In a small stadium in Tembisa township, supporters of former South African President Jacob Zuma’s newly-formed radical left-wing party gathered in anticipation of his appearance. Despite Zuma’s absence, his followers remain hopeful, expressing a deep connection with the former leader and a desire for change in a country grappling with various challenges.
Mandla Khoza, a fervent supporter of the Umkhonto We Sizwe (MK) party, voiced his admiration for Zuma, citing the former president’s historical role in the anti-Apartheid movement. Khoza, like many others, believes that Zuma’s party could bring about positive change in the face of issues such as failing infrastructure, a weakened economy, and rising crime rates.
The MK party, formed last September by former soldiers of the ANC’s armed wing, has garnered attention as Zuma announced his campaign for its leadership. However, the absence of the ex-president from the recent rally in Tembisa raised questions about the party’s organizational capacity.
Siphamandla Zondi, a politics professor at the University of Johannesburg, highlighted the inadequacies in event planning, indicating potential challenges for the party. He noted that despite the small turnout, it does not necessarily reflect the party’s overall potential, citing strong support in other provinces.
The issue of Zuma’s eligibility to run for office, given his previous terms as president and a contempt of court conviction, has sparked controversy. According to the South African constitution, a person may not hold the presidency for more than two terms. However, party spokesman Nhlamulo Ndhlela dismissed these concerns, advocating for constitutional reform based on the will of the people.
Ndhlela called for a reconsideration of the constitution, asserting that if the people wish for Zuma to be president again, the constitution should be amended accordingly. Despite the constitutional limitations, the MK party remains steadfast in its belief that Zuma can run for office, with Ndhlela emphasizing that the former president will lead the party.
As the southern African country gears up for general elections in the coming months, the MK party’s aspirations and Zuma’s potential political comeback add a layer of complexity to the political landscape. Whether the party can overcome organizational challenges and expand its support base beyond enthusiastic provinces remains to be seen, leaving South Africans to contemplate the future political direction of their nation.