South Africa's ANC loses court trademark battle with Zuma's party


Supporters of the African National Congress (ANC) party cheer during an election campaign at Kwaximba on April 20, 2024, ahead of the South African Presidential elections scheduled for May 29, 2024. [AFP]

A South African court on Monday allowed a new party backed by former president Jacob Zuma to use its name and logo in May's general election, dismissing the ruling ANC's allegation of trademark theft.

The Durban high court ruled in favour of Zuma's new party uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) in the latest blow to his former political home, the African National Congress (ANC).

Amid a weak economy and allegations of corruption and mismanagement, the ANC is expected to score less than 50 percent in the election for the first time since the advent of democracy, polls suggest.

The party had tried to stop 82-year-old Zuma's new party from using the MK name, alleging intellectual property theft.

The name of the opposition MK is identical to that of the armed wing of the ANC, which Nelson Mandela led from exile during the apartheid era.

"The application is dismissed with costs," a court authority said in a televised ruling.

Zuma, who was forced out of office in 2018 under a cloud of corruption allegations, is campaigning for MK in a bid to relaunch his political career and weaken his former party, the ANC.

"I'm over the moon... we are unstoppable," MK's leader Jabulani Khumalo told national broadcaster SABC.

The ANC said it would appeal the decision and take it to "the highest court".

"The ANC will be appealing the matter to stop and prohibit the unlawful use of the ANC's trademarks, symbols and heritage by Mr Zuma's party," its secretary-general Fikile Mbalula told reporters in Johannesburg.

"The ANC was and till this day is the heart and soul of uMkhonto weSizwe," Mbalula said, adding that "the trademark and uMkhonto weSizwe goes beyond the election for us... the MK is ours".

South Africa goes to the polls on May 29 in what is expected to be the most competitive vote since the first democratic elections in 1994.

According to recent polls, the ANC is on course to score below 50 percent for the first time.

The ANC lost a previous court bid for the MK to be removed from the ballot.

Earlier this month, Zuma won a battle against a decision by the electoral authorities to bar him over a contempt conviction, allowing the scandal-tainted politician to stand in the poll.

The charismatic Zuma, who was president from 2009 to 2018, still carries considerable political clout and has recently garnered major media attention.

A recent poll by South African think tank Social Research Foundation predicted the MK would be the second largest opposition party, with 13 percent, with the ANC on 36 percent and the official opposition Democratic Alliance securing 25 percent.