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Zuma aims to prevent Ramaphosa’s Presidency, not interested in Parliament

As South Africa’s crucial elections on 29 May draw near, political parties are concentrating their campaign efforts in Kwazulu-Natal. The province has been singled out as the bellwether of this year’s elections by Prof Theo Venter, a political analyst from the University of Johannesburg. In an interview with Biznews, Prof  Venter noted that the ANC’s performance in Kwazulu-Natal in past elections has been a strong indicator of their national results. Reflecting on the impact of the newly formed um Khonto we Sizwe Party (MKP), he said the MK Party could secure 8% of the vote if the latest Ipsos polls are accurate. He believes that Zuma is not interested in being a part of Parliament per se, but rather in influencing it. If Zuma were to sit in the House of Assembly, he would forfeit the benefits and salary of an ex-president. According to Venter, Zuma’s primary objective in this election is not to shape legislation, but to prevent Ramaphosa from assuming the presidency.  The Independent Electoral Commission has clarified that the Constitutional Court’s decision regarding Zuma’s eligibility for MP status will not affect the ballot paper. Regardless of the case’s outcome, Zuma’s photograph will be featured on the MKP’s ballot paper. – Linda van Tilburg. 

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Highlights from the Interview

In an interview with Linda van Tilburg, Prof. Theo Venter discusses South Africa’s upcoming election dynamics and political landscape. Venter predicts that the ANC will fall just short of 50%, forming a government with smaller parties. He highlights the resurgence of the IFP under Mangasuthu Buthelezi’s leadership, contrasting it with parties built around individuals like Jacob Zuma. Venter anticipates MK’s role as a short-lived party akin to COPE, with limited sustainability post-election. He critiques recent legislative changes favouring major parties financially, impacting smaller party representation. Regarding Zuma’s legal situation, Venter suggests that despite appearing on the ballot, Zuma may not enter Parliament due to legal complexities and strategic considerations.

Venter’s analysis extends to broader political shifts, such as growing urbanization affecting voting behaviour and information access. He emphasizes the post-election period’s significance, expecting dynamic changes and challenges as parties manoeuvre within a shifting political landscape. The interview offers insights into party dynamics, electoral strategies, and the evolving role of influential figures in South African politics, framing the upcoming election as a pivotal moment with far-reaching implications for the country’s political future.

Extended transcript of the interview ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

00:00:05:13 – 00:00:29:09
Linda van Tilburg: With two weeks before South Africa’s all-important 29 elections, politicians are frantically trying to sell their message, with smaller parties insisting that they can provide an alternative to the ruling ANC. Polls, although they vary, have consistently indicated that the ANC could lose its majority for the first time in 30 years.

00:00:29:11 – 00:00:39:11
Linda van Tilburg: And let’s talk about that with Professor Theo Venter, a political analyst at the University of Johannesburg about that. Hi Theo, and welcome again to Biznews.

00:00:39:13 – 00:00:42:07
Prof. Theo Venter: My pleasure. My pleasure.

00:00:42:09 – 00:00:53:08
Linda van Tilburg: Well, the polls keep on coming out, and I see the latest is actually thinking that the ANC is improving and gaining ground.

00:00:53:10 – 00:01:26:13
Prof. Theo Venter: It has been a characteristic of the ANC. Well, except for the first election in 1994, all subsequent elections, they had this ability to, in the last, let’s say, three or four weeks before the election, they can pull out all the stops and every time it surprised us in terms of how well they could mobilize in the last few, let’s say last two to three weeks before an election.

00:01:26:13 – 00:01:52:11
Prof. Theo Venter: And this election is no different. When we started with the analysis earlier on, it was clear that we are now ending the sixth administration of the Republic of South Africa, which is what it’s formally called, and we have an election, and then we will have the seventh administration. Of course, that is the seventh since 1994.

00:01:52:13 – 00:02:21:21
Prof. Theo Venter: But the ANC is going into the election with 57% of the vote. To lose 7 or 8% of the vote in an election is a massive situation, and that is what the polls have shown the ANC over the last four, five, six months, that they constantly polled around 40 to 45 to 46%, in that ballpark.

00:02:21:23 – 00:02:59:10
Prof. Theo Venter: It was my view, and we’ve said it on this program, if they get more than 46% of the vote, they actually win the election handsomely. I think the important thing is that we must remember that in proportional representation, winning 50% of the vote is actually extraordinary. In most proportional representation elections, if we look at Europe and a few other countries, then if you get 30 to 40% of the vote, you are the dominant party and you can form a coalition.

