S.Africa’s graft-tainted Zuma pulls crowds ahead of key voteThu, 25 Apr 2024 18:35:39 GMT

Supporters of Jacob Zuma whose surprise comeback has stolen the thunder of South Africa’s ruling ANC ahead of next month’s elections feted the graft-tainted former president in his Zulu stronghold Thursday. The 82-year-old announced in December he would campaign for the upstart left-wing uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) party that took the name of the armed wing of the ruling National African Congress (ANC) when it fought white-minority rule. The ANC tried to prevent the party from using the moniker but a court in Durban, the capital of Kwa-Zulu Natal province and Zuma’s stronghold, rejected the plea.A crowd of Zuma supporters sang and danced, before his speech at his home village of Nkandla.Under the scorching sun, some shouted “Zuma Zuma”.”It’s as though the elections have already passed. It’s like we have already won,” Zuma said to cheers and jubilation. “When these elections pass we will perform miracles. Those who have only heard about us will see what we are capable of,” he said. “We are not playing. We will change everything that is out of order.”Zuma has made headlines almost daily for a series of political engagements and court battles over his legitimacy to run in the May 29 election.”Zuma is very smart, he is the only one who can fix the issues South Africa is facing,” Asanda Ndima, 20, told AFP as she arrived in a bus carrying other supporters. According to recent polls, Zuma’s former political home, the ANC, is on course to score below 50 percent for the first time since it came to power in 1994 when apartheid ended.Despite being formed a little over six months ago, the latest polls predict the MK will garner 13 percent of the vote in the election.”The people voting for the MK are the elderly, who know Zuma’s work and know that they were taken care of under him with their grants increased yearly,” Mxolisi Thuseni, 52, told AFP.”The youth who feel hopeless about the future and former ANC and IFP members who are disgruntled have also joined the MK,” the timber entrepreneur added, referring to the Zulu-dominated Inkatha Freedom Party.”I have joined the MK because I am frustrated as a young unemployed person in this country. I want change,” 25-year-old Nompilo Ngoma said.- ‘He loves people’ – Zuma was the fourth president of democratic South Africa from 2009 to 2018 but was forced from office under a slew of corruption allegations.”I was voting for the ANC all these years. After 1994 we got a glimpse of freedom but it has been downhill since then,” Thuseni said.Zuma was “pro-black” and “advanced the rights of black communities during his terms and others saw that as a threat and kicked him out of office,” he said.Zuma’s grand home in the sleepy village boasts a series of buildings and a helipad.The vote is expected to be the tightest since the advent of democracy in South Africa.Zuma’s presence in the campaign could prove a key factor as he remains popular, particularly among the more than 10 million Zulus — South Africa’s largest ethnic group. “The whole of South Africa knows that today there is a new political party that is… months old but the biggest of them all “Ukhonto weSizwe,” Zuma said Thursday.After speaking for about 15 minutes, the politician danced and led the crowd in singing the anti-apartheid song “Awulethe Umshini Wami” (Zulu for “Bring Me My Machine-Gun”).In a house nestled in a hill just below Zuma’s home, Zamandlala Ndlala, 54, emerged from the trees with a large bowl of spinach she had picked.She regretted she could not join in the festivities as she was in mourning but told AFP that Zuma remained popular in the area.”Zuma is an honest man who makes good things happen to people and loves people, so if he is associated with it that’s why we are voting for MK because we are voting in Zuma’s name,” she said.