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Zuma’s Grand Return in South Africa’s Elections: Could He Emerge as Ramaphosa’s Ultimate Challenger?

Jacob Zuma’s dramatic comeback in South Africa’s elections is indeed a spectacle to behold, signifying a major shift in the political landscape. The former South African President has seemingly beaten the odds and has re-emerged as a prominent player in the nation’s politics, sparking speculation about whether this could jumble President Cyril Ramaphosa’s course and momentum. Once declared politically dead and shrouded by corruption accusations, Zuma’s ascension belies all expectations. The comeback reveals the ongoing tug of war within the ranks of the African National Congress (ANC), a divide between those loyal to Zuma and the faction aligned with the incumbent President Ramaphosa. Zuma stepped down in 2018 under a cloud of scandal and investigations, and since then, Ramaphosa has embarked on a mission of rooting out corruption within the state and the ANC, often clashing with Zuma supporters in the process. Zuma’s resurgence has been marked by a skilful harnessing of the undercurrents of public discontent. His populist style resonates well with vast sections of the South African public, especially the downtrodden, who view him as a stalwart against inequality and advocate for radical economic transformation. Simultaneously, this revival reflects Zuma’s tenacity and guileful political manoeuvring. Zuma’s resurgence, however, is not without controversy. The former president has been embroiled in numerous court cases, charged with corruption, fraud, racketeering, and money laundering, and his comeback bid is fraught with resistance from several quarters. This points to an ongoing tussle within the ANC, which is considerably fragile owing to the diverse ideologies within the party. On the other hand, Zuma’s comeback bid threatens to overshadow Ramaphosa’s anti-corruption crusade, which could result in an internal political impasse that dampens the South African leader’s chances of effecting significant change. The successful pushback of Zuma could undermine Ramaphosa’s credibility and strength, both within the ANC and in the eyes of the global community. Additionally, Ramaphosa’s own controversies and allegations of complicity in corruption while Zuma was president have further complicated the situation. This could lead to a public perception that Ramaphosa, despite his promises of reform, is part of the problem rather than the solution. While this political drama unfolds, the citizens of South Africa continue to grapple with critical issues such as unemployment, inequality and socio-economic instability.

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