Unpacking the ‘Zuma factor’: How the MK party won KZN



Published Jun 1, 2024


The rise of Jacob Zuma’s uMkhonto weSizwe Party (MK Party) has undoubtedly further exposed the cracks within the African National Congress (ANC), not just in one of the country’s most contested provinces, KwaZulu-Natal, but also in other parts of the country.

Currently, with votes almost wrapped up in KZN, the MK Party has 45.35% of the provincial votes while the ANC has 16.97%. Nationally, the MK Party has 14.7%, firmly securing third spot behind the DA’s 21.6% and the ANC’s 40.3%.

The MK Party’s success has been largely thanks to Zuma, who interestingly enough is still a card-carrying member of the ANC and could be removed from as the MK Party’s leader, if the Electoral Court rules in favour of the party’s founder, Jabulani Khumalo.

People at the MK Rally in SowetoPicture: Itumeleng English/ Independent Newspaper

But what made the MK Party the favoured party in this election and was it the ‘Zuma factor’?

Speaking to IOL, political analyst Thobani Zikalala, said the ANC, when it goes back to the drawing board, needs to consider how much it discounted the ‘Zuma factor’ in South African and KZN politics.

“They could have managed it very early but they did not. They maintained arrogance that no one is bigger than the party but apparently it seems that the politics of personalities that is everywhere in SA, is the idea of following personalities.

“This is exemplified by people like Jacob Zuma who, no matter where they are politically, they have the majority’s support,” he said.

Zikalala said Zuma is the most popular leader of the ANC, post 1994, outside of Nelson Mandela, Chris Hani, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and the like.

“The ANC should have gone back to previous election results from 2009 and 2014 and saw how the emergence of Zuma as the president meant that the ANC got above 11 million votes, which are votes they last got in 1994, when Mandela was president.

“The other two elected presidents, Thabo Mbeki and Cyril Ramaphosa did not get those numbers. The only person who gotten closer to Mandela’s numbers in terms of votes is Zuma. They should have learnt this and dealt with the Zuma factor very early,” Zikalala said.

Addressing the media as the national results operations centre in Gauteng, Inkatha Freedom Party leader, Velenkosini Hlabisa, said the people and even ANC members are unhappy with the ANC.

“People who voted for the MK Party are ANC people who are disgruntled with the ANC. If you take the figures of 2019, what was achieved by the ANC, and look at leaders of the MK Party and ANC, you will easily see it’s two areas of the ANC split,” he said.

Speaking to BizNews Radio months before the elections, political analyst at the University of Johannesburg, Professor Theo Venter, said the formation of the MK Party had taken the ANC by surprise.

He added that with Zuma as the leader of the MK Party, it could impact the ruling party's support in KZN.

According to an Ipsos poll last month, the official formation of the MP Party in December 2023 had a profound effect on the distribution of support among the leading political parties over the last few months. According to the poll, the emergence of MK Party has halted the advances made by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) in recent years, particularly in KZN, with some former EFF supporters migrating to the new party.

ActionSA leader Herman Mashaba conceded that the emergence of MKP took political parties by surprise.

"No one can dispute the impact of MKP. The party of a former president… I am not sure if it has ever happened in the world but with us, it has happened,“ he said.

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