/ 6 February 2024

Fears MK party could stoke ethnic violence

Jacob Zuma
Former president Jacob Zuma at an MK event in Pietermaritzburg. Photo: Prashalan Govender

There are growing concerns that the newly-formed uMkhonto weSizwe party (MK party) could be hijacked by individuals wanting to promote Zulu nationalism.

Perceptions that some within the MK party were promoting Zulu nationalism recently resulted in KwaZulu-Natal ANC provincial deputy secretary Sipho Hlomuka reminding the local community in Mkhambathini Municipality that they were all part of the broader South African community.

Hlomuka was part of the government delegation, led by President Cyril Ramaphosa, which recently opened a bridge in Embo, Mkhambathini.

“KZN is part of South Africa, you should be free to speak in any language, even Tswana,” he said.

Hlomuka was speaking amid concerns about a recent statement made by former president Jacob Zuma — who is the face of the MK party.

Addressing MK supporters in Pietermaritzburg, Zuma said he was surprised that people in KZN could also communicate in Tswana.

“They filled the Moses Mabhida Stadium here in Durban and sang the song Ramaphosa re o rata kaofela (we all love you Ramaphosa). I was shocked, I did not know that KZN people can speak Tswana,” he said.

Zuma’s comments were soon followed by social media posts where people claiming to be MK party supporters altered the name uMkhonto weSizwe — meaning the spear of the nation, to uMkhonto weSizwe samaZulu — spear of the Zulu nation.

Despite no longer being the country’s president, Zuma — who in December announced that he would vote and campaign for the MK party in the upcoming elections — still has a large following in KZN, whose residents are mainly Zulu speakers.

However, MK party provincial co-ordinator Simpiwe Mpungose denied that there had been Zulu nationalism tones in some of the statements made by the organisation’s members.

“Firstly, it’s not true that the MK party is a KZN regional party. We are all over the country, the MK is in Gauteng, Limpopo, Free State and all the other provinces. This narrative that we are a regional party is being pushed by those who are intimidated by the support we are getting across the country.

“They are worried that they will be left out in the cold now that it’s becoming clear that the MK party will win next year’s elections.

“Secondly, some people are interpreting political statements made at rallies out of context.

“As the MK party, we have never been asked to clarify any of the political statements which our members are alleged to have made.

“The fact that those who choose to interpret the statements do so without seeking clarity from the MK party, goes to show that there are individuals bent on discrediting our organisation,” he said.

But political analyst Aubrey Mashiqi said there were “worrying signs” that the MK party could turn into an organisation purporting to represent members of the Zulu nation.

“There are people who are quite strongly invoking a very narrow Zulu nationalistic impulse. They are positioning the MK party as uMkhonto weSizwe sama Zulu (the spear of the Zulu nation). This has the potential to create instability in KZN.

“We must be sensitive to any attempt at mobilising support on the basis of a narrow nationalistic impulse,” he said.

In the build-up to the ANC 2007 national elective conference, where Zuma defeated former president Mbeki in the race for the ruling party presidency, some of Zuma’s supporters wore T-shirts branding him as a “100% Zulu Boy”.

Mashiqi said Zuma had a history of not calling to order those saying inappropriate things in his name.

“What he does is not to be critical of those who, in his support, act in a poor manner,” he said.

This article first appeared in The Witness.