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South Africa: Jacob Zuma Suspended from ANC After Rival Party Launch

Zuma's nine-year presidency, starting in 2009, was marked by numerous scandals, including accusations of prioritizing the interests of corrupt associates over the country's well-being, a phenomenon known as "state capture." I

Former South African President Jacob Zuma, 81, who spent a lifetime as a member of the African National Congress (ANC), has been suspended from the party for refusing to support it and launching a rival group. The ANC, the governing party, made this announcement on Monday, stating that individuals, including Zuma, whose actions conflict with the party’s values, will be expelled.

Zuma’s nine-year presidency, starting in 2009, was marked by numerous scandals, including accusations of prioritizing the interests of corrupt associates over the country’s well-being, a phenomenon known as “state capture.” In 2021, he was incarcerated for failing to appear at an official inquiry into these allegations. Additionally, Zuma faces corruption charges related to a 1999 arms deal, vehemently denying any wrongdoing.

Despite ongoing controversies, the ANC had tolerated Zuma until he founded a new party named uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK), meaning “spear of the nation.” The ANC deemed this move as a step too far, leading to Zuma’s suspension. MK shares its name with the ANC’s former armed wing, in which Zuma served.

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In response, Zuma’s former ANC colleagues accused him of tarnishing the history of the armed struggle against apartheid through the “opportunistic use of military symbolism.” They contend that MK was established to undermine the ANC’s support base.

South Africa’s current President, Cyril Ramaphosa, who replaced Zuma in 2018, pledged to clean up the government. He now faces the challenge of leading the ANC in the upcoming general election, amid internal turmoil.

During the official launch of MK in December, a statement on Zuma’s behalf expressed his commitment to remain an ANC member but not vote for the party. He criticized some of its leaders for behaving in an “un-ANC manner” and declared his mission to “rescue” the once-great movement.

Zuma has also launched personal attacks on his successor, President Ramaphosa. While many South Africans view Zuma negatively, he still commands significant loyalty, with protests erupting in 2021 over his imprisonment for contempt of court. A recent poll suggests that nearly one in three South Africans approves of Zuma.

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The impact of Zuma’s new party on the ANC’s electoral prospects remains uncertain, but it is likely to cost the ANC votes in what is considered the most competitive election since the end of apartheid in 1994.

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