The African National Congress (ANC), South Africa’s ruling party, made a decisive move on Monday by suspending former President Jacob Zuma.
This development followed Zuma’s endorsement of a new political party, the MK Party, signaling an escalating feud between him and the current President, Cyril Ramaphosa.
Zuma, who held the leadership of the ANC from 2007 to 2017 and served as South Africa’s president from 2009 to 2018, had previously announced his support for the MK Party during a press conference in December.
The name “MK” stands for uMkhonto we Sizwe, the defunct ANC military wing founded by Nelson Mandela in 1961 to combat the apartheid regime. Zuma’s allegiance to this new party and his criticism of Ramaphosa’s leadership prompted the ANC’s decision to suspend him.
The ANC, in a statement, asserted that Zuma’s conduct, particularly campaigning against the party, was “irreconcilable” with its constitution. The rift deepened as Zuma made it clear he would vote for the MK Party while expressing an intention to maintain his ANC membership simultaneously. The party found this inconsistency incompatible with its values and principles, leading to the suspension.
The MK Party endorsement is part of Zuma’s broader dissatisfaction with Ramaphosa’s leadership, creating divisions within the ANC.
Zuma’s presidency ended in 2018 amid corruption allegations, and he currently faces charges related to a multi-billion-dollar arms deal signed over two decades ago. Despite legal challenges, Zuma still commands support in certain regions, evident in the 2021 riots following his imprisonment for contempt of court.
This political turmoil within the ANC comes at a crucial time as the party faces upcoming national elections. The ANC, once led by Nobel laureate Nelson Mandela, is grappling with declining popularity due to corruption accusations and perceived failures in addressing poverty and unemployment.
Analysts predict that the ANC, which has held a clear majority since the end of apartheid 30 years ago, might dip below 50% of the national vote, necessitating coalition-building to secure Ramaphosa’s presidency.
The ANC’s internal challenges highlight broader issues in South African politics, where corruption, economic struggles, and social disparities contribute to an increasingly competitive political landscape.
The suspension of a former president within the ruling party reflects the elaborate dynamics shaping the nation’s political future.