The African National Congress (ANC) is the Republic of South Africa's governing political party. It has been the ruling party of post-apartheid South Africa since the election of Nelson Mandela in the 1994 election, winning every election since then. Cyril Ramaphosa, the incumbent President of South Africa, has served as leader of the ANC since 18 December 2017.
Founded on 8 January 1912 by John Langalibalele Dube in Bloemfontein as the South African Native National Congress (SANNC), its primary mission was to bring all Africans together as one people, to defend their rights and freedoms. This included giving full voting rights to black South Africans and mixed-race South Africans and, from 1948 onwards, to end the system of apartheid introduced by the Nationalist Party government after their election (by White voters only) in that year.
The ANC originally attempted to use non-violent protests to end apartheid; however, the Sharpeville massacre in March 1960, in which 69 black Africans were shot and killed by police and hundreds wounded during a peaceful protest, contributed to deteriorating relations with the South African government. On 8 April 1960, the administration of Charles Robberts Swart banned the ANC in South Africa. After the ban, the ANC formed the Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation) to fight against apartheid utilising guerrilla warfare and sabotage.
After 30 years of exiled struggle, during which many ANC members had been imprisoned or forced abroad, the country began its move towards full democracy. On 3 February 1990, State President F. W. de Klerk lifted the ban on the ANC and released Nelson Mandela from prison on 11 February 1990. On 17 March 1992, the apartheid referendum was passed by the white only electorate, removing apartheid and allowing the ANC to run in the 1994 election, which for the first time allowed all South Africans to vote for their national government. Since the 1994 election the ANC has performed better than 55% in all general elections, including the most recent 2019 election. However the party has been embroiled in a number of controversies since 2011.
The founding of the SANNC was in direct response to injustice against black South Africans at the hands of the government then in power. It can be said that the SANNC had its origins in a pronouncement by Pixley ka Isaka Seme who said in 1911, "Forget all the past differences among Africans and unite in one national organisation." The SANNC was founded the following year on 8 January 1912.
The government of the newly formed Union of South Africa began a systematic oppression of black people in South Africa. The Land Act was promulgated in 1913 forcing many black South Africans from their farms into the cities and towns to work, and to restrict their movement within South Africa.
By 1919, the SANNC was leading a campaign against passes (an ID which black South Africans had to possess). However, it then became dormant in the mid-1920s. During that time, black people were also represented by the ICU and the previously white-only Communist party. In 1923, the organisation became the African National Congress, and in 1929 the ANC supported a militant mineworkers' strike.
By 1927, J.T. Gumede (president of the ANC) proposed co-operation with the Communists in a bid to revitalise the organisation, but he was voted out of power in the 1930s. This led to the ANC becoming largely ineffectual and inactive, until the mid-1940s when the ANC was remodelled as a mass movement.
The ANC responded to attacks on the rights of black South Africans, as well as calling for strikes, boycotts, and defiance. This led to a later Defiance Campaign in the 1950s, a mass movement of resistance to apartheid. The government tried to stop the ANC by banning party leaders and enacting new laws to stop the ANC, however these measures ultimately proved to be ineffective.
In 1955, the Congress of the People officially adopted the Freedom Charter, stating the core principles of the South African Congress Alliance, which consisted of the African National Congress and its allies the South African Communist Party (SACP), the South African Indian Congress, the South African Congress of Democrats (COD) and the Coloured People's Congress. The government claimed that this was a communist document, and consequently leaders of the ANC and Congress were arrested. 1960 saw the Sharpeville massacre, in which 69 people were killed when police opened fire on anti-apartheid protesters.
uMkhonto we Sizwe or MK, translated "The Spear of the Nation", was the military wing of the ANC. Partly in response to the Sharpeville massacre of 1960, individual members of the ANC found it necessary to consider violence to combat what passive protests had failed to quell.
