Ramaphosa sends a warning amid social unrest threats in South Africa

 ·8 Mar 2024

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa said members of a new party backed by his predecessor, Jacob Zuma, who has threatened unrest if it is excluded from the 29 May elections, will be arrested.

Members of the uMkhonto weSizwe party have said there will be “civil war” if its candidates aren’t allowed to stand.

Visvin Reddy, a party official, warned in the eastern city of Durban on Wednesday that no one would be allowed to vote if the party didn’t appear on the ballot papers.

“I just want to make it clear to anyone who is threatening any form of unrest that there will be follow-up, and they will be arrested,” Ramaphosa said on the sidelines of an event in the northeastern Mpumalanga province on Thursday.

“Those are people who belong in jail; they are the people who are the enemies of our democracy.”

New parties need to submit the names of their lawmaker candidate lists to the Independent Electoral Commission by 8 March.

They will also have to file a list containing a predetermined number of their supporters’ signatures. It’s unclear if uMkhonto weSizwe will be able to meet those requirements.

The ruling African National Congress also wants the Electoral Court to rule that the IEC’s registration of uMkhonto weSizwe, which has the same name as its disbanded military wing, is unlawful as proper procedures weren’t followed.

The ANC forced Zuma to resign as president in 2018 after an almost nine-year tenure that was marred by a series of corruption scandals.

The ex-president was arrested in July 2021 for refusing to testify before a judicial panel that was investigating graft during his rule, triggering a week of rioting and looting that claimed 354 lives and cost the country an estimated R50 billion rand.

In January, the ANC suspended Zuma after he said he wouldn’t vote for it in the upcoming election and that he would campaign for uMkhonto weSizwe instead.

A group of people wearing the new party’s regalia attended Ramaphosa’s event on Thursday, booed the president and sang a song, asking, “What has Zuma done?”

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