Zuma’s MK could slash ANC support in KwaZulu-Natal, poll shows
uMkhonto weSizwe could attract half the ANC’s support in the province, Social Research Foundation finds
The uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) political party backed by former president Jacob Zuma could cut the ANC’s electoral support in KwaZulu-Natal in half in the 2024 national and provincial elections, a poll suggests.
The survey by public policy think-tank Social Research Foundation (SRF), which interviewed 820 people in KwaZulu-Natal between January 31 and February 7, shows the MK party could attract half the governing party’s support in one of its biggest provinces.
At 5.7-million, KwaZulu-Natal has the second-highest number of registered voters, after Gauteng.
According to the poll, in the case of a 66% turnout, the MK party could win 24% of votes in KwaZulu-Natal, while the ANC is projected to garner 25%, the DA 15%, the IFP 24%, the EFF 5% and others 6%. The study has a 5% margin of error.
This could be a huge blow for the governing party. In the 2019 general election, the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal received 1.9-million votes (54.2%), down from the 2.4-million votes (64.5%) it mustered in the 2014 national election.
The latest SRF survey is in line with several other polls, including those by Standard Bank, Ipsos, Wits University and the Brenthurst Foundation, which have all suggested the ANC’s electoral support could fall below 50% for the first time since 1994.
The ANC has been dogged by a slew of governance, financial, operational and administrative challenges, which resulted in it losing Gauteng’s three metros to the opposition in the 2021 municipal elections.
Speaking to Business Day on Tuesday, SRF associate Gabriel Makin explained the poll’s objectives: “We wanted to get an understanding of whether the MK party has significant legs for an election campaign in KZN given that it’s Zuma’s province.”
Zuma, who was suspended by the ANC in January for supporting the MK party, has been a thorn in the side of President Cyril Ramaphosa, who forced him to resign as the country’s president in 2018 after almost a decade at the helm amid almost daily revelations of widespread state corruption.
The 81-year-old, who has the right to appeal against the unanimous decision by the 87-member national executive committee, has joined and campaigned for the newly formed MK party, named after the ANC’s now-defunct military wing, which was disbanded after SA’s liberation struggle. Since Zuma denounced the ANC in December 2023, he has been holding mass rallies in KwaZulu-Natal and other parts of the country to garner support for the MK party.
Analysts have previously suggested Zuma’s exit from the ANC after 64 years could have significant implications for its electoral support in KwaZulu-Natal, where the former statesman enjoys a loyal base of supporters. It could also deepen divisions within the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal, where three councillors in eThekwini were suspended for defecting to MK.
Political analyst Rudzani Floyd Musekwa said the MK party would have a “bad impact on the fortunes of the ruling party”.
“It is very clear that the ANC is going to unfortunately lose whatever little grip they had in KZN, since the MK party seems to be doing well there, especially from voters who are following a disgruntled Jacob Zuma from the ANC to this new movement,” said Musekwa.
“It is not very clear how the MK party will do nationally, but they will have an impact, especially when it comes to coming to work with other parties, who will grow due to the fact that more and more people are distancing themselves from an ineffective ruling party that hasn’t been [covering] itself in glory, with the load-shedding stages getting worse every day.”
Musekwa said the ANC would feel the wrath of the formation of the MK party for years and “in particular, they will rue the day they allowed Zuma to ascend to the biggest post in the land on its political ticket. Unfortunately, they can never undo what transpired [during the ANC’s 2007 elective congress] in Limpopo and it is coming back to bite them where it’s least aspirable”.
Tshwane University of Technology political analyst Levy Ndou said it was a no-brainer that Zuma’s MK party would dent the ANC’s electoral fortunes in KZN.
“Zuma is coming from the ANC and is recruiting within the ANC. Zuma has no friends outside the ANC, so he cannot go out of the ANC and then start recruiting people he doesn’t know, hence he said he is not leaving the ANC,” Ndou said.
He said MK’s establishment was similar to other ANC breakaways such as COPE and the EFF, as they comprised ANC members who were recruited from within the organisation.
“What Zuma is also doing is that he wants to use KwaZulu-Natal as his home province due to the loyal support base he enjoys there. He wants to turn the MK party into a regional party. Therefore, I don’t think it should only be the ANC that is worried, but the IFP as well. The character that Zuma is portraying of late is similar to what the IFP was in the past,” said Ndou.
Update: February 13 2024
This article has been updated with commentary from political analysts.
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