The third coming of the ‘Zuma Tsunami’

Political analyst Professor Lesiba Teffo says Zuma should not be underestimated. Picture: File

Political analyst Professor Lesiba Teffo says Zuma should not be underestimated. Picture: File

Published Jun 2, 2024


A FEW weeks ago, political analyst Professor Lesiba Teffo said former president Jacob Zuma would make a comeback, adding that many would witness the “second coming of the Zuma Tsunami”.

The word “Zuma Tsunami” was coined in 2007 by Zwelinzima Vavi, who is the former leader of Cosatu.

Vavi proclaimed that the “Zuma Tsunami” was unstoppable during Zuma’s second-term campaign for the Union Buildings.

Although Vavi has since changed from this political stance regarding his former ally, perhaps his prophecy was right about one thing, the “Zuma Tsunami” appears to be making another wave in the political landscape of this country.

Speaking on Newsroom Africa during an interview with Stephen Grootes, Teffo said: “The fear of the lord is sent to those who had thought he might not come back again.

“Sometime back you and I were alive to the reality there was something called a Zuma Tsunami, and there was also a union leader who said if you stop Zuma from going to the statehouse or the Union Buildings, you will experience a tsunami.

“What I am saying is that the second coming of a tsunami is coming and whether he will reach the statehouse is another matter, but he’s sweeping the country undoubtedly.”

Teffo predicted Zuma’s party would make it impossible for the ruling party to receive above 50% of the national vote.

“Don’t underestimate the man, he’s a politician, he’s a chess master and he knows the ground is receptive to anything that says anything but the ANC,” said Teffo.

In April, Dr Corné Mulder of the Freedom Front Plus described Zuma as a “people’s person”, adding that that can be attested to Zuma’s victory as ANC leader over Thabo Mbeki at the ANC’s national electoral conference in Polokwane in 2005.

“When he (Zuma) was kicked out as the country’s deputy president, many senior people cried over his defeat, that’s how much influence Zuma has. Today, MK is a reality because of him. What Zuma then did was to go back to the grassroots level, and we all know what happened in Polokwane,” said Mulder.

Much like in 2009, it was his charisma that swept Zuma back to political power.

According to some reports, Zuma is the most colourful and controversial president South Africa has had since white-minority rule ended in 1994.

He has been a politician with nine lives, surviving a series of scandals that would surely have ended anyone else's career.

For many years, it was unwise to write Zuma off: his Zulu name, Gedleyihlekisa, means the one who smiles while grinding his enemies.

Accustomed for so long to operating in a comfort zone of one-party dominance, the ANC is now confronted with a more challenging political shift with the return of their former leader who now represents a new rival party which is now the third biggest opposition party in South Africa.

However, it is not only the ruling party that finds itself in a vulnerable position, especially in KwaZulu-Natal where other players dominate the rural parts of the province.

Addressing the Cape Town Press Club in April, the IFP’s Velenkosini Hlabisa said MK was more of a threat to the ANC as its members and supporters were disgruntled ANC members.

Hlabisa said his party was not keen on working with either the ANC or MK in the event the IFP falls short of the 50% + one needed to form a government on its own.

The IFP is part of the multiparty charter made up of parties that seek to block another ANC government or an ANC/EFF coalition.

In 2007, Zuma rose to prominence after he launched an aggressive campaign that appealed to widespread discontent with then-President Mbeki, who was often described as autocratic and aloof.

Zuma was elected South Africa’s president in 2009.

The now 82-year-old led until 2018, before he was forced to resign amid an internal uprising allegedly led by some of his comrades.

With Zuma ousted, his successor, President Cyril Ramaphosa, took over as president, and it was not long before Zuma was sentenced to 15 months in prison for defying a court order to testify at the Zondo Commission, in 2021.

This sent the country’s economy burning in what became known as the July unrest, when a wave of civil unrest occurred in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, sparked by the incarceration of the former president during the Ramaphosa administration.

The MK Party is expected to be a kingmaker as the ANC seeks to team up with other smaller parties to form a new government.