The MK Party has burst onto the South African political scene, and is possibly the biggest disruption to our post-1994 politics. Some polls have it at nearly 10% of the vote, and in all three local by-elections where it has fielded candidates, it won over 20% of the vote.

It could be the catalyst that finally breaks the power of the ANC and heralds in an era of multi-party democracy for South Africa.

Of course, some of what the party has already said has raised alarms, with some not-so-veiled threats of violence already coming from the party. In addition, some of the rhetoric from its patron and most well-known member, former President Jacob Zuma, is straight from the Dark Ages. 

He has said that he would deport pregnant teenagers to Robben Island and that he would roll back legislation safeguarding the rights of gay and lesbians in South Africa. (The latter policy is not something that is new from Zuma; he made headlines with homophobic statements in the 2000s, before he became President).

To see whether any of these kinds of pronouncements by the former President are formal party policy, I went to the MK Party site to see if I could gain any insight there.

To the party’s credit, the site is well-designed. It looks pretty sleek and is easy to navigate. And lo and behold, there is a manifesto page. 

However, if one is expecting a tome like the EFF’s nearly 300-page manifesto, you will be disappointed. The entire manifesto comes to less than 500 words. And it’s fairly milquetoast. There’s nothing to get too alarmed or excited about.

Consider the section on land reform. This is what the party has to say on this.

Accelerating Redistribution: Fast-track land redistribution policies while maintaining food security and increasing food exports.

Resource Protection: Prevent the exploitation of South African resources by foreign entities, ensuring wealth remains within the country.’

There’s nothing too objectionable here. Land reform should perhaps be accelerated, but always, the devil is in the detail. Accelerating the redistribution of land could mean expropriation without compensation or it could mean increasing the release of state-owned land. But it’s telling that on such an emotive issue – something that the MK Party would probably make a key election issue – there isn’t too much detail.

And one must wonder what is meant by ‘ensuring wealth remains in the country’  ̶  could it mean exchange controls? But it isn’t clear.

Other policy positions are as lacking in detail as that on land reform.

But the writing – to me – seems a bit soulless. Which made me wonder, was this written by a human or an AI language programme? So, I took myself off to Chat GPT, the AI language learning model, to see what it would do if I asked it to write a political party manifesto for me. It gave me a manifesto that was 674 words long – so a bit longer than MK’s manifesto.

On land reform, this what Chat GPT offered me: ‘Land Reform and Redistribution: We recognize the historical injustices of land dispossession and the urgent need for land reform. We will implement a comprehensive land redistribution program that prioritizes equitable access to land for landless individuals and communities, with a focus on agricultural development and sustainable land use practices.’

Perhaps slightly more radical than the MK Party’s proposal, truth be told, but it seems to have the same feeling.

Next, I turned to one of the programmes one finds on the internet which will tell you if a piece of writing was produced by AI or a human being. I found a few and experimented with a few, asking it to determine whether text was human or AI. I would enter text that I knew was written by either a person or an AI and see how accurate particular sites were.

When I found a site that was accurate in determining whether text was AI or human I entered the various parts of the MK manifesto. And unsurprisingly, the site informed me that, indeed, the MK Party manifesto was written by an AI.

Of course, I can’t prove this without a shadow of a doubt. Perhaps the 500 words or so of the manifesto were thought up by Zuma and his acolytes, ruminating long into the night around the Nkandla firepool, about how to get South Africa working. But, on the balance of probabilities, they realised that to be taken at least semi-seriously, it would be important to have something of a manifesto, and some intern or gofer was instructed to put something together. And this person used  AI to do so – whether under instruction from superiors we cannot know, but that is somewhat beside the point.

Nobody is under any illusion that the MK Party is simply nothing but a personal revenge vehicle for Zuma. It is laughable to think that the former president and his underlings want us to believe that it is actually a movement that’s been started to fix what is wrong with this country – a country that Zuma was the chief executive of for nine years, let’s not forget. 

But this half-baked manifesto simply confirms what many South Africans know – Zuma holds most ordinary South Africans in contempt. This slapdash excuse of a manifesto – written by a robot – is more evidence of that. 

Zuma thinks South Africans are fools. Let’s not prove him right by choosing to vote for him and the MK Party in significant numbers.

[Image: geralt for Pixabay]

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Marius Roodt is currently deputy editor of the Daily Friend and also consults on IRR campaigns. This is his second stint at the Institute, having returned after spells working at the Centre for Development and Enterprise and a Johannesburg-based management consultancy. He has also previously worked as a journalist, an analyst for a number of foreign governments, and spent most of 2005 and 2006 driving a scooter around London. Roodt holds an honours degree from the Rand Afrikaans University (now the University of Johannesburg) and an MA in Political Studies from the University of the Witwatersrand.