South Africa's new MK party seeks majority win in pivotal election, Zuma says

  • World
  • Sunday, 19 May 2024

Former South African President Jacob Zuma speaks to his suppoters during the launch of the election manifesto of his new political party, uMkhonto we Sizwe, ahead of a general election on May 29, at a rally in Soweto, South Africa, May 18, 2024. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa's new uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) party is aiming to win a parliamentary majority in a May 29 election so that it can implement reforms without resistance from opponents, former President Jacob Zuma said on Saturday.

Zuma, who was forced to quit as president in 2018, has fallen out with the ruling African National Congress (ANC) and has been campaigning for MK, which was formed in December.

"We want to get an outright victory because if we don't get the two-thirds (majority), opposition may oppose us," 82-year old Zuma told thousands of supporters during a launch of the party's election manifesto.

An Ipsos opinion poll published in April showed MK would win 8.4% of the vote, far short of the party's 66% objective.

Speaking in Zulu at the Orlando Stadium in South Africa's biggest township Soweto, Zuma promised to provide free education for disadvantaged children, create jobs and fight corruption.

If the polls are correct, the ANC is at risk of losing its parliamentary majority for the first time since Nelson Mandela's victory in 1994 ushered in a new era of democracy after decades of apartheid rule.

MK has emerged as a threat to the ANC, especially in Zuma's home province of KwaZulu Natal, where he is popular.

A 31-year-old MK supporter, Girlsy Six, told Reuters she had travelled to Gauteng from neighbouring Mpumalanga province because the party represented change for people like her.

"We want jobs, we want the land, we want (a) people's bank, we want a lot! We know that we can get the change we want in this party," Six said.

Zuma told the crowd he had no choice but to stay in politics because other elected officials did not care about improving people's lives.

"It can't be that at this age we are still fighting criminals to remove them from government because they are criminals. We should be resting and playing with our grand-kids," said Zuma.

Last week, South Africa's top court heard legal arguments on whether the ex-president can run for parliament. It has not said when it will issue its ruling.

The case stems from a decision in March by South Africa's electoral commission to disqualify Zuma on the basis that the constitution prohibits anyone given a prison sentence of 12 months or longer from holding a parliamentary seat.

In 2021, Zuma was sentenced to 15 months in jail for failing to appear at a corruption inquiry.

South African citizens living abroad started casting their ballots on Friday, more than a week ahead of the vote within the country.

(Additional reporting by Siyabonga Sishi; Writing by Anait Miridzhanian; Editing by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo and Timothy Heritage)

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