In co-operation with the South African Communist Party, MK was founded in 1961. MK commenced the military struggle against apartheid with acts of sabotage aimed at the installations of the state, and in the early stages was reluctant to target civilian targets. MK was responsible for the deaths of both civilians and members of the military. Acts committed by MK include the Church Street bombing, the Magoo's Bar bombing and bombing a branch of the Standard Bank in Roodepoort. It was integrated into the South African National Defence Force by 1994.
The ANC and its members were officially removed from the US terrorism watch list in 2008.
The ANC deems itself a force of national liberation in the post-apartheid era; it officially defines its agenda as the National Democratic Revolution. The ANC is a member of the Socialist International. It also sets forth the redressing of socio-economic differences stemming from colonial- and apartheid-era policies as a central focus of ANC policy.
The National Democratic Revolution (NDR) is described as a process through which the National Democratic Society (NDS) is achieved; a society in which people are intellectually, socially, economically and politically empowered. The drivers of the NDR are also called the motive forces and are defined as the elements within society that gain from the success of the NDR. Using contour plots or concentric circles the centre represents the elements in society that gain the most out of the success of the NDR. Moving away from the centre results in the reduction of the gains that those elements derive. It is generally believed that the force that occupies the centre of those concentric circles in countries with low unemployment is the working class while in countries with higher levels of unemployment it is the unemployed. Some of the many theoreticians that have written about the NDR include Joe Slovo, Joel Netshitenzhe and Tshilidzi Marwala.
In 2004, the ANC declared itself to be a social democratic party.
The 53rd National Conference of the ANC, held in 2015, stated in its "Discussion Document" that "China economic development trajectory remains a leading example of the triumph of humanity over adversity. The exemplary role of the collective leadership of the Communist Party of China in this regard should be a guiding lodestar of our own struggle." It went on to state that "The collapse of the Berlin Wall and socialism in the Soviet Union and Eastern European States influenced our transition towards the negotiated political settlement in our country. The cause of events in the world changed tremendously in favour of the US led imperialism."
The ANC holds a historic alliance with the South African Communist Party (SACP) and Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), known as the Tripartite Alliance. The SACP and COSATU have not contested any election in South Africa, but field candidates through the ANC, hold senior positions in the ANC, and influence party policy and dialogue. During Mbeki's presidency, the government took a more pro-capitalist stance, often running counter to the demands of the SACP and COSATU.
Following Zuma's accession to the ANC leadership in 2007 and Mbeki's resignation as president in 2008, a number of former ANC leaders led by Mosiuoa Lekota split away from the ANC to form the Congress of the People.
On 20 December 2013, a special congress of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), the country's biggest trade union with 338,000 members, voted to withdraw support from the ANC and SACP, and form a socialist party to protect the interests of the working class. NUMSA secretary general Irvin Jim condemned the ANC and SACP's support for big business and stated: "It is clear that the working class cannot any longer see the ANC or the SACP as its class allies in any meaningful sense."
The ANC flag comprises three equal horizontal stripes – black, green and gold. Black symbolises the native people of South Africa, green represents the land and gold represents the mineral and other natural wealth of South Africa.
Although the colours of the new national Flag of South Africa since the transition from apartheid in 1994 have no official meaning, the three colours of the ANC flag were included in it, together with red, white and blue.
Politicians in the party win a place in parliament by being on the Party List, which is drawn up before the elections and enumerates, in order, the party's preferred MPs. The number of seats allocated is proportional to the popular national vote, and this determines the cut-off point.
The ANC has also gained members through the controversial floor crossing process.
Although most South African parties announced their candidate list for provincial premierships in the 2009 election, the ANC did not, as it is not required for parties to do so.
In 2001, the ANC launched an online weekly web-based newsletter, ANC Today – Online Voice of the African National Congress to offset the alleged bias of the press. It consists mainly of updates on current programmes and initiatives of the ANC.
