South Africa’s ANC Pushes to Keep Zuma’s Party Out of Elections

Johannesburg — South Africa’s governing party has gone to court to try stop a newly created rival party from contesting May elections.

National elections on May 29 are widely expected to be the most fiercely contested ever, with surveys suggesting the African National Congress party will win less than 50 percent of the vote for the first time since the advent of democracy in 1994.

Now, a new opposition party named uMkhonto weSizwe, or MK for short, has infuriated the ANC by naming itself after the ANC’s disbanded armed wing, which was formed by Nelson Mandela and fought against apartheid.

The fact that former president Jacob Zuma, an ANC stalwart, has thrown his weight behind the rival party has only added insult to injury, and the ANC has suspended him.

On Monday, the ANC went to the electoral court arguing the MK party did not meet the necessary criteria when it registered with the electoral commission late last year.

ANC Secretary General Fikile Mbalula addressed media outside court on Monday, saying the ANC is also taking legal action to try and prevent Zuma from using the storied uMkhonto weSizwe name.

“We are challenging him in two levels in terms of this formation. You must understand this is the beginning,” Mbalula said. “Here today at the electoral court we are challenging him in terms of deregistration of this party.”

Mbalula said the ANC was also pursuing a copyright infringement case against the MK party over the name.

While Zuma was forced to resign as president in 2018 amid corruption scandals, and is currently mired in several court cases, he remains very popular with his fellow ethnic Zulus in KwaZulu-Natal province.

When in July 2021 he was briefly jailed for contempt of court, South Africa saw the worst violence in its post-apartheid history, with more than 300 killed in looting and rioting.

A poll this month by a local research group, the Brenthurst Foundation, showed the ANC getting below 40 percent and the MK party winning 13 percent of the vote.

“Does this mean that South Africa’s going to experience a violent election because it’s more contested? Well that remains to be seen,” Brenthurst Foundation Director Greg Mills said. “It’s undoubtedly going to be very heated. Especially in KwaZulu-Natal province where the MK party…has around one quarter of the vote.”

Some members of the MK party, like the party’s youth leader and Visvin Reddy, a Zuma ally, have threatened violence if they are barred from competing in elections.

“This country will be turned into civil war, the day that MK is not allowed to campaign, and be on the ballot paper. No one will vote, we will make sure of it,” Reddy said at an MK rally earlier this month.

After Monday’s arguments from MK and ANC lawyers, the Electoral Court reserved judgment until a later date. 

An MK spokesman did not reply to multiple requests for comment from VOA.

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