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The ANC’s second coming delivered by a messiah of its making

07 June 2024

It was on the 15 March in 2004 when Zuma first said the ANC will rule ‘until Jesus comes back’.

These remarks would later be consistently repeated by Zuma over the years – including during his presidency.

Well, it seems Jesus is back for the ANC. The second coming has come to pass for the ANC as it can no longer rule without a coalition government after these elections.

The telling thing about these developments are not that the ANC has lost its grip on power but that it is actually Zuma himself that played a pivotal part in orchestrating its demise. A monster the ANC created.

The party made a monster by elevating Zuma above the party and South Africa’s interests over the years – especially before and during his presidential tenure as the ANC president and that of the country.

The party shielded him from criticism and accountability during that period – even going to an extent of undermining the country’s democratic institutions and tacitly questioning the credibility and legitimacy of some in certain instances.

An element of ‘counter-revolutionary forces

One of the instances that come to mind is Gwede Mantashe’s diatribe against justices of the Constitutional Court – labelling them ‘an element of “counter-revolutionary forces”.

These remarks and other comments by prominent ANC leaders were a part of a concerted effort to go to extreme lengths to shield Zuma from any kind of scrutiny – be it legal, political, social or any form of scrutiny.

The ANC gave Zuma carte blanche to be, and by default, created custom-made accountability standards for him. The bar was lowered.

When Thabo Mbeki relieved Zuma of his duties as the Deputy President of the country based on the outcomes of the Schabir Shaik corruption trial related to the arms deal in June 2005 – effectively holding him accountable based on higher standards expected to be applicable to the stature of his then office - the scene was set for the ‘victim of the system’ posture adopted and personified by Zuma to this day.

The conviction of Shaik was soon followed by a slew of legal troubles for Zuma, including rape and corruption charges.

He was acquitted of rape in 2006 and the corruption charges were later withdrawn by the National Prosecuting Authority based on what is now famously known as the spy tapes – tapes which were questionably obtained.

Questionably obtained or not, the spy tapes added credence to the conspiracy against Zuma’s claims.

Another monumental development occurred in September 2008.

Judge Chris Nicholson, in a judgement the Supreme Court of Appeal later set aside, concluded that there was a political conspiracy against Zuma.

The setting aside of Nicholson’s judgement was merely academic as far as Zuma’s political fortunes were concerned. The judgment had already done enough to cement Zuma’s permanent victimhood.

And it was that victimhood that paved the way for the impunity with which he ruled and South Africans would be subjected to during his presidency.


A cult of personality

Zuma became a leader who had to be defended against a conspiracy to kill his political life. He became a man who survived the worst to lead the ANC and subsequently the country. This inadvertently created a cult of personality. It was no longer about the ANC, but an individual. He was effectively bigger than the ANC. The rules of the game did not apply to him. He was the anointed one.

And it was not until the revolving door of power was set in motion that faint attempts to hold Zuma accountable materialised. However, the ship had already sailed by then. The egomaniac monster was fully developed.

Zuma didn’t not know of any politics that he was not at the centre of.  He didn’t not understand the concept of accountability anymore. Reality and conspiracy were synonymous to him.

Zuma’s legal troubles soon recommenced after resigning as South Africa’s president.

Two months after his resignation, he was recharged with corruption relating to the arms deal. He was also later sentenced to a 15-month prison term for contempt of court arising from a commission of inquiry that he himself appointed a few weeks before resigning.

Zuma was an aggrieved man. An aggrieved man who did not understand how the party that always shielded him for accountability and gave him carte blanche to do as he pleased could forsake him. It could not be the ANC he knew. The long and short of it – enter the uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) Party.

The MK Party, launched less than a year before the 2024 elections, is anchored in Zuma’s cult of personality – the very one created by the ANC. The ANC that he would later use the cult status to wrestle power away from.

The MK Party dismantled ANC strongholds in the 2024 elections – eating into its support base and relegating it to second best in certain regions. This effectively denied the ANC the majority vote.

With the ANC electoral majority gone, it seems that Jesus has come back for the ANC.

But what is more interesting is that the ANC became content with the erosion of its support base while defending the Zuma and, in the process, his adverse impact on the party.

The ANC scoffed suggestions that South Africans will vote it out of power while defending the indefensible.

When it seemed as if it might hold on to its majority in the 2024 elections, Zuma delivered a blow through the MK Party.

The ANC is finally under 50% in a national election. And in a very ironic way, it was Zuma’s efforts that made sure the party lost its majority. But this was not according to the script South Africans had written. It was according to Zuma’s script. A script in which Zuma, the epitome of misrule himself, is the messiah that saves South Africa from the ANC’s misrule.

This article was first published in News24.