Role of the ANC in resolving the conflict
The ANC represented the main opposition to the government during apartheid and therefore they played a major role in resolving the conflict through participating in the peacemaking and peace-building processes. Initially intelligence agents of the National Party met in secret with ANC leaders, including Nelson Mandela, to judge whether conflict resolution was possible. Discussions and negotiations took place leading to the eventual unbanning of the ANC and other opposing political parties by then President de Klerk on 2 February 1990.
The next official step towards rebuilding South Africa was the Groote Schuur Minute where the government and the ANC agreed on a common commitment towards the resolution of the existing climate of violence and intimidation, as well as a commitment to stability and to a peaceful process of negotiations. The ANC negotiated the release of political prisoners and the indemnity from prosecution for returning exiles and moreover channels of communication were established between the Government and the ANC.
Later the Pretoria Minute represented another step towards resolution where agreements at Groote Schuur were reconsolidated and steps towards setting up an interim government and drafting a new constitution were established as well as suspension of the military wing of the ANC – the Umkhonto we Sizwe. This step helped end much of the violence within South Africa. Another agreement that came out of the Pretoria Minute was that both parties would try and raise awareness that a new way of governance was being created for South Africa, and that further violence would only hinder this process. However, violence still continued in Kwazulu-Natal, which violated the trust between Mandela and de Klerk. Moreover, internal disputes in the ANC prolonged the war as consensus on peace was not reached.
The next significant steps towards resolution were the Repeal of the Population Registration Act, the repeal of the Group Areas and the Native Land Acts and a catch-all Abolition of Racially Based Land Measures Act was passed. These measures ensured no one could claim, or be deprived of, any land rights on the basis of race.
In December 1991 the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA) was held with the aim of establishing an interim government. However, a few months later in June 1992 the Boipatong massacre occurred and all negotiations crumbled as the ANC pulled out. After this negotiations proceeded between two agents, Cyril Ramaphosa of the ANC, and Roelf Meyer of the National Party. In over 40 sessions the two men discussed and negotiated over many issues including the nature of the future political system, the fate of over 40,000 government employees and if/how the country would be divided. The result of these negotiations was an interim constitution that meant the transition from apartheid to democracy was a constitutional continuation and that the rule of law and state sovereignty remained intact during the transition, which was vital for stability within the country. A date was set for the first democratic elections on 27 April 1994. The ANC won 62.5% of the votes and has been in power ever since.
Criticism and controversy
The most prominent corruption case involving the ANC relates to a series of bribes paid to companies involved in the ongoing R55 billion Arms Deal saga, which resulted in a long term jail sentence to then Deputy President Jacob Zuma's legal adviser Schabir Shaik. Zuma, the former South African President, was charged with fraud, bribery and corruption in the Arms Deal, but the charges were subsequently withdrawn by the National Prosecuting Authority of South Africa due to their delay in prosecution. The ANC has also been criticised for its subsequent abolition of the Scorpions, the multidisciplinary agency that investigated and prosecuted organised crime and corruption, and was heavily involved in the investigation into Zuma and Shaik. Tony Yengeni, in his position as chief whip of the ANC and head of the Parliaments defence committee has recently been named as being involved in bribing the German company ThyssenKrupp over the purchase of four corvettes for the SANDF.
Other recent corruption issues include the sexual misconduct and criminal charges of Beaufort West municipal manager Truman Prince, and the Oilgate scandal, in which millions of Rand in funds from a state-owned company were funnelled into ANC coffers.
The ANC has also been accused of using government and civil society to fight its political battles against opposition parties such as the Democratic Alliance. The result has been a number of complaints and allegations that none of the political parties truly represent the interests of the poor. This has resulted in the "No Land! No House! No Vote!" Campaign which became very prominent during elections. In 2018, the New York Times reported on the killings of ANC corruption whistleblowers.
