ANC challenges Zuma party’s theft of ANC intellectual property

Party currently referring to itself as the uMkhonto we Sizwe Party is using ANC’s trademarks, symbols, and heritage

ANC challenges Zuma party’s theft of ANC intellectual property and heritage in the High Court

28 March 2024

The African National Congress (ANC) has filed an urgent High Court application to obtain a court order that stops Mr. Zuma's party (Zuma Party) currently referring to itself as the uMkhonto we Sizwe Party (MKP) from any further unlawful use of the ANC's trademarks, symbols, and heritage.

Mr. Zuma and his collaborators, in what the ANC considers to be a gross violation of the Trade Marks Act No. 194 of 1993, have registered a political party appropriating the uMkhonto weSizwe logo and related symbols unlawfully.

In 2014, the uMkhonto weSizwe trademark was registered by the MK Legacy Project, a non-profit organization registered in terms of the Non-Profit Organizations Act, 1997, under registration number 137/345 NPO. The NPO was established to promote the preservation of the heritage and legacy of the liberation movement, including uMkhonto weSizwe, the People's Army, launched on 16 December 1961.

In furtherance of the aims and objectives of the Legacy Project, the NPO registered the symbol of uMkhonto weSizwe in terms of section 29(2) of the Trademarks Act, 1983, with effect from 20 August 2014. The MK Legacy Project NPO and the ANC have a Deed of Assignment, granting the African National Congress full ownership of the uMkhonto weSizwe trademark, including all goodwill that has accrued in the uMkhonto weSizwe trademark through its use and promotion.

The ANC has requested the High Court to interdict and restrain the Zuma Party from passing itself off as being connected with the ANC by the use of the name uMkhonto weSizwe and the related logo, or any other trademark, and to remove ANC intellectual property from any of the Zuma Party's websites, social media accounts, banners, t-shirts, signs, labels, promotional and advertising material, packaging, stationery, and other printed matter.

The ANC accepts that all South Africans have rights to certain fundamental freedoms, among which is the right to join or establish a political party of one's choice. This is a fundamental freedom for which we fought.

The ANC is not opposed to the Zuma Party's presence on the ballot. However, in our opinion, fair elections can only be achieved if the Zuma Party is ordered to cease and desist from using our trademark and other symbols belonging to the ANC.

It is a matter of clear public interest that any voter confusion, caused by the unauthorized use of the ANC's intellectual property and heritage, is clarified before the elections take place.

The ANC is resolute in its view that it is to the benefit of all parties and the country as a whole that the matter be clarified before the general elections due to be held on 29th May 2024.

South Africans know uMkhonto weSizwe to be the armed wing of the ANC. There should be no dispute that uMkhonto weSizwe was established by the ANC in 1961, and that it fought gallantly for the liberation of South Africa under the full command of the ANC leadership. Around 1993, the ANC, under President Mandela, ordered its army, Umkhonto weSizwe, to disarm and to cease all military hostilities against all enemies of the ANC in order to give way to the negotiated transition which ushered in democracy in South Africa.

uMkhonto weSizwe's function as an army was stopped, but the members of the army units remained seized with a duty and responsibility to safeguard the struggle for liberation as bona fide members of the ANC. At no point in history was uMkhonto weSizwe disbanded.

Mr. Zuma's party is using the ANC trademark without the consent of the ANC and in flagrant and contemptuous disregard of the ANC's wishes.

Although MK cannot continue to exist as an army, its rich history is worth protecting and sharing with the generations to come. To this end, the ANC has continued to regard uMkhonto weSizwe as an integral part of its legacy and heritage, the custodians of which are the MK Liberation War Veterans.

It is an untenable situation for the Zuma Party to be allowed to dilute such a rich history for its own purposes, by irregularly and unlawfully abrogating to itself a name it thinks would have political traction, in this case a name people have literally died for, uMkhonto weSizwe.

Issued by Mahlengi Bhengu-Motsiri, National Spokesperson, ANC, 28 March 2024