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By Jarryd Westerdale

Digital Journalist

Election battlegrounds: Violence and tension grip, but who will be king of KZN after 29 May?

MK party has dominated discussion in KZN but will social media hype translate into a significant turnout for the fledgling party.

Volatile at best, with a lingering threat of incendiary exchanges. Political affiliations take on a deeper significance in Kwazulu-Natal.

In an election billed as “Our 1994” by several opposition parties, the ANC is expected to drop below 50% nationally, throwing out a multitude of permutations.

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In KZN, the ANC’s grip is slipping as they fight off challenges from old foes, the IFP, while bullishly dismissing the would-be revolution brewing in Nkandla.

2019 and 2021 election results in KZN 

Nationally, the ANC achieved 57.5% of the vote in the 2019 national elections, with 10 026 475 South Africans placing their ‘X’ in the party’s box.

That was higher than in KZN where they achieved fractionally less at 54.2%, with 1 951 027 votes.

Between the IFP, DA and EFF, they managed a collective 39.9%, but there is a new player in the Zulu heartland: the uMkhonto weSizwe (MKparty.

ALSO READ: Final election results live: Coalitions imminent with 66 hung municipalities

The 2021 local government elections and subsequent by-elections may be a greater barometer of what to expect on 29 May. 

The KZN premier seat will likely be up for grabs, with the ANC only getting 41.4% of the vote in 2021.

A coalition with the EFF got them over the line then but the power dynamics of their allegiance could look very different this time.

It is worth noting that national elections are less about service delivery and driven more by ideology and differing visions of the country’s future.

Inroads made by the Mk Party

Jacob Zuma. One of the ANC’s favourite sons turning his back on the party has been the dominant narrative in the lead-up to the 2024 national vote.

The MK party famously claimed to have a million online supporters in a matter of days after launching, as reported by Daily Maverick. The 29th of May will reveal if those figures were greatly exaggerated or if they translated into real votes.   

In by-elections held since the party was launched, they have fared relatively well. They achieved 19.4% in Abaqulusi municipality and 14% in Govan Mbeki municipality.

ALSO READ: ‘Relax’ – MK party says Zuma ‘still the leader’ after ConCourt outcome

Their best performance so far was in uPhongolo municipality, where they won 28% of the vote. All these by-elections were held in February and subsequent events relating to the party’s leadership, including a “purge” of top leaders, could sway some minds.

Additionally, those positive results came in KZN and Mpumalanga.

There were 18 other by-elections in the last four months across the country where the MK party had minimal gains, suggesting the party’s support could be confined to the eastern parts of the country.

The Zuma effect

Former president Jacob Zuma may be barred from returning to Parliament, but at 82 years old, he may prefer it that way.

Msholozi can be equally effective from his throne in Nkandla and the Constitutional Court’s decision only clears the path for EFF leader Julius Malema to claim a prominent national position should the coalition numbers add up in his party’s favour. 

ALSO READ: WATCH: Zuma left the ANC ‘in a mess’ – Mbalula tells supporters

Following Monday’s ruling, MK party’s spokesperson Nhlamulo Ndhlela stated: “This unsurprising decision, while disappointing, has not disheartened us.”

“Instead, it has reinforced our conviction that the current system, where just 10 unelected individuals can make lifetime decisions for 62 million people, is fundamentally flawed.”

The Multi-Party Charter

On the back of a strong campaign from Christopher Pappas, the DA won their first-ever municipality in KZN during the 2021 municipal elections.

They still trailed the IFP in the province by just under 600 000 votes, achieving 12.9% as opposed to the IFP’s 24.2%.

This is where the Multi-Party Charter hopes to combine their collective efforts to amplify their influence across the country.

ALSO READ: Chris Pappas’ book on uMngeni Municipality a recipe for saving South Africa?

The MPC’s Moonshot Pact may have a realistic chance in some provinces, most likely Gauteng, but the KZN incumbents and the charisma of Zuma may emerge victorious in the province.  

Ideologically, the ANC, EFF and MK party can be considered bedfellows and should garner enough support collectively to ensure a stranglehold on the province’s political direction.

The only question is, which of the three will gain the upper hand within their unconfirmed alliance, and will it be a microcosm of what could play out nationally?