ANC’s slumber gives MKP, EFF the edge in key provinces

The ANC is facing challenge from rival parties in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal. Picture; Doctor Ngcobo/Independent Newspapers

The ANC is facing challenge from rival parties in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal. Picture; Doctor Ngcobo/Independent Newspapers

Published Mar 30, 2024


Prof. Bheki Mngomezulu

AS THE date of the 2024 general election draws nearer, the reality is gradually sinking in that some provinces are more critical than others in terms of increasing prospects for a better performance by various political parties this time around.

Since the Democratic Alliance (DA) took control of the Western Cape following in-fighting within the ANC epitomised by bad blood between Mcebisi Skwatsha and Ebrahim Rasool, it has been taken as a given that the DA will not let the province slip away. Lately, this dominance has been challenged since the DA has been weakening and smaller parties like the Freedom Front Plus have been eating into the DA’s support.

For years, Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal have been perceived as two critical provinces. One reason is the population density of these provinces. Another factor is the economic strength of both provinces. On each factor, Gauteng is number one, while KZN takes the second spot.

But while these facts are real, KZN remains the ANC’s biggest province in terms of support, while Durban is the ANC’s biggest region.

The announcement of uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) Party on December 16 reconfigured the political landscape in the country. There are several reasons why this new development has put emphasis on the two provinces, Gauteng and KZN.

Strategically, the MK Party was launched in Soweto, in Gauteng. This was a calculated move, a plan which was cogently thought through and executed elegantly. It was meant to debunk the over-emphasised view that former president Jacob Zuma’s prominence is only confined to KZN.

They had to make the announcement in Gauteng where the Freedom Charter was adopted in Kliptown, Soweto, in 1955. This is also the province where many of the ANC leaders resided. Among them were Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu.

Historically, KZN has a rich history in the ANC. Firstly, Dr John Langalibalele Dube, who was elected in absentia as the first leader of the ANC, came from KZN. Secondly, ANC leaders such as Pixley ka Isaka Seme, iNkosi Albert Luthuli and others came from KZN.

Thirdly, Nelson Mandela was arrested in Howick in KZN after meeting Luthuli and as he was travelling to Gauteng. Fourthly, Mandela voted in Ohlange, where Langalibalele Dube was laid to rest.

Fifthly and lastly, the political violence which almost derailed plans to hold the first democratic election in 1994 happened in KZN. The late Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi almost single-handedly determined the country’s political fate. It was Kenyan Professor Washington Okumu who reasoned with Buthelezi and convinced him to participate in the election.

Consequently, the IFP was manually pasted at the end of the ballot.

I am recounting this history so that the significance of these two provinces can be understood in context. From the 2019 general election and the 2021 local government election, the ANC’s political might was tested in different provinces but more so in these two provinces.

When the ANC lost control in the three metros located in Gauteng (Johannesburg, Tshwane and Ekurhuleni), this raised eyebrows and triggered much speculation about the political future of this country. Other political parties started smelling blood, being optimistic that their victory over the ANC was becoming real.

Although the ANC still had the most seats in these metros, smaller parties came together to form minority coalition governments. To date, the ANC is still struggling to regain control of these metros.

With more new political parties and independent candidates contesting this year’s election, Gauteng is one of the provinces to watch.

KZN has also attracted general interest among various political parties. The fact that political parties such as the ANC, EFF and IFP all launched their manifestos in Durban at the Moses Mabhida Stadium attests to the significance of this province in the forthcoming election.

Having managed to hold on to the eThekwini metro by a whisker, the ANC is doing what it can to retain the province. This happens at the time when the IFP is on an upward trajectory. It also happens when the IFP has established working relations with the DA. These factors mean that KZN is a province to watch.

The formation of the MK Party has rearranged the political landscape of the two provinces. While it is true that the MK Party has footprints in other provinces, it is more popular in Gauteng and KZN.

When the MK Party was announced, the ANC made the big mistake of undermining it. By the time the ANC leadership woke up from its slumber, the popularity of MK Party was hard to ignore. To make matters worse, some leaders of the ANC unwittingly canvassed for the MK through their reckless public statements.

The two court cases – one by the ANC against the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) questioning the registration of the MK Party, and the other between the ANC and the MK Party on the new party’s name and the logo – further popularised the MK Party, especially in Gauteng and KZN.

Therefore, the balance of forces in Gauteng and KZN points to the real battle for control of these provinces. It is true that other political parties, such as ActionSA, the DA and others, plan to do well in these provinces. However, the real battle in Gauteng will be between the ANC and the MK Party.

In KZN, the real battle will be fought by the ANC, the MK Party and the IFP. The EFF, the DA and other political parties will still try their luck.

*Prof. Mngomezulu is the director of the Centre for the Advancement of Non-Racialism and Democracy at Nelson Mandela University.

**The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of Independent Media or IOL