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By Eric Naki

Political Editor

‘Zuma to use ethnicity to woo voters, especially in KZN’

Former President Zuma utilizes grassroots support and resentment towards Cyril Ramaphosa to bolster his electoral appeal.

Former president Jacob Zuma will rely heavily on his grassroots magnetism, ethnicity and resentment against his nemesis – President Cyril Ramaphosa – as part of his charm offensive to attract voters.

Zuma’s attractive personality and struggle hero appeal will compensate for uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) party’s scanty leadership and lack of structures on the ground.

The fact that MK announced its manifesto only a few weeks ago, would be overshadowed by his public stature in the eyes of the electorate.

Zuma’s personality still atrractive to voters

This was part of extensive analysis given by political economy analyst Daniel Silke, who further said the personality of Zuma was still attractive to many voters, particularly in KwaZulu-Natal, his home province.

“There is an ethnic component to the vote. There is a resentment of President Ramaphosa, which is the second factor, and there is frustration with lack of economic progress and opportunity within SA. There is a sort of a nostalgic view that Zuma, when he was president, offered, in a sense more than Ramaphosa offers now,” Silke said.

“There is credibility to Jacob Zuma given that he was president, that he was a critical part of the liberation movement. That’s the credibility that a person like Julius Malema doesn’t have.

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“If there is anything in terms of the disgruntled electorate, ethnic interests and issues, then MK will be able to capitalise on that and, of course, there’s the legitimacy of the struggle hero, icon and former president.”

Silke is one of several experts who gave MK a fair chance at the 29 May polls.

Aligning itself with IFP and DA could oust ANC

Political analyst Prof Lesiba Teffo was even more optimistic about MK’s electoral prospects, saying if it aligned itself with the Inkatha Freedom Party and the Democratic Alliance, they would be able to oust ANC in KwaZulu-Natal.

Teffo said Zuma’s party would be the third biggest nationally, a view that Silke did not share.

According to Teffo, the fact that MK began its campaign without a manifesto and its leadership was thin and had no resources, was significant. “They did not bus people to venues but people bused themselves in.

“This is the anti-ANC sentiment that is being expressed, their manifesto was the dissatisfaction and the cry for help by the people on the ground. They are saying ‘forget about the manifesto, forget about the glossy piece of paper that’s of no consequence’,” Teffo said.

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Silke acknowledged that MK was a messy party that lacked clarity and direction, and its documents were clearly populist and somewhat tribalist. But the party would appeal to a body of South Africans on the left of the ANC spectrum that had similar interests at heart.

MK had enough support for decent results

He said MK had enough support to give it decent results. “But I don’t think they will get as high as 13%. I think close to the election day, the ANC will pull back some of its lost support, they’ll unleash quite a strong campaign against MK.

“The current poor showing by the ANC will improve markedly, and the losers of that are going to be smaller parties, including MK and perhaps also the EFF [Economic Freedom Fighters].

“MK would take some votes from the ANC and some from the EFF as well. So the EFF votes are set to be under strain as a result of MK in KwaZulu-Natal, and perhaps in Mpumalanga and some areas in the country,” Silke said.

Silke said MK wouldn’t be the third biggest party as its votes were likely to soften by 29 May.

While the MK was unlikely to rise higher nationally, Zuma would do enough damage to bring the ANC well below 50% in KZN and he could and to the mid40% or even below nationally.

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