FORMER President Jacob Zuma’s suspension from the ANC could negatively impact the governing party ahead of the general elections this year.
Political analysts say many ANC supporters are likely to follow the former President to the newly formed uMkonto we Sizwe (MK) party, after the ANC National Executive Committee (NEC) suspended Zuma from the party last week.
The suspension followed Zuma’s announcement in December last year that he would be supporting MK. While remaining an ANC member, Zuma said he would not campaign for the party under President Cyril Ramaphosa, and invited South Africans to join him in voting for MK.
The ANC said Zuma’s actions reinforced the work of the primarily right-wing opponents of the “National Democratic Revolution”, labelling his decision as a reactionary public posture. The ruling party accused the former president of asserting himself as the figurehead of a counter-revolution in South Africa.
“The former President is actively impugning the integrity of the ANC and campaigning to dislodge the ANC from power, while claiming that he has not terminated his membership. This conduct is irreconcilable with the spirit of organisational discipline and letter of the ANC Constitution,” the party said in a statement.
Political analyst Professor Sethulego Matebesi said although the decision to suspend Zuma was the right one, it could potentially impact the ANC’s support ahead of the elections.
“However, what more damage can Zuma’s endorsement of the MK party cause than what we have already observed? It is evident that he still has a significant following within the ANC, and his endorsement of the MK party may have resonated with certain segments of the electorate.
“I believe that the ANC’s decision to suspend Zuma could lead to (further) divisions within the party and possibly affect its ability to maintain a united front during the election campaign,” said Matebesi.
The final test would be how the electorate responds to the latest developments.
“The ultimate impact on the ANC’s electoral support depends on how the party navigates the expected onslaught from opposition parties, and how voters perceive the situation,” Matebesi said.
Another political analyst, Kim Heller, said although Zuma had been out of office for several years, he remained a popular figure.
“While Jacob Zuma has been out of office for several years, he remains popular among ordinary people not only in KZN, but across many parts of the country. The MK party is set to attract a large pool of dissatisfied ANC voters.
“When former President Zuma publicly announced that he would not be voting for the ANC in the upcoming elections but would be supporting the MK party, he knew full well that he was in violation of the ANC constitution. From a technical perspective, the ANC is correct to suspend the membership of Jacob Zuma.
“The governing party is unlikely to expel former President Jacob Zuma before the election as this action would likely fuel greater support for the MK party which is already garnering strong support as a result of Zuma’s endorsement,” said Heller.
Professor Siphamandla Zondi said the NEC's aim in suspending Zuma was to show ANC members that they were bold enough to act on his tricky matter, but the question was how would this decision would help the party contain the damage that the Zuma campaign was causing?
“It does not. The next step will tell us whether the NEC wants to do more to contain the damage caused by the MK party, a party that is actually eating into other parties' bases including the IFP (Inkatha Freedom Party).
“With this, the ANC hoped to be clear about where it stands on the Zuma matter. Perhaps this will persuade some ANC leaders to work closely with the MK Party or from defecting to it. We do not know if this will in any way contain the expansion of the MK party in ANC strongholds.
“It is a tricky matter for the ANC as Zuma had already planned on their response, and he expected suspension and expulsion even. So the decision may not even shock or change his moves,” Zondi said.
Professor Sipho Seepe said the ANC had no choice but to suspend Zuma as the MK party gained momentum. He added that to minimise what could be an unmitigated disaster, the ruling party had even preferred to conduct disciplinary proceedings after the elections. Seepe said this was because the party had no idea how ordinary citizens would react.
“The current leadership of the ANC has failed black people. That much has become evident. Evident also is that it has nothing to show.
“The former President can boast of having done something visible. This includes two new universities, reversing the government's policy on HIV/AIDS, investing in economic infrastructure, introducing feeding schemes for early childhood learners, providing children of the poor with resources to pursue their tertiary education, etc. The current leader has done nothing other than internally crippling the party,” said Seepe.
“The current administration under Ramaphosa has nothing to show. This is why it has chosen to frame its manifesto in terms of the last 30 years.
“The former President is the least surprised by this development. He is likely to use the disciplinary process to expose the hypocrisy of the ANC and its inconsistent application of its Constitution,” said Seepe.