Nobody is bigger than the ANC, but Zuma might be

Former president Jacob Zuma canvassing for votes for the newly-formed, uMkhonto weSizwe opposition party. Picture: @DZumaSambudla/X

Former president Jacob Zuma canvassing for votes for the newly-formed, uMkhonto weSizwe opposition party. Picture: @DZumaSambudla/X

Published Jan 10, 2024



“You know, some people say no one is bigger than the ANC … but Zuma might be, Phapano.”

In October last year, I sat with a scholar who is a senior lecturer at one of the exclusive business schools, has a Doctorate in finance and is a highly accomplished author.

He told me that Zuma didn’t need the ANC; he was wasting his time.

“Phapano, Zuma might be bigger than the ANC … A Zuma-led party might be the one that defeats the ANC and a Zuma-led party might be the best thing that would have happened for black people.”

He pushed up his glasses with his finger and continued: “This leadership continues to show they don’t want or need him. The more they ostracise him and turn him into a leper, the more black people will see him as their Messiah.

“The biggest strength that Zuma has, Phapano, is that black people like him and he could even get a lot of funding from black businesses.

“Zuma’s advantage is that he is popular with the underclass – they identify with him ª and he is Zulu and, oddly, the people who have been screwed over are the underclass and Zulus, with your Ingonyama Trust and then the narrative of ethnic mobilisation which scapegoated Zulus.

“If Jacob Zuma started a political party that was properly funded, his party would become the official opposition. It would be far bigger than the EFF and the DA.

“You put Zuma and a Ramaphosa on a ballot and you would get more than the five million votes for Zuma.”

I listen to this doctor and I dread Zuma ever leaving the ANC. I cannot see him leaving the ANC.

The senior lecturer then says: “If you had a Zuma-led party, that would be the end of the ANC.

“A Zuma-led party would be bigger than the ANC in KZN and probably the same size in Mpumalanga, the Free State and Gauteng and not as strong in other provinces.

“If you look at the raw number of electoral votes and voter turnout since 1994, the second person who got the highest number of votes and voter turnout after Mandela has been president Zuma who got around 12 million votes.”

He said the largest decline in votes was under Cyril Ramaphosa, where the ANC share of the votes declined everywhere except Limpopo.

From a political and economic dimension, his strongest base was largely the poor, not so well educated, people in squatter camps and people who were generally not accepted by the system.

The doctor said poor people identified with him – the very people rejected and excluded by the system. That was Zuma’s strongest point. Also, he came from the largest ethnic group in the country which was identified as tribal but was hegemonic.

He said students yearning for a decolonised education identified with Zuma.

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Zuma, who were both imprisoned, might be rewriting history.

“Zuma is currently fighting within the ANC rules, imagine if he rewrites his own rules.”

That was in October when I was taking down notes from the academic who wanted us to write a joint column on this, but we have long passed that and I shoved the notes in my laptop.

Now, I heard the new ANC secretary-general, Fikile Mbalula, wants the ANC to reconcile with Zuma. However, the likes of Derek Hanekom would rather have members of the Nationalist Party and Broederbond in the ANC than a Zuma who is a threat to those who want to weaken the ANC and affirm whiteness.

We have a few months before the 2024 elections. Any breakaway from the party will push the ANC vote below 40%. That would probably lead to the ANC’s demise under Ramaphosa.

Second terms are interesting phases in the ANC because incumbents become weaker as everyone plots their departure, so with Ramaphosa’s last term looming and elections around the corner, the next few months will be interesting.

It will also be interesting to see whether the state capture recommendations will be implemented because that could either be Ramaphosa’s ace or self-sabotage on the side. We wait and see.

All in all, let’s hope the dear doctor was wrong and what he envisaged will not come to pass.

Phapano Phasha is a political commentator. Photo: Supplied

Phapano Phasha is a political commentator.

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