ANC Initiates Legal Action Against Rival Party Amid Tense Election Campaigns in South Africa

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) is embroiled in legal action against both the independent electoral body and a rival political entity led by a former president, setting the stage for what may be the nation’s most pivotal election in three decades. The ANC contends that the newly formed uMkhonto weSizwe (Spear of the Nation) party, also known as MK, failed to meet registration criteria upon its establishment in September. This dispute, presented before the Electoral Court in Bloemfontein, could potentially lead to MK’s deregistration and exclusion from the upcoming national election on May 29. MK officials have vehemently opposed any disqualification, with one even hinting at the prospect of “civil war” should such action be taken.

The use of a name and emblem reminiscent of the ANC’s disbanded military wing, coupled with former President Jacob Zuma’s endorsement of MK, has exacerbated tensions between the parties. Harsh rhetoric has been exchanged, with ANC Secretary-General Fikile Mbalula describing Zuma as “the most destructive person” to South Africa’s democratic progress. The ANC, which has governed since apartheid’s end in 1994, faces significant electoral challenges, including a potential loss of its majority and the prospect of forming a coalition government for the first time. Recent polls suggest MK could emerge as South Africa’s third-largest party, particularly gaining traction in Zuma’s home province of KwaZulu-Natal.

Despite the ANC’s denial that the legal action is a response to MK’s political threat, concerns persist over potential civil unrest. This apprehension is fueled by remarks from MK officials, including Visvin Reddy, who warned of dire consequences if MK were barred from participating in the election. Such sentiments resonate in the wake of the 2021 riots sparked by Zuma’s imprisonment, underscoring the volatile political landscape preceding the upcoming election.