Jacob Zuma: The Surprise Decider in South Africa's 2024 Elections

Jacob Zuma: The Surprise Decider in South Africa’s 2024 Elections

There was a hooting and happy mood in Durban, the capital of KwaZulu-Natal province, the political heartland of Jacob Zuma. The former President’s party uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) has taken over from the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) as the third-largest party. EFF is led by the famous and outspoken opposition leader, Julius Malema.

South Africa went to the polls and vote counting is still underway. The African National Congress (ANC) appears to lose the parliamentary majority it has enjoyed for 3 decades. These provincial results represent a dramatic political shift since they gained independence.

The surprise decider in South Africa’s 2024 elections

Jacob Zuma was forced out of office and barred from continuing due to serving a jail term. He only served for 6 months, before being released on medical grounds, for contempt of court orders.

To the surprise of many, he came through as a major deciding factor in the just concluded elections. His new political outfit is third with 8% of the vote. uMkhontho we Sizwe (MK) is named after ANC’s former armed wing. UMkhontho we Sizwe means “Spear of the Nation” in Zulu.

ANC’s support has dwindled with time because of disillusionment over issues such as high unemployment rate, load shedding (frequent power outages), and embezzlement of public resources (corruption).

If the ANC loses its majority, a deal with one or more smaller parties will be likely for legitimacy – this unprecedented situation could lead to political instability. The ANC has won every national election since the landmark 1994 election, marking the end of apartheid.

But MK has maintained that it will not partner with the ANC unless President Cyril Ramaphosa steps down as the party leader. Ramaphosa took over as president and leader of the ANC in 2018 after Zuma was ousted.

Jacob Zuma: The Surprise Decider in South Africa's 2024 Elections
Incumbent South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa. IMAGE: X

Cyril Ramaphosa is most likely to be South Africa’s next President. The South African constitution dictates that the newly elected National Assembly will elect the next president. ANC having a big majority will propose its party leader, Ramaphosa.

As it stands, ANC is leading with a weak majority. Data from the South African tallying center has so far received 98% of voting districts. The results are as follows:

  • ANC – 40%
  • DA – 22%
  • MK – 15%
  • EFF – 9%
  • IFP – 4%
Jacob Zuma: The Surprise Decider in South Africa's 2024 Elections

Jacob Zuma’s Career

  • He was born on April 12, 1942, in Nkandla, South Africa. He received no formal school training.
  • He served as President from 2009 until he resigned under pressure in 2018.
  • He served as the Deputy President from 1999–2005. He also served as Deputy President from 1997–2007.
  • He began to support a new political outfit uMkhontho we Sizwe, abbreviated as the MK Party, of which he became the president in April 2024.