00:02:59:11 – 00:03:51:10
Prof. Theo Venter: Well, coalition politics in South Africa hasn’t worked very well. So that was the big question. If the ANC polls low and they get that kind of support, then it is into coalition territory, which if we look at the metros in South Africa and some of the local governments, is not a good history. But in analyzing the election, I stumbled across something which I have missed over the last 20 or 30 years, and that is looking closely at the outcome of the elections in KwaZulu-Natal, the provincial outcome. With MK, we have suddenly started to focus on KwaZulu-Natal as a province and as a region with about 20% of the voting population.

00:03:51:12 – 00:04:22:08
Prof. Theo Venter: Then, except for the first election in 1994, which we all knew was a kind of designer election, I never thought the ANC or the IFP got 10% of the vote and 50% of the province. I thought that was given to them. But we will probably never know because somewhere in the 99th hour of the election, something went haywire with the statistics and they had to kind of resuscitate the system.

00:04:22:08 – 00:04:57:09
Prof. Theo Venter: But let’s leave that as is. It served a good purpose at the time. But if you then look at the ANC support in KwaZulu-Natal, whatever they got in KwaZulu-Natal reflected strongly in terms of what they got nationally which is 60% of the vote, 64% of the vote. So, looking at KwaZulu-Natal as an indicator, it is something that the Americans would call a bellwether state or one of those places, if you watch it, it will give you a view of what goes on in the country.

Read more: Election’24: SA investors rightly fear a populist turn – John Authers

00:04:57:10 – 00:05:30:18
Prof. Theo Venter: Then, I think KwaZulu-Natal this year is really something that we will all have to watch, especially since we have witnessed several court cases where the IEC was challenged, where Zuma was challenged, where the ANC was challenged. Despite all of these challenges, Jacob Zuma will participate in the election and the big question, two weeks, two weeks before a national election, we are still struggling with this question.

Prof. Theo Venter: Is MK a flash in the pan or is it a game changer? It is somehow very difficult to determine what it is. Markinor or Ipsos is the new name, came out with surveys last week, which were done in the previous month or so, and they polled 8% of the national vote for MK. Now that is significant.

00:05:30:20 – 00:05:57:07
Prof. Theo Venter: That’s more than what COPE got when they tried, and it is more than the EFF got when they first went the national electoral route. 8% is something where you can influence politics. But then the question starts and that is where all of us are currently collectively, separately, individually thinking and reflecting on the election. At what point would the ANC get enough for them not to have to consider MK or the EFF.

00:06:40:13 – 00:07:09:18
Prof. Theo Venter: And that would be a number, I would say, above 45%. Then they wouldn’t mind about those two political parties. They can go it on their own. They may rope in the IFP or one or two of the 1% parties. For instance, somebody like the Patriotic Alliance is currently doing fairly well, especially in the Western Cape. Now, if they do fairly well in the Western Cape, it means that they will also get some handsome numbers in the national vote.

00:07:09:18 – 00:07:48:09
Prof. Theo Venter: Anything from 1 to 3%, which is very useful if the dominant party is looking for a small partner to form a government. At one point, would they then consider tapping into, for instance, the support of the DA to form kind of a grand coalition. I think few people realize that if the ANC goes into a coalition agreement after the election with either the EFF or MK, that’s the end of Cyril Ramaphosa.

00:07:48:11 – 00:08:19:08
Prof. Theo Venter: Let me just remind our listeners that our president is indirectly elected. Political parties are elected depending on what they get. We have a parliamentary inaugural session 10 days after the election, maybe 12 days, but let’s say within two weeks, we have an inaugural session. At that session, the Chief Justice is chairing Parliament. The first order of business is to elect a Speaker.

00:08:47:16 – 00:09:20:18
Prof. Theo Venter: Now, if the EFF and MK mobilize support beyond what the ANC can deal with, they will not allow the president to be nominated. That’s the purpose of their political participation at the moment. Despite their manifestos, despite what they say on the trails, they don’t want Ramaphosa to return. The ANC needs Ramaphosa to return. So, they will have to look at what goes on.

00:09:45:19 – 00:10:26:17
Prof. Theo Venter: People are just voting. You’ve got nothing to analyze. There’s no counting. There’s no outcome. It’s almost playing or filling time with stories and then on day two when the count comes through, that’s where the big discussion begins, and then by day two, probably day three, all the votes were counted, and the election is over. This time around, we have this intense period before the election, and I am suggesting and thinking that we will have an intense period of a week, 10 days after the election to see who goes to bed with whom.

