Zuma takes his electoral battle cry to the heart of the ANC – Top Stories (Trending Perfect)

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Former South African President Jacob Zuma made a show of force in the historic town of Soweto while campaigning for votes in the run-up to the general elections scheduled for May 29.

Zulu warriors marched around Orlando Stadium with spears and shields, men in camouflage clothing sang and danced to revolutionary songs, while some of South Africa's best-known singers – including rapper Big Zulu – entertained the crowd nearing capacity at Saturday's rally.

For Zuma's supporters, the big coup was the presence of the man known as the King of Disco, Baba Benny.

After announcing his resignation from the ruling African National Congress last week, he has now joined the former president's new party, Umkhonto Wesizwe, which means Spear of the Nation.

“Unite Africa. Unite South Africa,” he said in a short speech to the crowd, adding, “Fancy [Down with] Tribalism.”

Zulu warriors and also supporters of the MK Party (uMkhonto WeSizwe) gather at the party's People's Mandate Rally held at Orlando Stadium, Soweto, Johannesburg, South Africa, May 18, 2024Zulu warriors and also supporters of the MK Party (uMkhonto WeSizwe) gather at the party's People's Mandate Rally held at Orlando Stadium, Soweto, Johannesburg, South Africa, May 18, 2024

Traditional Zulu dancers performed at the parade [Getty Images]

Zuma's supporters see the presence of Baba Bini – who hails from the small Tsonga community – as important insofar as he challenges perceptions that support for the former president comes only from his Zulu ethnic group, which is the largest in South Africa.

But the star attraction of the march was none other than the 82-year-old former president.

The crowd erupted in chants of “Zuma, Zuma” as he entered the stadium, while his increasingly influential daughter, Duduzile Zuma-Sambodla, knelt before him and hugged him before he took his seat on the stage.

She works within the so-called “national core” of the party, as she recently stated Shadi PHodcast: “It is clear that my father is the head, and I am the neck.”

Zuma's decision to hold his largest election rally in Soweto was of great importance because it is an ANC stronghold in the economic heart of Gauteng in South Africa.

Soweto also has deep political symbolism because it was at the forefront of the struggle against apartheid, which ended with the ANC's rise to power in 1994.

But now, 30 years later, the ANC risks losing its absolute majority because it faces a threat from Zuma's breakaway party, as well as other opposition parties.

With this in mind, ANC leader and President Cyril Ramaphosa was hawkish during the election campaign in Zuma's home province of KwaZulu-Natal.

Addressing voters on Saturday in the town of Mandini, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the coastal city of Durban, Ramaphosa said job creation was his priority, warning “small parties” like MK – the acronym by which Zuma's party is known – against… That they were looking down on the ANC at their peril.

“These small parties, the Knesset members, don't really know us. They only know about us through the media. They will know us on May 29.” News24 quoted him as saying.

Supporters of the African National Congress (ANC) wait for the arrival of South African President Cyril Ramaphosa during an ANC election rally on May 17, 2024, at the Lakis Sports Stadium in Greytown, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa - May 17, 2024Supporters of the African National Congress (ANC) wait for the arrival of South African President Cyril Ramaphosa during an ANC election rally on May 17, 2024, at the Lakis Sports Stadium in Greytown, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa - May 17, 2024

The African National Congress, which ended white minority rule, is waging an electoral campaign to win a historic seventh term [Getty Images]

Ramaphosa ousted Zuma as president in 2018 after a fierce power struggle, which culminated in the former president abandoning the ANC last December and making a new bid for power under the MK banner.

The South African Supreme Court has not yet ruled on whether Zuma can serve as a lawmaker in the next parliament. The Electoral Commission says the constitution prevents anyone sentenced to more than 12 months in prison from doing so.

Zuma was sentenced to 15 months in prison in 2021 after being found guilty of contempt of court for defying a subpoena at an inquiry investigating corruption during his presidency.

But his lawyers say he is entitled to become an MP as his sentence was reduced to three months after Ramaphosa was released from prison in what is widely seen as an attempt to calm the former president's angry supporters.

Visvin Reddy, a senior MK official, told the BBC that he expected the court to issue its ruling this week. He added that even if things went against their leader, the Knesset members would still compete in the elections, with Zuma's face remaining on the ballot paper.

“We will go to Parliament, change the constitution and bring it,” Reddy added.

The Knesset member has set himself the goal of winning a two-thirds majority in the elections, although this seems an overly ambitious goal. An Ipsos poll released last month The party's support rate is only 8%.

In a worrying sign for Zuma, a large portion of the crowd left before he finished his lengthy speech, which dealt with political history.

While the Ipsos poll put the ANC's support at 40% (down from the 57% it received in the 2019 election), the Social Research Foundation (SRF), which tracks opinion polls on a daily basis, says the ruling party has seen a boom. To support her in recent weeks as she ramps up her campaign, Local newspaper City Press reported.

SRF President Frans Cronje said that if elections were held now, the ANC would likely be able to cross the 50% mark.

“According to our computer projections in the last four weeks, the ANC has been putting pressure on the opposition parties,” he was quoted as saying.

During the election campaign in KwaZulu-Natal, Ramaphosa urged his party's supporters to come out in large numbers to vote.

“If we win in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, we will have won because these two provinces have the largest number of people,” he was quoted as saying during the rally.

A Jacob Zuma supporter holds up small posters bearing MK's pledgesA Jacob Zuma supporter holds up small posters bearing MK's pledges

South Africa's electricity crisis, high unemployment rates, high costs of living and criminal violence dominated the election campaign [Ed Habershon/BBC]

Not surprisingly, there was deep animosity towards the ANC leader at Zuma's rally, with the crowd chanting “Down with Ramaphosa”.

“Power must return to the people,” Zuma said in a speech in Zulu.

Attacking the white colonists, he added: “The people who came on ships and boats took over our country. They left us poor. We must reclaim the land that our ancestors fought for.”

A small number of his supporters wore T-shirts with pictures of Zuma and Russian President Vladimir Putin, noting that the two were among the founding leaders of the BRICS group, an alliance of major developing countries that seeks to rival the power of Western countries.

“Putin is our friend, Zuma’s friend,” Dennis Zawaid, a supporter of the MK, told the BBC, accusing the West of exploiting mineral resources in Africa.

He added, “Africa is a rich continent, but its people suffer because of exploitation.”

In her statementMK has pledged to nationalize South Africa's mines and banks if she takes power, although these policies were widely discredited after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

“We want our children to study for free, especially those from poor families, because the poverty we are living in was not created by us. It was created by settlers who took everything, including our land. We will get all these things back, earn money and know,” Zuma said. “Our children.”

He also pledged to expel illegal immigrants, in another sign of the populist stance he has adopted in an attempt to win votes.

The extent of his success will become clear in ten days when South Africans cast their votes in one of the most important elections of the post-apartheid era.

Election flag in South AfricaElection flag in South Africa

[BBC]

More on the 2024 South African elections:

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