/ 27 December 2023

From Arms Deal to Zuma: A political A-Z of 30 years of democracy

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Inkatha Freedom Party founder Mangosuthu Buthelezi. Photos: Darren Stewart/Getty Images

African National Congress, the governing party since 1994, something which may finally change after next year’s national and provincial elections. Also for the arms deal, which robbed the ANC and South Africa of their innocence two years later.

Buthelezi, Mangosuthu Gatsha, the founder and life president of the Inkatha Freedom Party and traditional prime minister to three Zulu kings. Buthelezi died in September 2023 but his picture will be on 2024 ballot paper as the image of the party he built in his own image.

Congress of the People, the breakaway from the ANC, was formed after the party recalled Thabo Mbeki as head of state and has not been able to cope since. Not likely to survive another election.

Democratic Alliance, the official opposition and the leader of the “moonshot” coalition, which plans to remove the ANC by numbering the numbers with the other small parties, next year … 

Economic Freedom Fighters. Julius Malema and his comrades formed the party after their expulsion from the ANC in 2012. A decade of parliamentary pitch invasions later, they’re the ANC’s most likely coalition partner — if the ANC lose their majority next year.

Freedom Front Plus, or Vryheidsfront Plus, depending on your linguistic inclination, has, like Omo, been keeping South Africa’s whites white since 1994. 

Gordhan, Pravin Jamnadas, the current minister of public enterprises and Cyril Ramaphosa’s unofficial prime minister, has been in the cabinet, parliament or the civil service since 1994 and is rumoured to finally be ready to bow out in 2024. Few will miss him.

Helen Zille, who, like Gordhan, has been a feature of democratic South Africa from day one, is currently the Democratic Alliance federal chairperson. Unlike Gordhan, Helen appears to have no intention of leaving the game anytime soon.

Inkatha Freedom Party. It started the democratic era well, taking KwaZulu-Natal and a seat on Nelson Mandela’s Government of National Unity. From there, it was all downhill, but the party hopes to make a comeback in 2024 through its coalition with the Democratic Alliance. 

Julius Sello Malema, Juju to his fans, the founder and president of the Economic Freedom Fighters and the country’s most controversial politician. Malema has taken the EFF to become South Africa’s third-largest party but faces the first real challenge to his leadership ahead of the 2024 poll.

Kaunda, Mxolisi, eThekwini mayor and a wedding singer of note, who is likely to be pursuing his side hustle full time — or should we say in full voice — come the 2027 local government elections.

Land, the promised redistribution without compensation thereof — and the failure to do so — have been consistent features of the ANC’s election promises since 1994. The hardy perennial of election years is likely to be dusted off and dragged out of the cupboard ahead of next year’s national and provincial elections.

Mandela, Nelson R, the guy on the banknotes, or Nellie M, as South Africa’s first democratically elected president is known to ma2000. Mandela will be remembered for his oratory skills, his statesmanship, his dance moves and those awful batik print shirts.

National Freedom Party. It began its life in 2011, with the expulsion of then Inkatha Freedom Party national chairperson Zanele kaMagwaza-Msibi and her supporters for challenging Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s authority. The party lost its way after her death in 2021 and it is unlikely to survive the next election.

Orania, the whites-only homeland-within-a-state in the Northern Cape has somehow been allowed to exist since 1991 and issued its own currency, the Ora, in 2004. 

Phala Phala. President Cyril Ramaphosa’s game farm grabbed the headlines after former spy boss Arthur Fraser laid charges against him in 2022 over the theft of $580  000 from a couch on the premises. 

Qedusizi Herbert Msimang, the late KwaZulu-Natal judge president who struck the corruption case against then deputy president Jacob Zuma off the roll in 2006, paving the way for Thabo Mbeki’s recall by the ANC and uBaba’s move to the Union Buildings.

Ramaphosa, Cyril Matamela, the sitting ANC and South African president, hopes to secure a second term after next year’s elections and will be “shocked and surprised” if he fails to do so.

Shaik, Shabir. Jacob Zuma’s onetime financial adviser — read sugar daddy — who got 15 years for bribes he and French arms dealer Thint paid Msholozi. Shaik also got medical parole because he was terminally ill, but is alive and well and living the life.

TM1, former president Thabo Mbeki’s ANC moniker during his two terms of office. Mbeki was recalled by the party over his use of state organs to “thoroughly deal with” his successor, Jacob Zuma. 

United Democratic Movement, led by Bantu Holomisa, who founded the first post-apartheid breakaway from the ANC after being expelled by the party for making corruption allegations against Thabo Mbeki’s staunch ally, Stella Sigcau, as well as hotel magnate Sol Kerzner.

Van Rooyen, Desmond, the Weekend Special who was infamously appointed by then president Jacob Zuma as finance minister, but was removed four days later after a domestic and international outcry over his replacing Pravin Gordhan.

Waterkloof, the South African Air Force base used by the notorious Gupta brothers to fly in family members point for a family wedding attended by their patron, enabler and ice boy, Jacob Zuma.

Xenophobia has become an unsettling — and increasing — feature of South African political life and is being used as a mobilising tool by parties including ActionSA, the Patriotic Alliance and others ahead of the national and provincial elections.

Yengeni, Tony, the former ANC national executive committee member-turned-social media influencer is the only person to have gone to jail over the arms deal. Yengeni served four months of a four-year jail sentence for defrauding parliament over a discount he received on a Mercedes Benz through arms dealer EADS. 

Zuma, Jacob Gedleyihlekisa. Former South African and ANC president, former prisoner (before and after 1994), professional victim and the man who put the state into state capture.