00:10:26:19 – 00:10:31:02
Prof. Theo Venter: If the outcome is what the polls are currently telling us.

00:10:31:04 – 00:10:48:19
Linda van Tilburg: So, do you think, eventually you’re saying that we should watch because KwaZulu-Natal, that’s the bellwether. What’s going on there? But at the moment, the MK party seems to be in shambles. It’s got a lot of internal strife. Wouldn’t that make a difference?

00:10:48:21 – 00:11:16:17
Prof. Theo Venter: Yes, yes, it would make a difference, but the one thing they’ve got which keeps them glued together, which provides the cohesion, is a man called Jacob Zuma. MK entered politics without a manifesto, without a constitution, without elected leadership and all those kinds of things. It is a weak point, but it is also their strength that Jacob Zuma is the glue that keeps them together.

00:11:16:19 – 00:11:44:04
Prof. Theo Venter: You will remember that when COPE started, they had a similar problem. They had leadership contestation right from the beginning. (Sam) Shilowa and Terror Lekota just couldn’t see eye to eye. Eventually, that leadership resulted in the breakup of COPE, and what seemed to be a political party there for the long term with a sustainable approach just fell apart.

00:11:44:06 – 00:12:20:05
Prof. Theo Venter: Today, it’s a micro party with one or two representatives, and it all started with leadership. In MK at the moment, we saw over the last two weeks letters being written and accusations being made because the leadership is not elected. It seems to me if I listen to Jacob Zuma’s daughter, the leadership in MK is kind of like a fiefdom in a tribe where the king and the son of the king take over.

00:12:20:11 – 00:12:55:07
Prof. Theo Venter: It’s not as if it’s democratically elected, and that, of course, is very close to what Zuma is doing. Zuma is playing Zulu nationalism, and he’s playing it hard, and he’s playing it directly. I think that if you look at the disbursement of Zulu-speaking people in South Africa and you look at a map, you’ll see the whole of KwaZulu-Natal is Zulu-speaking, and then it goes up into the eastern part of the Free State.

00:12:55:07 – 00:13:31:03
Prof. Theo Venter: A little bit of Mpumalanga into the southern portions of Gauteng. Those are areas where Zulu-speaking people are fairly dominant. If you take that picture back to the 2021 conflicts, you will see where the conflicts were and where they were strongest, and I think that is where MK will also show their strongest support. In other words, portions of the Free State, portions of Mpumalanga, portions of Gauteng, and a large portion of KwaZulu-Natal.

00:13:31:03 – 00:13:51:21
Prof. Theo Venter: And I think that is the big challenge, and then they would like after the election to have a conference, to have elections and these kinds of things. I think they are barking up a very, very difficult tree with how they put the cart before the horse.

00:13:51:23 – 00:14:13:04
Linda van Tilburg: So if the ANC is tracking up, what is the position with smaller parties? It’s interesting how people initially, when you talked to them months before the election, would say, yes, I like this minority leader, I like that minority leader, and as it gets closer to the election, it seems that people tend to gravitate to what they know.

Read more: SA medical insurers plunge as President Ramaphosa signs controversial NHI Bill

00:14:13:05 – 00:14:48:06
Prof. Theo Venter: Yes, I think you’re quite right. Voting behavior is very, very differently determined by language, culture, the region that you live in, whether it’s urban or rural, what tradition you are steeped in, and what you did previously. Changing your political position, I think it’s very, in South Africa at least, it’s very close to a religious conversion to do something different or to vote for something else.

00:14:48:06 – 00:15:24:15
Prof. Theo Venter: That’s why South Africans shaved too far over the last 30 years and stayed away from the polls, especially in the black voting area, rather than vote against the ANC with its liberation character. But, I think certain things happened over the last four or five years, including load shedding and the cost of living challenges and lack of a growing economy, corruption which I think have changed a little bit in the behavior of people.

00:15:24:15 – 00:15:53:07
Prof. Theo Venter: They are now looking more critically towards where they’re going to vote. I think the biggest determinant of the vote will be a growing urbanization in the country. The most recent statistics by Stats SA show that about 67% of South Africans are living in big towns and cities, metro areas.

00:15:53:09 – 00:16:31:00
Prof. Theo Venter: About 50% of the population lives in about 17 of the biggest towns and cities in the country, and the rest live in small places. Once you have that concentration of people in urban areas, it changes political behavior. Why? Well, if you’re in a city or a big town, the sources of information change. You have TV, you have a radio, you’ve got newspapers, you’ve got people, you are traveling in taxis. A taxi is a platform of discussion.

