19 May 2024, 09:40

S.Africa's Zuma stages rally despite candidacy doubts

 SOWETO, South Africa, May 19, 2024 (BSS/AFP) - Graft-tainted former South
African president Jacob Zuma staged a huge election rally Saturday, vowing to
return to power despite a legal challenge to his candidacy.

More than 30,000 supporters packed the Orlando Stadium in Soweto to hear
their champion promise black South Africans more jobs and better wages.

"When we reach the final destination nobody will be poor, or unemployed, we
are going to be doing things for all of us," the 82-year-old declared to

The elderly party leader appeared tired as he arrived in the stadium,
escorted by MK militants in military fatigues and traditional Zulu warriors
with spears and leopard skins.

But he rallied as he stepped forward to speak, leading the crowd in
revolutionary song and speaking for more than an hour before launching into
another chorus.

Between 2009 and 2018 Zuma served as a South Africa's fourth president in the
post-apartheid era and leader of the ruling African National Congress (ANC).

But he left office under the shadow of a corruption probe and was jailed in
2021 for contempt of court, a decision that triggered a wave of riots that
left 350 people dead.

He has now launched a new party, uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK), to challenge his ANC
successor Cyril Ramaphosa for the presidency in the general election on May

In South Africa, a president is chosen by newly elected MPs, but electoral
authorities say he should be barred from standing because of the conviction.

The Constitutional Court has been called on to decide the matter after a
lower tribunal found in Zuma's favour, but Zuma's supporters plan to push on

There are concerns that if Zuma, still popular with many of his fellow Zulus,
is declared ineligible at this late stage there may be another round of

- Change everything -

But the party, named after the ANC's armed wing during the anti-apartheid
struggle, will remain on the ballot and could cut into Ramaphosa's vote.

"We see him as our Moses from the Bible, the one who led the Israelites over
the sea," said 55-year-old job seeker Nomthandanzo Nhlapho.

Observers do not credit the MK with much support outside Zuma's native
KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa's key electoral battleground.

But at the stadium in Soweto, the symbolic heart of ANC support, speaker
after speaker declared that the party was on course for a two-thirds super

Crowds had begun gathering at 8.00 am and by 3:30 pm, when Zuma finally began
to lead them in song, the 36,000 capacity arena was packed.

"The MK is going to change everything. We are taking them out!" declared
Sharon Mahlobo, 47, a former ANC voter who will no longer utter the party's

Timothy Magawana, a 58-year-old MK militant and ultra-marathon runner, told
AFP he had come from Durban to show his support.

The coastal city is 500 kilometres (310 miles) from Soweto, but the party had
laid on transport from Zuma's Zulu heartland to ensure a big turnout.

Some speakers paid lip service to the idea of uniting South Africa's many
peoples, but Zuma's speech was given only in Zulu, the language of most of
his supporters.

Many of the musical acts that entertained the crowds were big names from
KwaZulu-Natal, and many of the supporters had been bussed in from long

- Disco king -

But, in a sign of what may lie in store for the ANC at the polls this month,
one of the musicians was not a Zulu and also a high-profile ANC defector.

Eric Nkovani, better known to fans as Papa Penny and the king of Tsonga
disco, was an influential ANC ward councillor until this week.

Zuma welcomed him to his new party in a boisterous ceremony, adorning him
with a flashy cape covered in MK logos over his gold-sequinned disco outfit.

Late liberation leader Nelson Mandela's ANC has ruled South Africa since the
advent of democracy in 1994, but three decades later faces a tough electoral

Corruption scandals of the kind that dominated the Zuma era have hurt the
party, as have murders hitting 84 per day and an unemployment rate at 32.9

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