South Africa’s former president, Jacob Zuma, has been suspended by the governing African National Congress (ANC) that he used to lead, after refusing to vote for the organisation and launching a rival party.
The ANC announced its decision on Monday.
Zuma’s new party, uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK), meaning “spear of the nation”, shares a name with the ANC’s former armed wing he once served in.
His nine years as president, starting in 2009, were dogged by scandal including major corruption allegations.
An official inquiry said the former president placed the interests of corrupt associates ahead of those of his country, in a process known as “state capture”.
He also faces corruption charges over a 1999 arms deal. He denies wrongdoing in all cases.
South Africa’s current president Cyril Ramaphosa, replaced Zuma in 2018 and promised to clean up the government. He now leads an embattled ANC into this year’s general election.
At MK’s official launch in December, a statement was read on Zuma’s behalf saying he would “die a member of the ANC” but not vote for it, adding that some of its leaders behave in an “un-ANC manner” and it was now his mission to “rescue” the “once-great movement”.
Zuma has also launched highly personal attacks on his successor and former deputy, Ramaphosa.
The BBC’s Daniel de Simone in Johannesburg says many South Africans see Zuma as representing what is wrong with the recent past and with having tainted the ANC.
Yet he commands huge loyalty from some quarters. Thousands of South Africans rioted in protest at his jailing for contempt of court in 2021, and a recent poll estimates that almost one in three South Africans approve of him.
It is not yet clear how far this will translate into popular support for his new MK party at the ballot box, but it is likely to cost the ANC votes.
The ANC, which had its roots in the liberation struggle against apartheid, has governed South Africa since white-minority rule ended in 1994.
Zuma (81) joined the ANC aged 17 with no formal schooling and soon rose through the ranks of the organisation’s military and intelligence wings, followed by top posts in his home province of Kwa-Zulu Natal and ultimately the deputy presidency and presidency.
Correspondents say this year’s election is viewed by many as the most competitive since the ANC came to power in 1994. – BBC
Stay informed with The Namibian – your source for credible journalism. Get in-depth reporting and opinions for only N$85 a month. Invest in journalism, invest in democracy –