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By Eric Naki

Political Editor


ANC will struggle in KZN – experts

Experts predict President Cyril Ramaphosa faces hurdles as Zuma retains grassroots support in KZN, impacting ANC dynamics.


President Cyril Ramaphosa and the ANC will struggle to gain traction in KwaZulu-Natal because Jacob Zuma controls the grassroots and enjoys the support of traditionalists. Experts say Ramaphosa will not be able to gain political mileage out of the spat between Zuma and the ANC’s KwaZulu-Natal leadership because Zulu traditionalists will always stand behind Zuma and support his uMkhonto WeSizwe (MK) party. KZN hostile towards Ramaphosa University of KwaZulu-Natal politics lecturer Zakhele Ndlovu and independent analyst Goodenough Mashego believe KZN would remain hostile towards Ramaphosa, despite the spat and the change of heart by the ANC provincial leadership to support…

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President Cyril Ramaphosa and the ANC will struggle to gain traction in KwaZulu-Natal because Jacob Zuma controls the grassroots and enjoys the support of traditionalists.

Experts say Ramaphosa will not be able to gain political mileage out of the spat between Zuma and the ANC’s KwaZulu-Natal leadership because Zulu traditionalists will always stand behind Zuma and support his uMkhonto WeSizwe (MK) party.

KZN hostile towards Ramaphosa

University of KwaZulu-Natal politics lecturer Zakhele Ndlovu and independent analyst Goodenough Mashego believe KZN would remain hostile towards Ramaphosa, despite the spat and the change of heart by the ANC provincial leadership to support Ramaphosa instead of Zuma.

Ndlovu said traditionalist Zulu people liked Zuma because he is their typical rural “Zulu boy”, and an ibhinca (core traditionalist) they identified with. In fact, because of his association with Zulu culture, he would be able to steal support from the ANC and Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP).

“Zuma is seen by many people in KZN as being ‘one of us’ – he is a polygamist; he sings and dances in the Zulu traditional style and wears traditional Zulu attire occasionally and attends royal functions. So there is a lot of traditional people from the ANC and IFP who identify with Zuma and who will support MK party because they see Zuma as like them,” Ndlovu said.

Absence of Buthelezi would benefit MK

Also, according to Ndlovu, the absence of the late IFP founder Mangosuthu Buthelezi, a staunch traditionalist who held the IFP together via traditions and his association with the Zulu royalty, would benefit MK because of Zuma’s link to Zulu traditions.

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Some IFP members might be tempted to support Zuma or MK as they imagined that without Buthelezi, the Zulu tradition and culture could wane and that Zuma would be able to keep it going.

Of course, this may just be imagination and not reality for it may not be necessarily true as the IFP had always been closer to the Zulu royalty and the maintenance of Zulu culture than the ANC or Zuma.

The appointment by Zulu king Misuzulu of Thulasizwe Buthelezi, an IFP senior leader and Zululand district mayor, as Zulu royal prime minister continues the IFP dominance of the Zulu royal affairs.

Mashego said the MK party would split ANC votes in KZN, giving the IFP an advantage to take over the province.

Really serious contest would be between MK and IFP

More than the ANC and MK, the really serious contest would be between MK and IFP in the province and the IFP would likely emerge on top once more.

According to Ndlovu, the KZN ANC leadership were previously anti-Ramaphosa and pro-Zuma but had since changed allegiance toward Ramaphosa because they were betrayed by Zuma, whom they supported during his ongoing corruption trial.

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“They have realised that they have to work with Ramaphosa because he is the president of the ANC,” Ndlovu said.

The spat with Zuma is not going to change anything on the ground and would not make Ramaphosa gain overnight popularity in the province because Zuma still enjoyed strong influence among the grassroots and traditionalists.

Zuma’s glory days

Zuma’s glory days began as ANC leader in 2007 and when he became president of South Africa in 2009, before he was recalled in 2018.

The party’s KZN branch became the kingmaker at ANC national conferences with the largest members and overtook the Eastern Cape.

Ndlovu also cited as another possible corridor of Zuma’s support base the question of Zuma-era tenderpreneurs – individuals who were given state contracts over qualifying bidders because of their political connections.

The tenderpreneurs would have benefitted contracts from the Zuma administration and would likely vote for MK so that they could reap the benefits once more if Zuma regained power.

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