From Ramaphoria to Ramageddon: MK party shatters long-held false narratives about Jacob Zuma

Political analyst, Professor Sipho Seepe. Picture: Supplied

Political analyst, Professor Sipho Seepe. Picture: Supplied

Published Jun 3, 2024


Many political observers have reacted with both “shock and awe” to the astounding performance of the Umkhonto we Sizwe Party in one of South Africa’s most contested elections.

Indeed, to borrow from US military jargon, MK Party’s performance is nothing short of operation “desert storm” or “decapitation”.

Never has a ruling party suffered such a humiliating and crushing defeat.

Since taking over as President of the country, Ramaphosa, ANC has experienced a cataclysmic decline from 62% to 40% of electoral support.

However, this feigned bewilderment by the media fraternity at the MK Party’s performance is a self-created crisis.

The bewilderment arises from the fact that many political observers and political players bought into their political misconceptions, blatant lies, and deliberately crafted false narratives they created for themselves.

They have as such become victims of their ingrained prejudice against former President Jacob Zuma.

Just a few weeks before the elections, Gayton Mckenzie, the leader of the Patriotic Alliance sounded a stern warning. Addressing a Daily Maverick roundtable, McKenzie was unequivocal.

“Jacob Zuma is the wrecking ball of this coming elections.… Anybody that’s not worried about Jacob Zuma has not been paying attention or they are simply playing to the gallery. Jacob Zuma keeps people busy... At home, they are strategising on how they can stop him. He’s filling up places wherever he goes. So, I am not going to sit here and say he is not a threat.”

Unlike McKenzie, the Zuma-haters, and they are in a legion, have been hard at work to convince themselves and those who care to listen that the MK Party’s impact would be marginal at best.

Now it is the time to eat a humble pie and hopefully recover from their drunken stupor.

For his part, Jonny Steinberg described the former president Jacob Zuma as “a crafty politician Zuma is in a league of his own” (Business Day, 22 March, 2024).

To the chagrin of both Mbeki acolytes Steinberg argued that “in 30 years of democracy in SA the most talented political player to emerge by a country mile is Jacob Zuma. He alone has mined down to the tectonic plates deep under SA’s social formation and shifted them to produce a politics that brings him power. Nobody else has come anywhere close to doing that.”

Following this week’s electoral performance, the self-appointed authors of his political obituary, who have been very busy in the last few years, would have to quickly revise their manuscripts.

For its part, the ANC had also sought to use the former president as a scapegoat for its political woes.

The outcome of the 2024 national elections dispelled the long-held false narratives that had shaped the political discourse in the last fifteen years.

Central to these narratives is a major chasm in the lived experiences of the haves and have-nots in South Africa.

A few false narratives are arguably central to the sense of bamboozlement experienced by the media fraternity.

First, a significant number of voters have rejected the so-called 'nine wasted years' mantra that has been propounded by all and sundry.

If asked, they rattle a list of life-changing achievements experienced under former President Jacob Zuma.

Minister of Higher Education, Science & Innovation has repeatedly argued that a lot was achieved under the Zuma administration.

“Zuma administration spent a trillion rand in five years in investing infrastructure, helping us a lot to cushion the country against the global financial meltdown for those of you who will remember 2007 and 2008. Antiretroviral drugs were rolled out under that administration pushing up the life expectancy in our country.”

Lauding changes that were brought by the Zuma administration, former Health Ombud, and former Vice Chancellor of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Professor Makgoba wrote: “As a country, we have moved decisively away from the voodoo, reputationally damaging, and ignorant days of President Mbeki’s ill-advised, ill-informed, and pernicious policies on HIV/AIDS, and evidence is everywhere for us to be proud and confident that we are on the correct path and with scientifically proven evidence-based sound health policies. With an estimated 330000 deaths during his reign, as a result of ‘failure to accept the use of available ARVs to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS in a timely manner’, perhaps as South Africans we should seriously consider a case of ‘crimes against humanity’ to the International Court of Justice.”

Presenting the Higher Education and Training Budget Vote 2017/18, Nzimande sought to debunk the myth of nine wasted years.

He argued that under the Zuma administration, the country saw “the establishment of three new universities, including a dedicated university of health sciences… Approved massive infrastructure developments across the system. Improved access, participation, and throughput rates. A TVET college Turn Around Strategy, including a significant increase in enrolments in the TVET Colleges… Despite the cynicism of our critics, more than two million students studying at South Africa’s public universities and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Colleges have been funded by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).”

Second, the recent national elections have but all pulverised the hitherto widely propounded false narrative that Ramaphosa is more popular than the ANC.

Ramaphosa enjoys the support he gets from the ANC only on the basis that he is its president.

The other support he gets is from the sworn enemies of the very party he leads.

The latter saw him as a Trojan horse to bet on for the destruction of the ANC.

With the support of the ANC reduced by almost seventeen percent in one electoral cycle, Ramaphosa’s funders must be pleased.

The mandate of delivering the ANC as a carcass destined to the dustbin of history is on course.

Third, the characterisation of Zuma as the embodiment of ethnic mobilisation.

This lazy characterisation was recently repeated by the current Chair of the ANC, Minister Gwede Mantashe.

The support of the ANC by the mainly Xhosa-speaking South Africans in the Eastern Cape or the Tswana-speaking in both the Northwest and Northern Cape is never characterised as inspired by ethnicity.

Indeed, no less an important figure than President Ramaphosa has sought to appeal to this backward notion of ethnicity in his response to the social unrest and uprising in response to the former president’s incarceration by the Constitutional Court.

Responding to this utter nonsense, political analyst-cum-economist Moeletsi Mbeki argues that the ANC often pulls either the race or ethnic card when it is in trouble.

“Cyril was targeting the whites – the white prejudices, let me say. He wanted to tell the whites that they are these Zulu bloodthirsty savages, but he’s going to deal with them using the army and the police. So that was his strategy for allaying the white fears... That was the intention. He knows there was no such ethnic mobilisation. Cyril knows how to manipulate the white population. He plays on their prejudices.”

Fourth, the new false narrative that is been propounded is that the support of the MK Party is a mere protest vote. Inherent in this false narrative is the usual racist insult that reduces Africans to an unthinking mob.

This characterisation of mainly African people only serves to feed the demon of white supremacy. There can never be anything rational that would make people vote for the MK Party, or any black party for that matter. Interestingly so, the vote for the DA or the FF+ by mainly white constituents is never racial nor irrational. If truth be told, any vote for the opposition is necessarily a protest vote.

Regarding Zuma’s support, Moeletsi explains: “Zuma has support amongst the poor. We have always known this. Everybody has known except his enemies within the ANC…He doesn’t come from the elite, like the Eastern Cape, like my brother and Mandela. He is not the son of a policeman like Cyril Ramaphosa. He is just an ordinary person who was a migrant worker. That’s why they identify with him.”

For now, the MK party and Zuma have captured the electoral moment.

The former president Jacob Zuma’s haters are rabid and never sleep. But once again his political acumen is a show to marvel at.

The love that he enjoys is inscribed in the hearts and souls of ordinary people.

No machinations, no vengeful individual, and no institution however high and mighty, would erase that.

*** Professor Sipho Seepe is an independent political analyst.

** The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of Independent Media or IOL

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