Former South African president Jacob Zuma showed supporter muscle last week and highlighted a visible defiance among some senior members of the African National Congress (ANC), proving he may be down but not out.
Political analyst Ralph Mathekga believes the ruling party may have underestimated just how much they may need him in his home province come election time, meaning Zuma may still have more clout in the party than the new leadership has bargained for. If Zuma’s supporters feel he’s been betrayed by his party, the price could be a massive loss of support at the polls.
His appearance at the High Court in Durban on Friday to face corruption charges solidified a picture of little unity within the ANC. The former president proved he still has widespread support in his home province.
Hundreds of supporters wore ANC regalia, in defiance of an official instruction from the party. A night vigil was held and, among the hundreds of pro-Zuma supporters was former SABC boss Hlaudi Motsoeneng, former cooperative governance and traditional affairs minister Des van Rooyen, KZN Premier Willies Mchunu, ANC head of elections Fikile Mbalula and ANC KwaZulu-Natal interim committee co-ordinator Zihle Zikalala.
This open support has resulted in much speculation, with reports of a possible mutiny.
Speaking to the SABC on Sunday, Zikalala dismissed claims of talks to discredit President Cyril Ramaphosa and remove him. He said they were part of a mere “propaganda campaign”.
A voice recording from Mbalula, however, clearly points to smoke within the ANC camp. Mbalula in the audio criticises the ANC for telling its members not to support Zuma any more, especially in an official party capacity.
He says the new leadership is treating Zuma as though he is convicted.
Political analyst Ralph Mathekga said on Monday in a radio interview that the ongoing support implies a clear defiance of the ANC by Zuma supporters in the party.
“People showed up”, said Mathekga.
He said pockets of people still felt Zuma was victimised and treated unfairly and it was the ANC who should still be defending him. KZN had always been in support of Zuma, which could spell trouble for the party come election season.
“The KZN ANC may not be willing to campaign with the ANC, which could prove dire come next year’s elections.
“I think it’s a bit unrealistic for the people who think you could just walk away from Jacob Zuma and his legacy and call his support base just like that,” Mathekga said, adding that the ANC should be focused on “some form of realignment away from old forces, just to focus on the election and push this unity. But now with this internal fight, certainly the party will suffer.”
Mathekga said that should the KZN vote poorly for the ANC next year, the party could be in trouble.
“If you perform severely poorly in KZN, it will affect your national tally when it comes to how you perform [in the elections]. ANC members should be very careful. They should be running with fire extinguishers in trying to deal with this matter,” he said.