Jacob Zuma Gets His Revenge on South African Party

A new party led by Mr. Zuma, a former president forced out over corruption allegations, helped ensure that the African National Congress fell short of an outright majority for the first time since the end of apartheid. Jacob Zuma’s political career could have ended when he was forced to resign six years ago as South Africa’s president over corruption allegations. Or it could have ended when he was criminally charged for taking bribes, or when he was indicted on rape charges, or when he went to jail for contempt of court, or when he was suspended from the African National Congress, South Africa’s long ruling governing party. Jacob Zuma Gets His Revenge

But Mr. Zuma, 82, has improbably bounced back after every threat to his political survival, and now has significant power to determine who will lead the country. The political party that Mr. Zuma began six months ago — umKhonto weSizwe, or M.K. — finished third in last week’s national election, upending South Africa’s political landscape. The showing helped to bring about the stunning collapse of the party he once led — the African National Congress, or A.N.C., which failed to win an outright majority for the first time since the country’s democracy began in 1994.

The A.N.C. remains the country’s most popular party

Winning 40 percent of the vote. But that was an embarrassing 18 percentage point slide from the previous election in 2019. Mr. Zuma’s party came in at 14.5 percent. The M.K. says it would not enter a governing coalition with the A.N.C. unless Mr. Ramaphosa resigns, but the A.N.C.’s leaders have said that is a nonstarter. Even after Mr. Zuma’s party exceeded the expectations of most pollsters and analysts, he is challenging the results, claiming, without providing evidence publicly, that the country’s electoral commission colluded with the A.N.C. to rig the vote. Mr. Zuma claims his party actually won a two-thirds majority. Jacob Zuma Gets His Revenge

“We were expecting, obviously, our two-thirds,” Duduzile Zuma, one of Mr. Zuma’s daughters, said in an interview. But with “the rigging, there’s some issues.” This also made him ineligible for the presidency because the president must be a member of parliament. Mr. Zuma’s new party took its name from the A.N.C.’s armed wing during the fight against apartheid. Mr. Zuma eventually became deputy president to South Africa’s second democratically-elected president, Thabo Mbeki, in 1999. About 350 people died in the unrest, which caused an estimated $2.6 billion in damages. While South Africans are generally down on their politicians, polls show that Mr. Ramaphosa is more popular than Mr. Zuma. It says it will raise the minimum wage and create a universal health care system. The A.N.C. leadership was failing to correct those problems, he said, so he wanted to do something about it. Jacob Zuma Gets His Revenge

But Mpumelelo Mkhabela Jacob Zuma Gets His Revenge

A political analyst who has written a book about corruption within the A.N.C., said Mr. Zuma failed during nine years as president and more than three decades in top leadership of the governing party to drastically change circumstances for poor Black South Africans. “People could rightly ask, why didn’t you propagate all of these policies all along,” Mr. Mkhabela said. A.N.C. leaders have not ruled out reuniting with Mr. Zuma to form a government. But to Mr. Zuma’s supporters, the corruption allegations are baseless. Much like former President Donald J. Trump, Mr. Zuma has been able to turn trials and investigations into a political strength. He paints himself as a victim of sinister forces trying to take him down because he is championing the poor.

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