ANC takes new opposition party to court in South Africa | ANG
  • April 21, 2024

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South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) is suing the independent electoral body and a rival political party led by a former president, highlighting divisions ahead of what could be the most crucial election of the last 30 years in the country.

The ANC says the new uMkhonto weSizwe ( Spear of the Nation ) party did not meet registration criteria in September. The case opened on Tuesday before the electoral court in Bloemfontein, in the centre of the country.

The new party, also known as MK and led by ex-South African president and former ANC leader Jacob Zuma, could be deregistered and unable to contest the May 29 national elections. MK officials said they would not accept being disqualified, with one even threatening “civil war”.

MK sowed trouble within the ANC by using the name of its now-disbanded military wing, which had been founded by Nelson Mandela. The ANC is challenging the use of the name uMkhonto weSizwe and a logo that bears a striking resemblance to that of its former military branch in separate legal proceedings over copyright infringement.

Zuma’s decision to pledge support for MK has added a new element to the bitter rivalry. The two parties have exchanged insults in recent months. ANC secretary-general Fikile Mbalula called Zuma “the most destructive person” to South Africa’s democratic progress and referred to the new party’s officials as his “chihuahuas”.

Zuma was forced out of South Africa’s leadership in 2018 following corruption allegations and is currently on trial for corruption, although that case has faced long delays. He has been extremely critical of the ANC of his successor, current South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Mr Zuma was suspended from the ANC after publicly supporting Mr MK. He attended Tuesday’s hearing at the Electoral Court, as did Mbalula.

The ANC has governed South Africa for 30 years since the end of apartheid’s system of racial segregation in 1994, but it is expected to face its toughest test in the vote of this year. Several polls predict that the ANC will lose its majority for the first time and will be forced to form a coalition to stay in power.

According to the latest poll conducted in February and March, MK could become South Africa’s third party after its first national election, with significant support in Zuma’s home province of KwaZulu-Natal, where it is expected to gain ground. voice in the ANC.

The ANC has denied the legal action is a reaction to the political threat posed by MK and Zuma.

MK’s response to the legal action has also troubled South Africans, particularly comments from Visvin Reddy, a party official in KwaZulu-Natal. “Listen to me very carefully,” Mr. Reddy said in a speech earlier this month. “This country will descend into civil war the day MK is not allowed to campaign and be on the ballot. No one will vote. No one in this country will vote. We will make sure of it.”

Mr. Reddy later apologized, but the threat of violence over Mr. Zuma’s allegations of injustice has been taken seriously since more than 350 people died during a week of rioting in 2021 when the former president was sentenced to prison for contempt of court.

Looting, burning and killings were the worst unrest South Africa has seen since the final days of apartheid. A report linked the violence to anger over poverty and unemployment, but some close to Zuma were accused of instigating it.

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