SIPHAMANDLA ZONDI | MK Party wants to implement ANC policies, resolutions and plans outside the governing party

Party does not need a distinct own policy agenda

Jacob Zuma.
Jacob Zuma.
Image: Thapelo Morebudi

The emergence of the MK Party as a key factor in pre-election season has a context and a content. 

The context is the slow decline of the ANC that is growing in momentum across the country including in the ANC’s biggest province of KwaZulu-Natal. This point about the decline of the ANC is as old as we have observed the ANC vote decline for over 15 years now. Despite the boost to its national percentage given by the unusual growth of its KwaZulu-Natal vote in 2012, for instance, the overall decline has been evident. 

The decline has tended to do with at least related factors. The first is the sins of incumbency that appear within a few months of the ANC getting into power. These included corruption, crass materialism, regionalism, the cult of personalities and arrogance of power. The ANC was such a dominant party in power that it started to feel it could do as it wished. This of course angered many and drive them away from supporting the old liberation movement. 

The second factor is the growing evidence of incompetence in power from municipalities it ran to provincial government to national government. The ANC government has been the source of evidence of this failure to fully perform its duties. The 10-year, 15-year, 20-year and 25-year review reports catalogue these failure while emphasising the many successes registered. Yearly, the Auditor-General warns the country about some really catastrophic failures to run an efficient government including the failure of the ANC leadership to act against exposed corruption and incompetence. The ANC is honest enough to repeatedly admit these failure but fails to take bold steps needed to self-correct. The ANC struggles to modernise and cleanse itself of the rot that has built up for long. 

The foremost reason for the ANC decline is internal battles and factionalism leading to the ANC bleeding support. Factionalism has been a key challenge in this party since just after the 1994 elections. It was decried by ANC presidents since Nelson Mandela in all of the party’s national conferences. In fact, even in exile, the party battled factionalism threatening to divide it, but this grew as Mandela himself would say when the ANC got access to coveted state resources. The common response from the ANC has been to talk up unity and renewal, but hardly take bold steps in this direction. Hence, the decline has persisted unabated. 

While Jacob Zuma has been a senior figure in the ANC with a track record in leadership longer than 50 years, part of his currency today also has to do with ANC factionalism. His expulsion from his position of deputy president of government by president Thabo Mbeki followed by his two trials helped fan the flames of factionalism he benefited from. His recall from the presidency in 2017 and his arrest for contempt of court in 2021 all gave even stronger currency as he knew how to use all this to his advantage. 

The MK Party is in many ways just another faction of the ANC that has decided to operate from outside the ANC. The UDM was the first such after 1994, Cope was the biggest, the EFF was the most threatening to the ANC hold on to power. A few smaller ones have also emerged blessing SA with many small parties that fragment the centre – left vote. Like the rest of them it wants to implement the ANC policies, resolutions and plans outside the ANC. It is looking for votes to achieve that. Like the rest of them, though similar to the ANC in policy agenda, it has invited the wrath of the ANC sensing an impending loss of votes from this new party. 

The MK Party does not need a distinct own policy agenda therefore. It was born with one from the ANC. After all, it is not its policy agenda that will win the votes it wants, but it is how well it positions itself as an alternative platform for disgruntled factions within the ANC including the staunch supporters of Zuma as a politician. 

Zuma is its biggest factor in the growth of the MK Party vote. Disgruntlement within the ANC is the second factor. 

Siphamandla Zondi works for the University of Johannesburg but writes as a volunteer in the Devoted Citizens Movement, a civil society organisation 

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