10 January 2019

Southern Africa: South Africa's ANC Facing Factionalism Ahead of Vote

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) celebrated its anniversary this week by counting the party’s successes in the past 25 years. But the ANC is battling with factionalism and corruption allegations against senior party members, which could affect its standing in upcoming May national elections.

In a speech Tuesday marking the 107th birthday of ANC, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa touted the party’s success since the end of apartheid.

“Our economy has tripled in size over the last 25 years. Seven million more people are now employed today than they were in 1994. And we have taken bold steps to confront corruption,” Ramaphoda said.

The ANC was born January 8th, 1912, in the little town of Bloemfontein.

The party became famous for leaders like Nelson Mandela, who gave up his freedom to end apartheid, South Africa’s former system of racial segregation and discrimination.

But former ANC lawmaker Ben Turok said, a century later, the party of Mandela is a different organization.

“A catch-up culture penetrated the movement. Catch-up! The whites had this, we want the same. And that catch-up led to many of the problems that we have today,” Turok said.

These problems include the ANC’s mismanagement of state-owned enterprises, 25 percent unemployment, inequality, corruption, and a divided party.

The ANC split last year between supporters of President Cyril Ramaphosa and disgraced former president Jacob Zuma after the latter was forced to resign over corruption allegations.

‘Fault lines’

Political analyst Theo Venter said the ANC is not in the best shape as the country heads toward May national elections.

“One can clearly see the fault lines in the ANC. There are factions talking about each other as factions. I think there is a far more urgent need for discussion, because I think the push back from the Zuma side in the ANC is threatening the unity,” Venter said.

Although the ANC has received the majority of votes in every election since the end of apartheid, the winning margins have been gradually decreasing.

Opposition parties are hoping to take advantage of the ANC’s waning support, including in its biggest support base – Kwazulu Natal Province.

Democratic Alliance party leader Zwakele Mncwango said the ANC is at its weakest moment.

“The main mission for us is to drop the ANC below 50 percent. We’ve seen it’s possible,” Mncwango said.

Political analyst Tinyiko Maluleke said although the ANC will no doubt win the coming elections, the party will no longer be able to rely solely on its liberation credentials. South Africans are now demanding services like clean water and electricity.

“I think the most serious challenge is that perhaps the ANC has not managed to facilitate service delivery to the extent that the ANC as a party has been promising,” Maluleke said.

At the anniversary celebrations this week, the ANC sought to project an image of a confident and unified party.

Ramaphosa was side-by-side with Zuma and told the nation their comradeship is still at its best.

How much that translates into reversing the party’s downward trend will become clear with the May elections.

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