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By Eric Naki

Political Editor


Zuma creating a ‘personality cult’ in his MK party

The MK party expulsions point to instability within the party that could ultimately see it implode.


Jacob Zuma’s Stalinist approach to purge opponents for no valid reason could come back to bite him and is indicative of a lack of accountability, says political analyst Ntsikelelo Breakfast.

Zuma’s uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) Party announced last Friday its national leadership core had taken a decision to expel founder Jabulani Khumalo, treasurer-general Rochelle Davidson, Ray Khumalo, Bheki Manzini and Lebo Moepeng.

Breakfast said the purging of opponents was part of Zuma’s old leadership style. He cited the case where Zuma, as president, fired his finance minister Pravin Gordhan and deputy Mcebisi Jonas on the basis of an unexplained intelligence report.

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Zuma accused them of going behind his back to lobby investors against his government. Breakfast, who is director of Centre for Peace, Security and Conflict Resolution at Nelson Mandela University, asked: as the MK party did not have a conference to elect leaders and adopt a disciplinary code of conduct, where did it get its mandate to expel members.

He said the fact that the top leadership took the decision to expel members was a Stalinist approach which could backfire.

“To suspend or expel people on the basis of the so-called intelligence is not convincing, that is not good enough because it creates scope for purging [or] getting rid of opponents which is the Stalinist approach. “So, it doesn’t paint a good picture about the party and it will not sit well with some voters,” Breakfast said.

Political economy analyst Daniel Silke said the action was in line with Zuma’s imagined “big man” of South African politics image. He said it was a strategy by Zuma to take control of and exert influence in the party.

“The mess in MK at the moment is indicative of style of [his] leadership. It’s also indicative of a political party that is extremely new, that hasn’t settled into proper operational effectiveness and its internal organisation is all over the place because it hasn’t established any kind of proper chain of command,” he said.

In a statement last Friday, the party said the action was taken in the “interest of all patriotic South Africans who want to see change”. It urged “all MK members to be disciplined and trust the leadership”.

It is understood the party had already expelled its youth wing leader Bonginkosi Khanyile, his deputy Thapelo Maisha, Gaan Cibane, and Philani Nduli.

Political analyst Sandile Swana said the expulsions were symptomatic of a personality cult under Zuma. He said such personality cults, accompanied by the purging of opponents was commonly practised in smaller parties such as the Inkatha Freedom Party under its former leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi, Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters, the ActionSA of Herman Mashaba and Bantu Holomisa’s United Democratic Movement.

Swana said the MK party had no collective leadership.

“It becomes collective only to the extent that those who gather around the leader are subordinates and surrogates of that leader, not equals. It’s not a style of leadership of equals where collective wisdom guides – where difference is taken on equal terms with anybody else,” Swana said.

Breakfast said the expulsions also pointed to instability within the party that would ultimately see it imploding, similarly to the Congress of the People, which lost membership and votes within a single term between 2009 and 2014 due to political infighting.

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