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Vantage | Why Jacob Zuma is on warpath against his own party

Opinion

Vantage | Why Jacob Zuma is on warpath against his own party

The South African election is still a few months away, and it promises to be interesting

The Vantage Take December 20, 2023 13:05:48 IST Vantage | Why Jacob Zuma is on warpath against his own party

Former South African President Jacob Zuma. (File Photo | AP)

A political civil war has broken out in South Africa, featuring former President Jacob Zuma. He was at a political event on Saturday. That’s where he fired the first salvo, targeting current President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa, Zuma’s successor and foe.

Zuma said it would be a ‘betrayal’ to campaign for Ramaphosa’s party, or the African National Congress. This is the same party to which Nelson Mandela belonged. The party first came to power in 1994, after South Africa won freedom from Apartheid rule. The same party has won every election since.

Every election since 1994, the ANC has come out on top. Jacob Zuma was an ANC leader, and so is Ramaphosa. But now, Zuma is rebelling, he says he will vote for a different party.

“In 2024, I will vote for the uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) party. I call on all South Africans to join me in taking the important step and to vote for the MK party,” said the former South African President.

Zuma is 81 years old, a politician who rose during South Africa’s struggle against Apartheid. As a young man, he spent a decade in jail, on the infamous Robben island. He fought along with Nelson Mandela and other freedom fighters.

So why is Zuma abandoning his party now? The party he fought so hard for? Well, Zuma says it is to save the ANC from itself.

“I will be a member of the ANC until I die. If the ANC goes out of the way I will take time to correct it. And this is to rescue the ANC…what I’m doing,” said Zuma.

Is that the only reason though? Or is Zuma trying to pile pressure on the ANC? To extract revenge from President Ramaphosa? The two men share a long history. The story goes back to 1991, that’s when Ramaphosa and Zuma first went head to head. Both stood for the post of ANC Secretary General where Ramaphosa won, and Zuma had to settle for the post of deputy Secretary General. Since then, Zuma took the lead, politically, he rose through the ranks. And in 2009, he became the president of South Africa, he ruled the country for almost nine years. But in 2018, he was forced to step down upon the allegations of corruption and his rival, Ramaphosa took over.

Now, Zuma is under legal scrutiny. Although he is no stranger to controversy. He has been linked to corruption scandals for years.

Including the country’s most famous scandal, the 1999 South African arms deal. Zuma is said to have benefited from it. Zuma has been indicted in this case multiple times. But the proceedings have been dropped or delayed for various reasons. Technically, he’s still being questioned. So 24 years after the arms deal, he’s not been convicted.

He says this case is politically motivated. That they’re ploys by his enemies like Ramaphosa to keep him out of politics, but the arms deal isn’t the only stain on Zuma’s record.

There are also his infamous ties with the Gupta brothers.

“There were lots of things that struck me but one of the things that concerned me very much was how the former president of the republic, Jacob Zuma was prepared to do certain things, wrong things, at the instance of or for the Guptas,” said the chief justice of South Africa.

He’s talking about the Gupta Family of industrialists. They went to South Africa in 1993, and they were always close to Jacob Zuma. So much so, that they are accused of undue influence in South Africa.

Critics say the Guptas effectively captured the state, and this is what precipitated Zuma’s downfall. Now he says he won’t support his party.

Ramaphosa has a tough election ahead. The opposition parties have forged a coalition. So, the ANC may actually have a fight on its hands. But is Zuma in a position to influence the voters?

Apparently yes, the former president is still popular, he can still influence a sizable number of votes. Maybe even enough to tip the election away from the ANC. Can Ramaphosa prevent that? Or will Zuma have the last laugh? The election is still a few months away, and it promises to be interesting.

Views expressed in the above piece are personal and solely that of the author. They do not necessarily reflect Firstpost’s views.

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