In late 2011 the ANC was heavily criticised over the passage of the Protection of State Information Bill, which opponents claimed would improperly restrict the freedom of the press. Opposition to the bill included otherwise ANC-aligned groups such as COSATU. Notably, Nelson Mandela and other Nobel laureates Nadine Gordimer, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and F. W. de Klerk have expressed disappointment with the bill for not meeting standards of constitutionality and aspirations for freedom of information and expression.
The ANC have been criticised for its role in failing to prevent 16 August 2012 massacre of Lonmin miners at Marikana in the North West. Some allege that Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega and Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa, a close confidant of Jacob Zuma, may have given the go ahead for the police action against the miners on that day.
Commissioner Phiyega of the ANC came under further criticism as being insensitive and uncaring when she was caught smiling and laughing during the Farlam Commission's video playback of the 'massacre'. Archbishop Desmond Tutu has announced that he no longer can bring himself to exercise a vote for the ANC as it is no longer the party that he and Nelson Mandela fought for, and that the party has now lost its way, and is in danger of becoming a corrupt entity in power.
The ANC has a growing list of constitutional failures. One of the most prominent relates to president of the ANC and of the Republic, Jacob Zuma, and his Nkandla homestead's security upgrades, valued at around R250 million. His swimming pool, for example, was termed a 'fire pool' and his amphitheatre an 'emergency meeting point', thus leaving the taxpayer to carry the costs. After the Public Protector released her report (Secure in Comfort) which found that Zuma must pay back the money spent on the non-security features, he refused to do so. In 2016 the Constitutional Court ruled that Zuma, as well as the National Assembly, had "breached the Constitution" and failed to uphold it. Zuma apologised to the nation as follows: “The matter has caused a lot of frustration and confusion for which I apologise on my behalf and on behalf of government.” However he claimed not to have asked nor known about the non-security upgrades, despite the media reporting on them almost daily.
There is also a growing trend for ANC members as well as those individuals appointed by the ANC to public positions of power to misrepresent their qualifications. The result of such lies typically lead to those appointed being unable to fulfill their obligations while being paid very large salaries, and typically cost the taxpayer large amount of money while attempting to defend themselves in court. A small selection follows:
Daniel Mtimkulu, who was employed as chief engineer at Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) claimed to have a PhD in engineering, which was a lie; he was merely qualified as an engineering technician. Under Mtimkulu's leadership, Prasa ordered 70 new locomotives, valued at R3.5 billion. The first 13 Afro 4000 diesel locomotives to arrive, at a cost of R600 million, were too tall to be of use on their intended routes.
Ellen Tshabalala, former chairperson of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), claimed to have a BComm degree. In reality her marks were so poor (13% for one module and 35% for another, amongst others) that she was not allowed to rewrite some of her exams. She later claimed that he degree certificate was stolen. Defending Tshabalala in court cost the SABC more than R1 million.
Hlaudi Motsoeneng, former COO of the SABC lied about being in possession of a Matric certificate. By his own admission, he simply invented marks for himself. He was appointed by Ellen Tshabalala, and his various court cases have cost the SABC more than R1.5 million. Further, under Motsoeneng's reign, the broadcaster recorded a net loss of R411 million in the 2015/16 financial year.
Dudu Myeni, chairperson of South African Airways (SAA) and good friend of Jacob Zuma, claimed to have a Bachelor's degree in administration. This was proven false. Under her leadership "SAA’s losses for the 2014/15 financial year were R5.6-billion – close to R1-billion more than the expected amount of R4.7-billion".
Sicelo Shiceka, Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs lied about being in possession of a Master's degree. He used taxpayer's money to fund a party for his mother and secured a government car for his girlfriend, whereafter he was appointed as a member of the inter-ministerial task team on corruption.
A 2016 statement issued by Zizi Kodwa, the ANC National Spokesperson states that "[t]he ANC rejects these [racist] comments with the contempt they deserve and calls on all South Africans to join in the rejection of all racists in our country, wherever they are. It is sad that well meaning South Africans have to contend with this backward attitude." In support of this statement, the ANC has publicly called for legal action to be taken against whites who have publicly made racist comments against blacks, usually through social media.
