Jacob Zuma: The Ultimate Powerbroker In 2024 South African Elections!

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The Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) has confirmed that former president and current ANC member Jacob Zuma will appear on the ballot paper this year for the uMkhonto weSizwe Party of KwaZulu Natal. Zuma has been campaigning for the party for several months, with the ANC set only to start disciplinary proceedings against him after the elections!

That speaks volumes of how weak the ANC has become. ANC, in her heydays, removed the then president Thabo Mbeki and installed Zuma, but now even the ordinary member of the ANC who is conspicuously undermining the ANC is a delicate matter to be handled after the elections!

This article investigates the undertow in the forthcoming South African elections where the ANC seems toothless that their notable member will be in the ballot box for another political party. The only indication ANC has expressed is dealing with the former president Zuma’s treachery after the election!

In this discussion, I will shovel to expose what is going on underneath. Julius Malema’s presidential stab is expected to hit or evade an icepick from his former boss, Jacob Zuma unless both sides of the political opposition aisle bury their hatchet and decide to send the ANC packing for good. As things stand, Jacob Zuma, of all people, is brandishing all four political aces to the chagrin of both Julius Malema and the ANC!

General elections will be held in South Africa on 29 May 2024 to elect a new National Assembly and the provincial legislature in each province. This will be the seventh general election held under universal adult suffrage since the end of the apartheid era in 1994. The new National Council of Provinces (NCOP) will be elected at the first sitting of each provincial legislature.

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Since the inaugural post-apartheid election in 1994, the African National Congress (ANC) has continuously achieved a majority in both chambers of the South African Parliament: the National Assembly (lower house) and the National Council of Provinces (upper house).

The ANC is in deep political troubles in South Africa as average voters fail to connect to it because of official graft, widening income gap and endemic poverty. The banner of being the party of the poor while in office is doing too little, but helping the elites to untold riches has deprived the poor of reasons to keep the ANC in power.

ANC’s popularity is waning, and may find the Julius Malema youthful wave too hot to handle, and from this political environment one has to discern why Jacob Zuma is joining the fray. South Africa has no direct presidential election. The Parliament picks the president, and if the political coalition of Julius Malema fails to garner more than 50% of the parliamentary seats, the ANC can still form the next government despite being whacked at the ballot box.

The ANC’s secret weapon could be none other than Jacob Zuma! But he may also be their worst enemy, depending on how Zuma plays his political cards. The ANC is aware that winning over 50% of the parliamentary seats may be a tough call this time around, but having Jacob Zuma leading the friendly fire in the uMkhonto weSizwe Party may be a missing link to staying in power.

Kwazulu Natal is the bedrock of the uMkhonto weSizwe Party. Polls and analysts warn that for the first time, the ruling African National Congress party that has comfortably held power since Nelson Mandela became the country’s first Black president in 1994 might receive less than 50% of votes.

Another ANC worry after messing up the economy in the last 3 decades is Jacob Zuma’s political manoeuvre; the former president and ANC leader stepped down in disgrace in 2018 amid a swirl of corruption allegations but has emerged recently with a new political party. It intends to be a major election player as the former president seeks revenge against former longtime allies.

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However, after the elections, both the ANC and the uMkhonto weSizwe Party will find common interests to form a national government keeping quiet Malema’s political party EFF – Economic Freedom Fighters and their alliance of Cape Town, the DA – Democratic Alliance. The EFF and the DA have been having night meetings on how to form the next government and are doing it secretly in the hope the ANC will not know and strategize accordingly.

For the EFF and the DA to keep the ANC out of power, they need to bring Zuma in, and that can happenstance, too, given the history of collaboration between Zuma and Malema. It depends on whom Zuma decides to play along with. I suspect that Julius Malema’s phone call to Mr Zuma is all that is needed to axe the ANC from power. Zuma has a long list of grievances with the ANC more than he grouses with Malema. After all, Malema was on the receiving end of Zuma’s autocratic leadership style, and corruption allegations upended both political careers.

However, I perceive Zuma is more interested in ending his legal troubles than being a physical presence in the government. At 82 years old and counting, Zuma would prefer snuggling with his latest wife, whom he has sired a son. Zuma is unlikely to be there as a person, but he would love to pull the strings from behind.

It’s like placing his political allies in the cabinet. I do not see the Malema presidency risking losing the presidency to ensure Zuma gets his day in the courtroom through the ANC. Malema might promise to terminate his legal pain in exchange for the UMkhonto WeSizwe parliamentarians voting for him in the presidential election.

Politicians want power, and what they can do with it, and Julius Malema will ultimately swallow his pride and seek the parliamentarians uMkhonto weSizwe Party of KwaZulu Natal, to unite with his political vehicle, the EFF and their political allies, the DA, to bid farewell to the ANC.

ANC, however, will not go without a fight. In the last general elections, the opposition claimed they had evidence of political rigging, but just like in Kenya, it is difficult to rig the opposition strongholds. Elections are organized locally, so it is almost impossible for outsiders to upend the electorate’s will.

Unlike in Tanzania, where all local governments are in the hands of the ruling party through the notoriety of the DEDs – District Executive Directors in the South Africa, the president carries no such unparalleled powers, which could be the ANC’s Achilles heel.

Thinking ahead hurts nobody, but it brings more excitement to the African continent, where sad news is more common than not. The ruling party, the ANC, and the opposition will not form the government unless Jacob Zuma assents. For Zuma, being spared from legal troubles is a catalyst that has pushed him back into the turbulence of the political world.

Both the ANC and Julius Malema are his former buddies and sworn enemies. However, Zuma is likely to trust Malema more than the ANC. Having worked with both, Zuma will find a new government less intimidating than the incumbents who have ferociously persisted in sustaining his legal troubles.

If this postulate stands, then we will soon be naming Malema as His Excellency Mr President Julius Malema, sooner rather than later, fulfilling part of the prophecy of a South African political pundit who in 1994 had predicted the ANC reign would last for 30 years because official graft would oust it. However, he may have made an error, foreshadowing the DA forming the next government. That is not going to happen in this election.

The harsh reality is the DA cannot form the next government alone, will perhaps be the major shareholder in the future government, and a black man, Julius Malema, as the next president. It is still too soon for a white woman, or even a white man for that matter, to ascend to the throne, given the history of apartheid is still fresh in the minds of many voters.

There is an old saying: the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Could this saying be preying in the fertile mind of Jacob Zuma heading to the crucial election? Well, time will tell!

The author is a Development Administration specialist in Tanzania with over 30 years of practical experience, and has been penning down a number of articles in local printing and digital newspapers for some time now.

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