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The five MK Party MPs who will take the opposition’s fight to the GNU

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As the country waits with growing anticipation for the make-up of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Cabinet, with all indications suggesting it will include DA members, attention has switched to who will play the opposition oversight role in Parliament during the seventh administration.

Andile Mngxitama, Duduzile Zuma, Dr John Hlophe, Visvin Reddy and Nhlamulo Ndhlela are expected to lead the MK Party fight as the main opposition party in the National Assembly. Graphic: Independent Media

AS THE country waits with growing anticipation for the make-up of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Cabinet, with all indications suggesting it will include DA members, attention has switched to who will play the opposition oversight role in Parliament during the seventh administration.

That attention was amplified on Tuesday when 58 members of Jacob Zuma’s MK Party were sworn into Parliament and proudly declared that they were “the official opposition”.

This comes as the DA opted to join the ANC-led Government of National Unity, along with parties such as the IFP, PA, FF+, UDM, PAC, Al-Jamah, Rise Mzansi, Good and the NFP.

While the MK party is still contesting the legitimacy of the IEC election results, alleging they were rigged, Zuma has sent to Parliament a mix of veteran politicians, radical leftists, and a group of “young lions” MPs, including a former judge president, eager to make a name for themselves on the national political stage.

Last month, the Constitutional Court ruled that Zuma could not take his place as an MP due to his contempt of court conviction amid the Zondo Commission, leading to his apprehension in 2021.

Among the MPs sworn in are ANC veterans like former finance minister Des van Rooyen, who was finance minister for a weekend, and the husband of former public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane, David Skosana. Mkhwebane herself remains an EFF MP.

But who will lead the MK Party’s attack in Parliament?

We examine the five MK Party MPs who could lead the charge against Ramaphosa’s Government of National Unity (GNU).

Dr John Hlophe, MK Party leader in Parliament

Hlophe, 65, is the former judge president of the Western Cape Division of the High Court, a role he served for over two decades. While he no longer carries the title of judge, he now prefers to be addressed as “Doctor” due to his LLD, which he obtained at the University of Cambridge.

He said this was a title Ramaphosa could not take away from him. The comment follows after Hlophe was impeached by Parliament last year after the Judicial Services Commission found him guilty of gross misconduct following a 2008 incident where he was accused of attempting to influence the Constitutional Court’s decision on search and seizure raids carried out by the Scorpions on properties of Jacob Zuma and French arms manufacturer Thint.

Hlophe was a prominent figure in South Africa’s legal sector, and Zuma positioning him as the MK Party’s parliamentary leader has been described as a stroke of genius by political analysts who said his oratory skills, intelligence and demeanour, could provide a calming, yet authoritative presence in parliamentary benches for many new MK Party MPs.

Hlophe studied law at the University of Natal, the University of Fort Hare, and Cambridge University. He taught law at the University of Transkei before being appointed to the bench.

In 1984, Hlophe went to Cambridge University in the UK to pursue a Master of Laws (LLM) degree on a Livingstone Trust Scholarship.

He worked as a law lecturer at the University of Natal in 1988. At the age of 31, he began working as a professor and public law head at the University of Transkei in 1990 and became the nation’s youngest high court judge when former president Nelson Mandela appointed him to the Cape Bench in 1995.

At 36, Hlophe became the first black judge to be permanently appointed to the Western Cape High Court.

It is Hlophe, who the MK Party will largely look to in the absence of Zuma in Parliament.

Duduzile Zuma

Duduzile Zuma, the 42-year-old daughter of the former president, was among the more notable figures who took the oath of an MP for the MK Party on Tuesday.

Duduzile’s relationship with her family, particularly her father, is a defining aspect of her public persona.

Zuma’s presidency was marred by numerous allegations of corruption, leading to his resignation in 2018. Throughout these turbulent times, Duduzile remained a steadfast supporter, often portraying her father as a victim of political persecution both in public and on social media, where she has a sizeable following.

This loyalty has endeared her to some but alienated her from others. She was accused by the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the African National Congress (ANC) of posting tweets that helped incite the 2021 July riots.

Duduzile has always backed her father. She testified in his favour during the Kwezi rape trial. Duduzile, who is a twin with Duduzane, is seen as one of her father’s most trusted lieutenants.

She has stood by his side, proudly, and she will continue to stand by Zuma’s side, as she did in December last year when he announced that he would be campaigning for the MK during the May 29 elections, while still curiously remaining a member of the ANC. The ANC has suspended Zuma’s membership.

Andile Mngxitama

Mngxitama has made a political comeback on the national stage after throwing his Black First Land First (BLF) lot in with the MKP. Mngxitama’s return as an MP follows a nine-year break after being expelled from Julius Malema’s EFF due to internal disputes.

BLF contested the 2019 national elections, but they suffered the indignity of failing to clinch a single seat.

Mngxitama now plans to turn his BLF into an NGO that supports the MK Party and says his sole mission will be to advocate for land restitution to its rightful owners, black people.

“Our mission has always been to get back the land of our people. In the past nine years, Parliament has failed to do so. I am back with uMkhonto weSizwe.

“We are going to put that matter forcefully on the agenda of the National Assembly to make sure land expropriation without compensation becomes a reality. That is my mission to make sure we push the land issue first,” said Mngxitama.

Visvin Reddy

Reddy, with the emergence of the MK Party, has built his political profile from being prominent in just Durban to a national stage.

Digitally savvy, with a number of social media followers on Facebook and TikTok, Reddy is a political flip-flopper who has been a member of the Minority Front, DA, ANC, and most recently the African Democratic Change party, which contested the local government elections, winning one seat in the eThekwini Municipality.

During a political hiatus, Reddy formed People Against Petrol and Paraffin Price Increases (PAPPI), leading several marches into the city against escalating costs.

Most recently, Reddy was charged with contravening the Riotous Act after he warned of violence if the MK Party was not allowed to contest the elections. He was cautioned by the party and apologised for his comments.

He remains under investigation, and the IEC went ahead and reported him to the Electoral Court, requesting his sanction and a fine of R200,000.

Reddy, however, brings to Parliament a dogged politician who has been in a few political fights and someone who is always up for a scrap.

His loyalty to Zuma and the cause of the MK Party is unwavering, as evidenced by his more than 64,000 TikTok followers. Whether he can turn that following, coupled with his political experience, into national prominence remains to be seen.

Nhlamulo Ndhlela

Ndhlela has shot to national prominence as the face and voice of the MK Party.

Eloquent and articulate, Ndhlela has proved that he can verbally spar with the best of them, fronting the printed and online press as well as 24-hour news channels on behalf of Zuma and the MK Party.

A close confidant of Zuma, Ndhlela has never been too far away from Zuma at his recent public appearances, appearing alongside him on stage or at press conferences.

While rumours have swirled about a romantic relationship between him and Duduzile Zuma, Ndhlela has pushed back, telling the media: “I’m not dating Duduzile Zuma, and we are just close to each other. My relationship with her goes back to our days in Mozambique.”

While Ndhlela is keen to get on with the business of Parliament, he has been in the media spotlight for being the nephew of former South African Revenue Service (Sars) commissioner Tom Moyane, who was awarded a multimillion-rand Sars contract that was later annulled during Moyane’s tenure.

Other members representing the MK Party include former secretary general Sihle Ngubane, who is expected to be the MK Party chief whip in Parliament, while the MK Party has reserved several seats to traditional leaders including the Khoi/San, as well as religious leaders like Bishop Nokwethemba Mtshweni.

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