In South African Elections, Zuma’s Return Spells Trouble for the ANC

In South African Elections, Zuma’s Return Spells Trouble for the ANC
Former South African President Jacob Zuma sings and dances after addressing his supporters of the Umkhonto we Sizwe, or MK, party outside the High Court, in Johannesburg, South Africa, April 11, 2024 (AP photo by Themba Hadebe).

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress party finds itself in uncharted political territory as it approaches national and provincial elections on May 29. Accustomed for so long to operating in a comfort zone of one-party dominance, the ANC now confronts a more challenging electoral landscape.

Among the many problems the ANC currently faces, one stands out: the emergence of the newly created Umkhonto we Sizwe, or MK, Party. In the surprise of the campaign, the MK Party will contest the elections with former President Jacob Zuma at its head. Indeed, the party is essentially a vehicle for Zuma’s ambitions. And in an election where the ANC has limited scope to lose support if it is to continue to govern singlehandedly, it threatens the ruling party’s prospects, both nationally and in particular provinces.

Surveys of voting intentions show a steep fall in support for the ANC after a long period of poor governance and endemic corruption. The economy is struggling, with the International Monetary Fund forecasting growth of just 0.9 percent in 2024. That’s not enough to improve the country’s catastrophic level of unemployment, which now stands at 32.1 percent. Equally, the South African state under ANC stewardship is underperforming across its entire range of responsibilities, as evidenced by frequent electricity power cuts, or “load shedding,” growing problems with water delivery and the dysfunctional condition of the country’s various state-owned enterprises.

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