegations were leveled against him.
The former President’s trial began officially in May 2021, but is yet to be concluded.
According to the Associated Press, “Zuma is Facing multiple counts of corruption, as well as racketeering, fraud, tax evasion and money laundering, with some of the charges relating to bribes he is alleged to have taken from French arms manufacturing company Thales to provide political protection for an arms deal worth more than $1 billion signed by the South African government in 1999.”
Furthermore, in 2017, tens of thousands of protestors took part in anti-Zuma protests after the country was downgraded to ‘junk status’ by Moody’s Ratings Agency.
According to BDO South Africa, “Junk status is a colloquial term used to describe a country that has dropped below an acceptable investment grade in the eyes of the three internationally recognised ratings agencies.”
Conversely, in July of 2021, 350 people were killed during what was termed as pro-Zuma riots, which occurred in response to the handing down of a 15-month jail term for contempt of court during his corruption trial.
However, an newly released inquiry by the South African Human Rights Commission into the July unrest found the cause to be ‘racial tension between blacks and indians.’ Furthermore, the 252 page report seemingly randomly references Joseph Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’ as well as William Golding’s ‘Lord of the Flies.’
Furthermore, it was in the words of former Police Commissioner Khehla Sitole that,“the unrest started at a high level … triggered by the Zuma judgment by the Constitutional Court.”
Despite this, the report concludes,“The commission finds that while the timing of the events of the July unrest coincided with the incarceration of former President Jacob Zuma, it could not find evidence to link the two events.”
The newly released reports muddy conclusions bring more questions than answers when it comes to understanding the motives behind the wider Governments stance on Zuma.
What is uMkhonto we Sizwe?:
Formed in 2023, the party takes its name from the old paramilitary wing of the ANC, which has also stirred up controversy between the former president and his former ANC comrades.
Mbalula has stated that the ANC intends to take the party to court over the use of the name.
Additionally, little is known about the party, where its funds are coming from, its policies, or who holds specific positions.
A Nation Adrift:
Zuma’s support of the newly formed MK party comes at a time when the ANC is dropping in the polls.
According to the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, “ANC’s declining popularity continues a steady pattern observed since 2007 and is attributed to perceptions of growing systemic corruption within the party, ANC insularity from ordinary South Africans, and poor service delivery embodied by rolling electricity blackouts. South Africa also strains under the burden of growing inequality, poverty, and youth unemployment. Over 60 percent of 15- to 24-year-olds are unemployed, and many in South Africa’s sprawling townships struggle to find enough to eat. The ANC’s long dominance makes it hard to escape responsibility for these popular grievances.”
So, What Now?:
With South Africa’s general elections fast approaching and over 345 new political parties registering with the Electoral Committee, it is possible that the ANC’s 30-year long grip on Government may be loosened.