The ANC in KwaZulu-Natal says its electoral performance in the province could have been worse had former president Jacob Zuma not taken part in the campaign.
ANC provincial secretary Mdumiseni Ntuli described Zuma’s participation in the campaign to retain the province as exceptional.
ANC support dropped by 10 percentage points in KwaZulu-Natal in this election, from 64% in 2014 to 54%, as the IFP clawed back some of the votes it lost under a Zumaled ANC.
Nonetheless, Ntuli described Zuma’s contribution to the campaign as “quite big”.
“The impact of his campaigning in KZN was quite big. We think he has done very well,” he said.
Zuma’s role in the election in KwaZuluNatal was controversial, with the Sunday Times reporting in January that supporters of ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa said Zuma’s involvement was designed to undermine the president.
Zuma retreated a bit in the three weeks leading up to election day, but during the Easter weekend he upped the tempo again.
Ntuli said the decision to have Zuma galvanise ANC voters after his recall as president was “very strategic”.
“To bring him back to the campaign at the time when he had been recalled was very strategic for us to ensure that the support base of the ANC, which might have been disillusioned by the way he was recalled, was re-energised and they can come back to campaign and realise that even if he was no longer the president he remained in the ANC actively as a member.”
Ntuli said Zuma was able to motivate “certain areas in our province where comrades were not very enthusiastic about doing the work of the ANC when we went to national conference and didn’t get what we wanted”.
“Him coming out after his recall, everybody realised that the ANC is far more important than any of us and that the ANC has to be defended by all of us and it must remain in power,” he said.
Despite being implicated in scandals and corruption, Zuma is a popular figure in his home province, especially in KwaZulu-Natal’s rural areas.
“If you go to rural areas you have many people who were obviously not convinced by the decision to recall Zuma. Those are people who felt he was representative of them and their aspirations,” said Ntuli.
– Sunday Times