A post-ANC South Africa

A post-ANC South Africa

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The origins narrative of the ANC tells the story of a counterweight to the 1910 Union of South Africa, crystallised in the then Parliament of the Union and peopled by the then Dutch settlers and British colonists. To this extent, the Parliament of the People, represented by the inclusive ANC, sought to balance out the exclusive arrangement of the Union of South Africa.

In the forging of these two blocks, however, they were underwritten by a conglomerate of interests and ideas. And so, the United Party, later to be the Progressive Party, on the one hand, and the Pan African Congress (PAC) and the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM), on the other hand, constituted different iterations of a South African vision.

1994, however, represented the dominance of the broad ideological vision of the ANC. A vision represented by a constitutional democracy, in which equity is not optional. Therefore, I’m interested in the fate of this vision.

Fast forward to the electoral fortunes of 2024. The current divisions within the ANC echo a historical pattern of interests and ideas. Bar COPE, which has fallen off the electoral cycle, the EFF represents a ‘black left’. Similar to the ANC Youth League of Anton Lembede or the PAC, the EFF is concerned with de-centring whiteness and re-inserting state-centred forms of development.

On the other end of the spectrum is the MK, headed by the former President of the Republic, Jacob Zuma. This milieu represents the more traditional impulses of the ANC. Unable to accept their defeat in the configuration of power that established democratic South Africa, they want a reversal of democratic gains.

While the MK looks towards the past, the EFF understands the past and the present as simultaneously constituted for a reconfigured South Africa. However, while the

Democratic Alliance (DA) appears to undermine the equity provisions of this vision through market-centred forms of development, both the EFF and the MK are saddled with allegations of corruption. The problem with corruption is that it can subvert state policies, as we witnessed in the State Capture Commission reports.

However coalitions are formed, and with whomever, it is important to ensure that the equity provisions of South Africa’s constitution are central to talks that characterize coalition arrangements. Accordingly, any subversions of this mandate or their undermining should be avoided in these arrangements.

Though many may fear a post-ANC South Africa, it is important to consolidate South Africa’s constitutional principle of equity which permeates throughout the political divide.

Dr Thapelo Tselapedi is a Politics lecturer at Rhodes University (RU)

OPINION: The pendulum swing of democracy

OPINION: The pendulum swing of democracy

Reading Time: 4 minutes

2024 marks 30 years since South Africa’s democratic breakthrough. For many analysts and observers, that we still have a democracy to talk about signifies a maturing democracy.

During these years, the country witnessed the ebbs and flows of democratic life through public institutional failure and strength, through private profit wrangling and policy capture, and through social rupture in community protests to fees must fall.

Our rule of law has faced off with lines coloured inside and outside its rubric.

And our political economy has taken some necessary but inadequate panel beating.

However, as is the nature of democracies anywhere, these struggles are not about some definitive end or nirvana.

These struggles are about an unceasing vigilance to ensure that the enablers of our democracy can self-correct while acting against malfeasance.

To this end, this article explores the ways in which South Africa’s democracy is maturing.

There should be no doubt of its maturing. However, we should be sensitive to the ways in which it is maturing.

For instance, the collapse of executive cohesion and capacity across all three spheres of government is palpable, not forgetting the compromised National Assembly.

Though each sphere’s collapse differs in degree, there’s no denying its reality.

And it’s stunted or repurposed public administration. But in some respects, policy has been embroiled in profit-seeking manoeuvrers.

As a result of the foregoing, institutions and people outside the executive, but both within and outside the state, have sought to recalibrate government cohesion.

Accordingly, I focus on three ‘institutions’.

One, media activism is a long-running tradition of both pre-and post-1994 South Africa, though the latter seems to have become ideologically inconsistent.

In other words, while there is a clear embrace of the country’s human rights tradition, media discourse seems to largely sidestep corporate, and private, power.

In many ways, and similar to IV league-type NGOs, this sunk their alleged impartiality in the eyes of the public.

This is not necessarily a bad thing, however. It also opens room for new entrants to enter the terrain and ensure redress for their target market.

In any case, part of the problem of non-partisan politics is that most people consider their interests catered for.

Secondly, tensions between the judiciary and the executive are not a recent phenomenon in democratic South Africa.

And one should expect this tension given our constitutional architecture. What is curious, however, is the recent judicial activism that’s come to characterise public life.

From the rebukes of then Chief Justice, Mogoeng Mogoeng, against increasing public-sector corruption to the political musings of current Chief Justice, Ray Zondo, South African public life has become much richer.

For some, however, the judiciary has become the ‘escape valve’ from a corrupt elite. Of course, the funny thing about this camp is that they forget the judiciary is largely a theatre for the elite.

Thirdly, and finally, we have a small concentration of political party funders with a wide array of political parties.

It seems like an imbalance. However, this might be by design.

Given the Democratic Alliance’s (DA) moonshot pact, one should not be judged in assuming that the increasing array of political parties means that funders are looking for different shades of already existing ‘mainstream’ political parties, particularly of the DA sort.

That we have a few political parties on the Left spectrum versus the many parties in the centre-left spectrum is telling, with differences between them not necessarily policy but approach and representation.

What these institutions do in South Africa’s public life is isolate the central problem of executive capacity, on the one hand, but they also highlight the preponderant power and influence of media and corporate SA.

Such an environment tends to normalise discourse on the privatisation of government assets.

On the other hand, this can also snuff out the requisite ‘checks and balances’ essential for any democracy. What’s important in these elections is to return to the ballot box and reassert the legitimacy of executive power.

Dr Thapelo Tselapedi is a Political Analyst