Zuma deals new blow to ANC hopes in S. Africa electionSat, 16 Dec 2023 15:33:29 GMT

Former South African president Jacob Zuma on Saturday drove a new split in the ruling African National Congress, calling for a boycott of the party in a landmark 2024 election.Driven out of office in 2018 over corruption accusations but retaining significant influence, the 81-year-old Zuma launched an angry new attack on his successor President Cyril Ramaphosa.The ANC, which has ruled the country since Nelson Mandela led it to victory in the first post-apartheid election in 1994, has lost or expelled several top members in recent months.With South Africa ailing from daily power cuts, repeated corruption scandals, rising crime figures and a somnolent economy, polls say the ANC could score less than 50 percent of the vote for the first time in the anniversary election next year.It already saw its vote fall below 50 percent in 2021 local elections.Zuma, who has never hidden his bitterness at the way he was kicked out of office, pointedly told a press conference: “It would be a betrayal to campaign for the ANC of Ramaphosa.”- ANC war -It was “widely expected that the ANC will lose the national election for the first time since 1994″, he added in a statement read for him by his daughter Duduzile sat next to him.Zuma said he would vote for the radical new left-wing Umkhonto We Sizwe (MK) party, named after the ANC’s old armed wing, and urged all South Africans to reject the ANC.”I call on all South Africans to join me in taking the important step and to vote for the MK Party and any other progressive party which seeks total liberation,” he said.Zuma slammed what he called “the death of democratically elected structures”, “the role of money” in determining votes and “the suspected fraudulent manipulation” of ANC conference decisions.Zuma, president from 2009 to 2018, said he had been “ready to die” during the ANC’s armed campaign against white-minority rule and “I will die a member of the ANC” but added that it had to be “rescued”.He said a return of an ANC government “will lead our people to more misery, poverty, racism, unemployment, deepening load-shedding (power cuts) and a government led by sellouts and apartheid collaborators”.Zuma was sentenced to 15 months in jail in June 2021 after refusing to testify to a panel probing financial corruption and cronyism under his presidency.He was freed on medical parole just two months into his term.But his jailing sparked protests, riots and looting that left more than 350 dead in South Africa’s worst violence since the advent of democracy.An appeals court later ruled Zuma’s release was illegally granted and ordered him back to jail. But on returning to a correctional centre he immediately benefited from a remission of non-violent offenders approved by his arch-rival Ramaphosa.Besides his 2021 contempt conviction he is facing separate charges of corruption in an arms procurement scandal in the 1990s, when he was vice president.Ramaphosa has sought to put a calm front on his rivalry with Zuma and attacks from other ANC leaders, including past president Thabo Mbeki.In August another ANC figurehead, former secretary general Ace Magashule, set up his own party after being kicked out of the Congress in 2021 for corruption.Asked ahead of Zuma’s press conference what he would do if the former president left the party, Ramaphosa told reporters: “We note that, what else can I do.”He said Zuma’s attacks were being made “much larger than what it should be”. If Zuma does not campaign for the ANC, “that’s it, the work goes on”.