00:16:31:02 – 00:17:08:11
Prof. Theo Venter: Same with buses and so on. Compare that to rural areas where you’ve got limited communication. You’ve got a tribal chief, probably, that tells you, or a traditional chief that tells you where to vote and what to do. You’ve got very little to challenge the current wisdom where you are and whether you’re in Limpopo or Northwest or Eastern Cape or KwaZulu-Natal. The ANC traditionally had a very strong following in the rural areas. Up to 30% of their vote came from rural areas.

00:17:08:13 – 00:17:51:01
Prof. Theo Venter: I would say that their biggest challenge is to get the other 20% to get to 50% in the metro areas. You can see their charm offensive in KwaZulu-Natal over the last week and what they are doing in bigger townships. The fact that they called in the old stalwarts, Thabo Mbeki, the old deputy president, Kgalema Motlanthe and the whole bunch of them, Tokyo Sexwale, even Mathews Phosa. That means they really need the ANC to mobilize support.

00:17:51:03 – 00:18:40:07
Prof. Theo Venter: I think that is absolutely in line with what the ANC has done previously, and we must remember these campaigns are extremely expensive. I don’t think money is at the moment saved in any way because there’s a new way in which the financing was determined in terms of legislation last week; I think it unlocked a lot of money for this election. I hope, by hook or by crook, that some of the spending that takes place for this election filters into the economy and gives us another 0.1 or 0.2% growth just by spending patterns.

00:18:40:09 – 00:18:44:13
Linda van Tilburg: But that legislation favors the ANC heavily.

00:18:44:15 – 00:19:12:23
Prof. Theo Venter: Heavily, heavily. The previous legislation had a far more equitable distribution. Just to remind the listeners that they took the money that goes to political parties and put it in two categories. The one category was roughly about a third of the money goes proportionally to all the political parties. In other words, you get the money in terms of your size.

00:19:13:01 – 00:19:37:06
Prof. Theo Venter: The rest is then distributed equally between the parties in Parliament. That meant the EFF and the Freedom Front Plus and those smaller parties got a lot of money in that system. Now that they’ve changed the legislation, the reason why they had to change the legislation, or at least that’s the justification, was to allow independents to participate in the election.

00:19:37:06 – 00:20:04:04
Prof. Theo Venter: And that, of course, was a big uncertainty, but we now know only six people succeeded in being on the national list, which is a very, very small number. But that was used to redesign how they distribute money, and they changed that to 90% of the money going proportionally. It means the ANC gets 57% of 90%.

00:20:04:06 – 00:20:37:02
Prof. Theo Venter: That’s a huge amount of money. And then the rest is distributed equally among the parties. Most political parties were mad at this, but it’s two weeks before the election, you can’t go to court. There’s just not enough time and there’s very little that they can do about it. I’m sure it will be discussed after the election, but like several other challenges to the election, I just think time is not on the side of those guys going to court.

00:20:37:04 – 00:20:50:13
Linda van Tilburg: So what about a decision on Jacob Zuma by the Constitutional Court? Is there a chance that he might not be able to go to Parliament, even if his party has some seats?

00:20:50:15 – 00:21:33:18
Prof. Theo Venter: This is the second time that we’re listening to the same arguments. The first time was when the IEC and Zuma met in the election appeal court where five judges did what I would call a kick for touch in rugby terms. They knew this was a difficult case and they decided in a weird way to say that if they followed the rules of the Constitution and the Electoral Act, then what Zuma got in the Constitutional Court was not a conviction because he had no appeal right. Therefore, in our Constitution, if you’re convicted, you can appeal. He had no appeal right.

00:21:33:18 – 00:22:01:22
Prof. Theo Venter: There he was not convicted. Now, to me, that was a weird kind of argument. Now, in the Constitutional Court, on Friday, sat until late in the evening to hear all the arguments, and my view is that the outcome of this will be imminent.

00:22:02:01 – 00:22:38:00
Prof. Theo Venter: We will have the outcome before the election, probably not the written outcome, just the decision. My view is that Zuma will not be allowed to go to Parliament, that they would make the following ruling, that one, he had a sentence of 15 months in jail. Of that, he only served three months. But there’s a distinction that was made very wisely by one of the advocates saying that there’s a difference between remission of a sentence and amnesty of a sentence.

