KZN bishop, close friend of Zuma, to launch new political party

Yet another prominent religious leader, often seen alongside former president Jacob Zuma when he appears before the courts for his corruption trial, will this week announce a new political party  the African Freedom Revolution (AFR).

KwaZulu-Natal secretary of the National Interfaith Council of South Africa Bishop Timothy Ngcobo says the ANC no longer feels like home.

Ngcobo, in an extensive interview with News24, said it was a matter of deciding whether to stand with the liberation movement, which marked 107 years earlier this week, or with the people of South Africa who are suffering from rising costs and lower standards of living.

His is the latest in a string of parties launched by individuals who were either once closely linked to Zuma or have been defending the former president as he faces corruption allegations in the KwaZulu-Natal High Court.

Just this week, former government spin doctor, Zuma defender and owner of the defunct ANN7 television channel and The New Age newspaper Mzwanele Manyi announced that he had found a political home in the African Transformation Movement (ATM), which he joins as head of policy following decades as an ANC member.

ATM is known as a pro-Zuma party, with some of its leaders having been spotted often alongside the former president in the past. Bishop John Bolana, the leader of a church linked to the ATM, is also a close friend of Zuma.

Last year also saw Andile Mngxitama's Black First Land first announcing that it would contest the 2019 general elections while former SABC chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng launched his own political party, the African Content Movement in December.

Another seemingly pro-Zuma grouping, the Mazibuye African Congress (MAC), has also expressed its intention to woo South African voters.

READ: Supra a no-show at Mazibuye African Congress briefing

While ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa told Ukhozi FM the party was not bothered by the political parties mushrooming across the country, some in the political party view the phenomenon as a plot to make a decisive win for the ANC difficult.

At least three national executive committee (NEC) members told News24 they believe Zuma was at the heart of the trend.

"These are people aligned to the former president who have failed in the NEC, they have failed in the NWC (national working committee) and now they want to destabilise the ANC by forming splinter parties to split the vote. To get a seat in Parliament you need 50 000 votes, these parties are non-factors," said one NEC member.

"This is just the work of the old man, you can see it from a mile away," said another.

But Ngcobo who, like the leaders of the MAC, informed Zuma of his decision to start the party, said it had nothing to do with ANC battles.

He insists the decision was taken by lobby group People Against Petrol and Paraffin Price Increases (Papppi) as part of a stand against fuel hikes, and VAT and electricity price increases.

Ngcobo also complained that because he led the Friends of Jacob Zuma campaign, some in the ANC believed he was using the lobby group to continue defending Zuma.

He claimed the lobby group was diverse, with people from all walks of life as members, and purely about the struggling majority of South Africans.

'Ramaphosa doesn't implement ANC policies'

Ngcobo, who says South Africa is ready for a change, accused Ramaphosa of not implementing any of the resolutions the ANC decided on at its watershed 2017 national elective conference, where Ramaphosa was elected head of the party.

"Nasrec came with a clear resolution of the land, but who raises it in Parliament? EFF. Why not the ANC?" he questioned.

"While the ANC and EFF were celebrating he was out of the country confirming to investors that their land in South Africa would not be touched, which was contrary to what was being agreed to in South Africa," claimed Ngcobo.

"People must look at the reason: 80% of our analysis indicates that Cyril's work is working for the interest of white capital.

"He has no history that explains why he is a millionaire," he added about the ANC president.

Ngcobo said he believed Ramaphosa sold South Africa out while part of the Codesa talks during negotiations towards the first democratic elections in the country.

'We are the voice of God'

The bishop said the political formations being established were not ordinary political parties as most had men of the cloth at the helm.

"Churches are standing up now because we are not just normal political parties but coming as voices of God to respond to the poor," he claimed.

When asked about the timing, he said it would still be questioned even if the parties were being established 30 years from now.

"The country is not improving," he said.

Ngcobo said he only heard about the establishment of the ATM after Papppi had resolved to become a political party. He said the difference between the two was that the ATM was a party under the banner of a church, while his formation, the AFR, believed that the doctrine of churches should not be imposed in politics.

The bishop, who said he did not meet with Zuma over this decision, reluctantly admitted that the former ANC president had been informed about it.

"He knows about the party," said Ngcobo.

"What we are running from is branding this party as a Zuma party," he said, insisting the AFR was concerned about the challenges South Africans were experiencing.

Ngcobo also acknowledged that the venture could cause a split in Zuma's beloved ANC.

"If you deprive my right of voting for the ANC, who must I vote for? If I don't vote for you, you are depriving my right and we would all be part of the ANC. We must give people alternatives," said Ngcobo.

The bishop is expected to hold a forum to announce his new party on Friday.

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