The King Am I — MK’s incendiary manifesto manifests grinding contempt for SA’s democracy and Constitution

Illustrative image / sources: Fire rages in the streets of the township near Ermelo, Mpumalanga. (Photo: Gallo Images/ Foto24 / Felix Dlangamandla) | A protester drags a buring tyre.(Photo: Gallo Images / Foto24 / Felix Dlangamandla) | A South African flag in a settlement in Strandfontein, Cape Town. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Nic Bothma) | Houses of Parliament. (Photo: Leila Dougan ) | MK party supporters protest outside the Electoral Court in Bloemfontein on 19 March 2024. (Photo: Gallo Images / Volksblad / Mlungisi Louw) | An uMkhonto Wesizwe party member outside the Gauteng Division of the High Court in Johannesburg. (Photo: Gallo Images/Fani Mahuntsi)

The manifesto of former president Jacob Zuma’s uMkhonto Wesizwe party is probably the most radical assemblage of promises of any party likely to win a significant share of the vote in the upcoming general election. It promises to literally remove the Constitution and to dramatically increase the role of the state in the economy. It is incendiary, perhaps deliberately so.

Last week, uMkhonto Wesizwe (MK party) published its manifesto on its website. Unlike most other political parties, there was no ceremony or rally to launch the document.

While there is much to criticise in the practice of stadiumology (the science of assessing a political party’s support through the number of people at its events), MK’s opponents can claim it has ducked the chance to show whether it too can fill up a big arena.

Also, it is not clear how the manifesto was drafted and who was involved in it.

While this is true of many other parties (although not all — the ANC had a “manifesto review tour”), considering that MK has had no electoral or political conferences, the process behind the drafting of this document remains a mystery.

The document imagines a future in which MK moves South Africa in a fundamentally different direction, where more power goes to “parliamentary supremacy” and the unelected people, with the removal of constitutional rights as they are currently understood.

The starting point is clear: each of the “nine pillars” begins with the word “reclaim”. There are pillars about “Reclaiming People’s Power” and “Reclaiming our Economy”.

In other words, the basis for the document is that something has been taken, or perhaps stolen, from the people.

The document says MK wants to change South Africa by “moving our country away from constitutional supremacy toward unfettered parliamentary supremacy”.

At a stroke, this would allow whoever held the majority in Parliament to do whatever they wanted, and no judge would be able to stop them, as there would be no Constitution.

This is more proof that what Zuma stands for now is diametrically opposed to what he said when he was president.

Since at least 2008, Zuma has claimed that his rights have been violated and that he is a victim. Just two weeks ago, Zuma’s advocate Dali Mpofu based part of his argument for Zuma to be allowed to stand for Parliament on his constitutional rights — the very rights that Zuma now wants to abolish.

Zuma took an oath, at least twice, to uphold the Constitution when he was inaugurated as president.

He also claimed many times while president that he supported the Constitution.

A House of Unelected People

The MK manifesto also proposes a major change to Parliament, promising to “establish a lower house of parliament comprised of elected representatives and an upper house comprised of Indigenous kings and queens as well as other traditional leaders”.

There are no details of what powers this House of Unelected People would have. So, for example, could it be that MK wants to have a House of Parliament of unelected people who can veto legislation?

The party envisages traditional leaders playing a greater role in other ways. It would, for example, give them greater control over land.

In the manifesto, MK promises to hold a referendum on reintroducing the death penalty and to introduce mandatory conscription for “every young person reaching the age of 18”.

The document contains other curious ideas.

For example, MK says it wants to reduce the number of provinces from nine to four and to demarcate provincial boundaries.

While there are strong arguments for reducing the number of provinces (and to cut down on the amount spent on running provincial legislatures, and salaries for premiers, MECs, their VIP protection, etc), no scientific reason is given to select four as the number. The only previous time SA had four provinces was because of the history of two British colonies and two Boer republics.

This is an odd coincidence for a party focused on “reclaiming” what was taken.

Some of the other measures are to be expected.

For example, MK wants to expropriate all land without compensation and transfer it to the state, and for it to be under the custody of traditional leaders.

Zuma has been heading in this direction for many years. It was his supporters who pushed the ANC into passing a resolution at the party’s 2017 Nasrec conference to allow the expropriation of land without compensation.

MK also wants to “nationalise strategic mining firms and regulate private capital participation in resource exploitation”.

EFF leader Julius Malema may find this interesting, as one of the reasons he was expelled from the ANC under Zuma’s watch in 2012 was for campaigning for an uncannily similar policy.

A cry for redress

Much of the document is a lament, a cry for redress for the centuries of colonialism and apartheid. As the document puts it, “South African society is dominated culturally, artistically, spiritually, and economically by a minority group with an alien culture.”

The document is an attempt to dramatically change this.

Of course, MK is not the only party that wants to make major changes. And it is not the only party that wants to alter the Constitution. But it may be the only party contesting this election that wants to do away with the Constitution entirely.

This signals MK is truly radical and may help the party to gain attention and incite the opposition, which could in turn start a political fight that leads to it winning more attention and, accordingly, support.

On paper, this manifesto will make it difficult for MK to work with most other parties in Parliament (apart from the EFF). It is hard to imagine the ANC agreeing to work with a party that wants to remove the Constitution, when the Constitution is largely the work of the ANC.

However, as experience has shown, ideology and policy never stand in the way of political parties and politicians desperate for power.

And, as this, and many other manifestos show, they will say anything to win votes, especially if they plan to never need them again. DM

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