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Jacob Zuma Stages a Dramatic Return in South African Elections: Will He Outmaneuver Ramaphosa?

Former president of the ANC and South Africa Jacob Zuma, waves to supporters after casting his ballot on May 29 during general elections in Nkandla, Kwazulu Natal, South Africa.South Africa’s African National Congress (ANC) party faces a mammoth challenge as it needs to form a government with its political rivals after suffering a seismic blow in last week’s election.

On Wednesday, the ANC’s national spokesperson insisted that any coalition government would be in the interests of unity and stability and hinted at a government of national unity of some kind.

“The ANC has taken the position that we must all act in the interest of our country and its people, and work on a national consensus on the form of government that is best suited to move South Africa forward at this moment in our history,” Mahlengi Bhengu-Motsiri told a press briefing.

Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Still, some of the same parties that sought the ANC’s demise will now have to play a part in governing South Africa.

For decades, the ANC could rule alone, but support for the the party plummeted to around 40% in last Wednesday’s elections, down from 57% in 2019.

Analysts and opinion polls had forecast losses for the ANC but a pivotal factor in the party’s staggering decline was former President Jacob Zuma and his newly formed uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) party, which capitalized on widespread discontent within the ANC’s traditional voter base.

Zuma’s revenge

Zuma – a fierce critic of current ANC leader and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa – was forced to resign as president in 2018 and has been looking for political revenge ever since.

South Africa poll battle heats up as ruling ANC suspends former President  Jacob Zuma – Firstpost

His MK party, named after the ANC’s former armed wing, appears to have achieved just that – formed just five months ago, it is now the third-largest party in South Africa, receiving almost 15% of the vote.

Zuma positioned MK as “a party that is meant to restore the ANC to its former glory,” said political analyst Tessa Dooms, programmes director at the Rivonia Circle non-profit organization/political think tank in Johannesburg. She says many MK voters saw this ballot as a protest vote.

Jacob Zuma's nine lives: How South Africa's ex-president keeps coming back  | Jacob Zuma News | Al Jazeera

“What we’ve seen with the MK party is the use of a vote to send a signal to the ANC of the level of unhappiness, not only of the country itself but within its ranks who’ve supported it over the last 30 years,” Dooms told

Despite Zuma being barred from running for parliament by the Constitutional Court because of a previous contempt of court violation, the 82-year-old’s face remained on the ballot paper.

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