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ANC same time government same time opposition


Elected African National Congress (ANC) President and current South African deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa (R) and outgoing ANC President and current South African President Jacob Zuma take images of unseen media representatives with their cellular telephones at the 54th ANC conference in Johannesburg on December 18. 2017, after Ramaphosa’s election.South African deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa was narrowly elected head of the ruling ANC party, winning a bruising race that exposed rifts within the organisation that led the fight against apartheid. / AFP PHOTO / MUJAHID SAFODIEN

Once more, there are rumours that those ANC (African National Congress) members who lost the presidency of the party to Ramaphosa intend to break away to form a new party. This new rumoured party with no name yet would be the fourth party that has come into existence after major disagreements within the ANC. That’s not counting Bantu Holomisa’s United Democratic Movement (UDM) formed in 1997 after Holomisa was expelled from the ANC for accusing a top party official of corruption. With four or five parties born of the ANC, in opposition to the ANC government, can we say that the ANC is in government and the ANC is also in opposition and South Africa is a one party state!?

Since 1994 the ANC has been supported in government by its alliance partners: the Congress of South African Trade Unions whose first leader was Cyril Ramaphosa, and the South African Communist Party. These two organisations brought Jacob Zuma to power, first as president of the ANC (2005) and president of South Africa (2009) with the shouting support of Julius Malema, then president of the ANC Youth League. Both the Congress of South African Trade Unions and the South African Communist Party withdrew their support for Jacob Zuma. And the South African Communist Party is now threatening to run candidates of its own come next general elections in 2019.

But how did the ANC come to be both government and opposition in South Africa?
The first breakaway from the ANC took place in 1959 when the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC) was formed. The members objected to having non-Africans in the ANC, insisting that only Africans can liberate themselves. They did not want to ally with communists. Over the years their representation in parliament has dwindled to single figures as the ANC general church took the cake in parliament.


The next breakaway from the ANC took place in 2008 when the Congress of the People (COPE) was formed. This followed the recall of President Thabo Mbeki by the ANC because he was distant, arrogant, against the Trade Unions and opposed to radical policies. Those who went with President Mbeki decided to form the new party. Thabo Mbeki could not join the party or lead it because he would lose his pension etc if he stopped being a member of the party that made him president. COPE has 3 seats in the present parliament.

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) is the next formation that came out of the ANC. EFF was formed in 2013 when the then ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema was expelled by the ANC disciplinary committee chaired by Cyril Ramaphosa. Initially, Malema had been one of the strongest supporters of Jacob Zuma, swearing once in public to ‘die for Zuma’. Gradually, he became disillusioned by President Zuma and became quite disrespectful of him. He was kicked out of the party. Today, the EFF is a growing party of the young of South Africa with 25 members in parliament, who behave as if they were more. They have shaken the parliament into any amount of rowdiness to glee of some and the anger of other South Africans. In alliance with the Democratic Party (DA) that one born of white liberals who refused to be radicals, the EFF controls a number of major municipalities in South Africa.

The time of smaller parties and alliance governments at local, provincial and national level is now. Like all liberation movements turned political parties the ANC is losing voters. Every voting date since 1994 the ANC loses voters. From more than assured two-thirds majority in Parliament to under fifty per cent come 2019, the smaller parties are eating up its disillusioned members. Corruption and arrogance (the ANC will rule until Jesus comes back, declared Jacob Zuma, and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela at one time or another) is driving away the young. If the alliances at municipal level is carried to the national level, smaller parties might get rid of the ANC next year.

It happened in India. After years of the control of India by the Congress Party, smaller parties in alliances began to send the Congress Party out of government. Today, it is no longer the party of certain power, just a contender for power like other parties and not beyond looking for alliance parties to form governments.


So, it is not surprising that the ANC has been appealing to some former members of the ANC to return to the party. Julius Malema, of course, has been a major target of this appeal. As if to compete with the EFF the ANC has accepted the populist position of taking land without compensation although with the provisions of the constitution. Julius Malema insists that the ANC will have to change its name before he could think of re-joining the party. Come 2019 the EFF is more likely to form an alliance with the ANC than with the DA in spite of its black leadership of recent.

It is sobering to keep in mind the every group that has broken away from the ANC with the exception of the EFF has never done well in electoral competitions. The Pan Africanist Congress organised the anti pass demonstration that led to the Sharpeville Massacre in March 1960. The South African Police shot into a crowd of protesters killing 69 people. At the elections of 1994 the PAC got 5 seats of parliament. In 1999 the PAC got 3 seats in Parliament. In 2014 it got 1 seat. COPE came from 30 seats in 2009 to 3 seats in 2014.

Bantu Holomisa’s UDM gained 14 seats in Parliament in 1999, 4 in 2004, 4 in 2009 and 4 in 2014. The EFF has been far more radical in its ideological positions vis a vis these breakaway parties as well as the ANC. The party and its charismatic leader are the potent powers of the electorate come 2019. With its growing popularity among the young as well as the disillusioned, the EFF could be the deal maker come 2019 when the ANC loses its ability to garner fifty percent of the votes in an election. Will the ANC change its name to stay in power? Or will the smaller parties gather around the EFF and form the government?

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ANCCyril Ramaphosa
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