South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) has suspended former President Jacob Zuma, weeks after he backed another party ahead of this year’s general election.
ANC Secretary-General Fikile Mbalula said on Monday, “Zuma and others whose conduct conflicts with the ANC’s values and principles will find themselves outside the African National Congress.
The decision, which was widely expected, will be seen as a further sign of disunity in the movement ahead of the general election, in which the long-dominant ANC is expected to lose ground.
Zuma was the fourth president of democratic South Africa, serving from 2009 to 2018, but was forced from office under a cloud of corruption allegations, and he has become estranged from the party he once led.
In December, he declared he would campaign for a new party, uMkhonto We Sizwe (MK) or Spear of the Nation, named after the ANC’s former armed wing during the anti-apartheid struggle.
Mbalula said that in addition to suspending Zuma, the ANC could complain to the electoral court to get the new party deregistered and mount a trademark challenge to recapture the name.
“The formation of the MK party is not an accident,” Mbalula declared after a meeting with the party’s National Executive Committee, attended by President Cyril Ramaphosa.
He said it is a deliberate attempt to use the proud history of the armed struggle against the apartheid regime to lend credibility to what is a blatantly counterrevolutionary agenda.
According to a news report, Zuma has 48 hours to respond to the suspension.
The former head of state, who has never hidden his bitterness at the way he was pushed out of office, pointedly told a press conference that “it would be a betrayal” to campaign for the ANC under his successor, President Cyril Ramaphosa.
After being in power for three decades, the ANC has had its once-stellar standing mauled by allegations of corruption and mismanagement amid a weak economy hampered by power cuts, high unemployment and rampant crime.