Zuma Outmaneuvered in South African Province That Backed Him

(Bloomberg) -- Lawmakers in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province elected an Inkatha Freedom Party official as premier, dealing a blow to the organization led by former President Jacob Zuma that won the most votes in the region.

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Officials sitting in the provincial capital of Pietermaritzburg Friday elected Thamsanqa Ntuli in the regional legislature’s first sitting since the nation’s May 29 election that saw MKP sweep the African National Congress from control there. Phathisizwe Chiliza of Zuma’s uMkhonto Wesizwe Party, or MKP, also contested. The ANC won 17% of the provincial vote and the MKP 45.4%.

The development shows that the so-called government of national unity that was formalized on Friday — after the election left the nation without a majority party — seems to be working. Parties including the ANC , the main opposition Democratic Alliance and the Inkatha Freedom Party agreed to join the group. Participants agreed to cooperate on appointing the president and officials in the national and provincial legislatures, ANC Secretary-General Fikile Mbalula said.

The ANC, which has ruled continuously since it took power in 1994, wrested control of KwaZulu-Natal from the IFP in 2004, but the emergence of the MKP saw it hemorrhage support.

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Zuma served time in jail in 2021 after refusing to testify before a judicial inquiry into state graft. His imprisonment triggered the worst riots in South Africa since the end of apartheid, leaving 354 people dead. Much of the violence took place in KwaZulu-Natal, Zuma’s home province, where sub-Saharan Africa’s busiest port is situated.

The IFP got 18.1% of votes in KwaZulu-Natal last month, the DA 13.4% and the National Freedom Party 0.6%.

KwaZulu-Natal lawmakers also reelected the ANC’s Nontembeko Boyce as speaker, and chose the DA’s Mmabatho Tembe as deputy speaker.

The ANC’s candidate was elected speaker of the national parliament, while the DA nominated one of its lawmakers as deputy speaker.

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--With assistance from Monique Vanek.

(Updates with parliament speaker’s election in final paragraph.)

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