What type of tree are we planting after the poll?

Aakash Bramdeo is a Content Editor at eNCA. The views expressed are based on eNCA’s projections for the 2024 polls. Picture: Paballo Thekiso

Aakash Bramdeo is a Content Editor at eNCA. The views expressed are based on eNCA’s projections for the 2024 polls. Picture: Paballo Thekiso

Published Jun 2, 2024


Some 200 years ago, the rise of King Shaka caused massive upheaval in our part of the world.

It was a time of political disruption that caused uncertainty and suffering. The results of the 2024 general elections herald a time of great change once again.

For the first time in our 30 years of democracy, the ANC no longer has an outright majority.

But, like 200 years ago, it will be in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) where the changes will be most felt.

Let us, however, not be surprised by the results that have emerged in KZN. Despite the ruling party having historically rejected tribalism, voting patterns since 1994 show voters supported those they saw as one of their own.

During the years that Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki were the ANC’s presidential candidates, voters in the Eastern Cape, where both men hail from, gave the ANC strong support.

In 1994 (Mandela), the ANC notched up 84% support in the Eastern Cape. In 1999 and 2004 (Mbeki), the party trounced with 74% and 79% support. During these years, the ANC failed to get even 50% support in KwaZulu-Natal.

However, during the time, Jacob Zuma was the ANC’s Number One (2009 and 2014), ANC support in the Eastern Cape fell to around the 70% mark – strong but nonetheless down.

In KZN, Zuma’s home province, support for the ANC picked up. In 2009, the party received 64% support, and in 2014, it received 65% support.

Limpopo has always been fanatical in their support for the ANC. In 1994, the party gained a whopping 93% of the vote. In our most recent election, Limpopo has remained loyal to the ANC, even though support for the party had dropped considerably elsewhere.

Was it a case of people in that province being loyal to Cyril Ramaphosa, a man who has roots in that province? Whatever the case, no one has played the ethnic card as well as Zuma.

It started around the time the ANC hosted their 53rd national conference in Mangaung back in 2012. Zuma was campaigning for the job of ANC president and some supporters arrived wearing T-shirts that said 100% Zulu. It was a conference he won with resounding support.

According to Stats SA, isiZulu is the most widely spoken language in the country and is spoken by almost a quarter of South Africa’s more than 60 million citizens. Since the Mangaung conference, Zuma has portrayed himself as a Zulu man who is a victim. Elections are a numbers game, and to be successful, Zuma had to simply appeal to the largest group to gain traction. And he did this with aplomb.

Zuma also realised that he was not as popular in other circles and has possibly used proxies to overcome this. Hence, the emergence of a few political parties and independent candidates with little to no history of leadership.

However, they have been well funded and received support from individuals known to be close to Zuma. It is unlikely these parties and individuals will receive sufficient support to allow Zuma’s MK Party to form a government in KZN.

Even if you add the EFF into this mix, there’s still not enough muscle to get over the 50% mark.

Who then does Zuma turn to? The most obvious answer is the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), which has its origins as a Zulu cultural movement.

There was a time when the IFP and Zuma, as an ANC leader, were at war, but it was Zuma who was able to bring peace.

The ANC deployed him to KZN in the early 1990s for that very purpose, making him one of the few senior ANC leaders working at a provincial level.

These days, Zuma is more comfortable with the IFP than the ANC. And the IFP is equally comfortable with him.

This was evident during the funeral of Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi when Zuma was warmly welcomed by IFP members. The IFP are also more likely to warm up to a marriage with Zuma than they would with the current ANC leadership in KZN.

The incident in which Siboniso Duma, the provincial ANC chairperson, grabbed the microphone from Thulasizwe Buthelezi has not been forgotten. Buthelezi is not just the Zulu traditional prime minister. He is also a senior leader in the IFP.

A coalition between the MK and IFP does come with inherent dangers. Zulu nationalism is on the rise, with some, like Philani Mavundla, of the Abantu Batho Congress, already calling for KZN to break away from the Republic and become an independent state.

But a cow has two horns, and a tie-up between MK and IFP could benefit KZN. Zuma also has a point to prove. He is desperate that history remembers him as a good leader.

Furthermore, he does have the ability to unite the province and the influence needed to attract international investment.

There is a Chinese proverb that goes along the lines: The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago – the second-best time is now. We can only hope that in 20 years from now our children will be proud of the tree that is planted today.

Aakash Bramdeo is a Content Editor at eNCA. The views expressed here are based on eNCA’s projections for the 2024 polls.

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