00:22:38:00 – 00:23:07:17
Prof. Theo Venter: If you get amnesty like we did in 1993, 1994 with the transition from the old dispensation to the new, then your sins are forgiven. That means that sentence does not exist. We have forgotten about it. That’s what amnesty means. But if you get remission, it means you had a sentence, and you got a discount on the sentence.

00:23:07:17 – 00:23:28:08
Prof. Theo Venter: If I can call it that. You only served a small portion. And we’ve seen this with several other people. We saw it with Gayton McKenzie, one of the guys that’s probably going to Parliament. He had a remission of sentences. We saw that it was Oscar Pistorius. But remember, in both those cases that I mentioned, the original sentence is in the books.

00:23:28:10 – 00:23:52:21
Prof. Theo Venter: It is there, but they did not serve the whole term. Now, there’s a second portion, and that is if you’ve served the whole term, like Gayton McKenzie, you got out earlier, but it is more than five years ago, then you can go to parliament. In the case of Zuma, there is not a lapse of five years. So, I think he’s not eligible.

Read more: SA unemployment rate rises to 32.9% ahead of critical elections

00:23:52:22 – 00:24:13:14
Prof. Theo Venter: He can stand, his face can be on the ballot paper, but he will not go to parliament. And then lastly, I think he can’t go to parliament because once he goes to parliament, as an old president with all the benefits and things, salaries and stuff that a president gets.

00:24:13:14 – 00:24:38:02
Prof. Theo Venter: What are they going to do with his salary as an MP? He will have to choose what to do. And so I think personally, Jacob Zuma wants to influence parliament. He doesn’t want to sit in parliament. I mean, he was way too ill to attend these court cases several times. I think as an old man, very, very ill. I don’t think going to parliament is a good thing.

00:24:38:06 – 00:25:00:00
Prof. Theo Venter: So yeah, that’s just tongue in cheek, but I think Zuma is not going to parliament based on the court case and the basis of his political strategy. He wants to prevent Ramaphosa from becoming president again. That is his main purpose. His main purpose is not to influence legislation.

00:25:00:02 – 00:25:05:20
Linda van Tilburg: So, can we end off with the prediction of what do you think is going to happen?

00:25:05:22 – 00:25:38:09
Prof. Theo Venter: I’ve got a view that the ANC will not make the 50%, but it will just be under the 50%. Let’s make it 48% for a number. And that the ANC will be able to form a government with the assistance of one or two of the smaller parties, that the freedom or the Multi-Party Charter the Moonshot pact, so to speak.

00:25:38:11 – 00:26:07:14
Prof. Theo Venter: With the flaming DA as part of the big group, they will get somewhere in the 30s, I guess, around about 33, 34, 35% of the vote, and the EFF will get their typical 10%, and the big, the new kid in the block will be MK. But I think MK will have a history very similar to COPE.

00:26:07:14 – 00:26:18:04
Prof. Theo Venter: That is it is a one-election party with a very, very small chance of a sustainable approach after the election.

00:26:18:06 – 00:26:24:01
Linda van Tilburg: That’s an interesting prediction about the end of Zuma eventually.

00:26:24:03 – 00:26:48:17
Prof. Theo Venter: Yes, because the parties were built around Zuma. You will see all the political parties that were built around individuals. And the exception is, and I was wrong, I was also of the opinion that once Mangasuthu Buthelezi dies, the IFP will die. Well, I was completely wrong. The IFP has shown like a phoenix. It emerged out of ashes. At one point.

00:26:48:19 – 00:27:13:19
Prof. Theo Venter: It only had about 10 or 12% of the vote in KwaZulu-Natal, it is back to about 20-24% of the vote. So, there’s real growth. And of course, what they’re doing, they are using Buthelezi as the face of the party. So in his demise, in his death, he is making a huge contribution in terms of what goes on there.

00:27:13:19 – 00:27:40:19
Prof. Theo Venter: Almost like Lady Di. In her death, she had an impact on the royalty changes in the royal house that she would never have while being alive. It’s a pity that she died the way she did, but the changes came after her death. And I think what Buthelezi did after his death, he gave a new injection of political life into the IFP.

00:27:40:21 – 00:27:46:06
Linda van Tilburg: So the period after the election is going to be really interesting until that first sitting of parliament.

00:27:46:08 – 00:27:48:16
Prof. Theo Venter: Very much.

00:27:48:18 – 00:27:52:14
Linda van Tilburg: Professor Theo Venter, thanks so much for speaking to us.

00:27:52:16 – 00:27:53:19
Prof. Theo Venter: My pleasure. Like always.

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