Penny Sparrow is one such high-profile case. She posted the following through her Facebook account:
Sparrow pleaded guilty to crimen injuria, and was presented with a choice of either paying a R5,000 fine or 12 months in jail, in addition to paying the legal fees incurred by the ANC, who brought the matter to court. In a separate instance, she was also ordered to pay R150,000 to the Oliver and Adelaide Tambo Trust.
In contrast to the ANC's swift and decisive action towards Sparrow and other white racists, they have mostly ignored racist comments voiced by blacks, in particular ANC members. For example, Kenny Barrel Nkosi, an ANC ward councillor (Govan Mbeki Municipality, Mpumalanga) posted the following on his Facebook account: "The first people that need to fokkof [fuck off] are whites, cubans never oppressed us. these are our true friends they were there in the times on needs. welcom cdes welcome [sic]" The municipality issued the following statement: “The matter has been investigated and at the time of the comment, the ward councillor was not representing the views of either the ANC or the Govan Mbeki Municipality, but merely as a personal opinion.” No further action was taken.
At a Gupta family wedding held at Sun City in 2013, various incidents of racism occurred. The family made clear that they wanted only white workers, including waiters, security, bar staff and cleaning staff. Black workers were told to wash before they interacted with guests. These allegations were denied by the Gupta family. Nonetheless, in the Gupta e-mail leak of 2017 these allegations were shown to be correct. Moreover, the e-mails also make clear that a black worker was called a monkey by a member of the Gupta family. That the Gupta family is a large, vocal and powerful supporter of the ANC and a personal friend of Jacob Zuma, may explain why no action was taken against them with regards to racism.
Lindiwe Sisulu, ANC member and Minister of Defence and Military Veterans (who demanded that the Estate Agency Affairs Board report to her regarding action taken against Sparrow) called the Democratic Alliance leader, Mmusi Maimane, a "hired native". Ironically – due to the fact that Chris Hart, prominent economist and investment strategist at Standard Bank, was forced to resign for his racist tweet stating that "[m]ore than 25 years after Apartheid ended, the victims are increasing along with a sense of entitlement and hatred towards minorities…." – Sisulu said the following, while discussing the 2.3 million housing backlog: "What makes an 18-year-old think the state owes them a house? It’s a culture of entitlement … we can’t continue with a dependency culture." No action has been taken against Sisulu.
Lulu Xingwana, former ANC Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities, stated that "[y]oung Afrikaner men are brought up in the Calvinist religion believing that they own a woman, they own a child, they own everything and therefore they can take that life because they own it". The minister apologised, and no further action was taken against her.
Jimmy Manyi, ANC director general of labour and later ANC spokesperson, is quotes as saying the following on a TV interview: “I think its very important for coloured people in this country to understand that South Africa belongs to them in totality, not just the Western Cape. So this over-concentration of coloureds in the Western Cape is not working for them. They should spread in the rest of the country ... so they must stop this over-concentration situation because they are in over-supply where they are so you must look into the country and see where you can meet the supply." No action has been taken against Manyi.
Julius Malema, former ANCYL leader and current EFF leader, stated at a political rally in 2016 that “We [the EFF] are not calling for the slaughter of white people‚ at least for now". When asked for comment by a news agency, the ANC spokesperson, Zizi Kodwa stated that there will be no comment from the ANC, as "[h]e [Malema] was addressing his own party supporters." While still the ANCYL leader, Malema was taken to the Equality Court by AfriForum for repeatedly singing “dubul’ ibhunu”, which translate as “shoot the boer [white farmer]”. The ANC supported Malema, though AfriForum and the ANC reached a settlement before the appeal case was due to be argued in the Supreme Court of Appeal.
In partial response to the Penny Sparrow case, Velaphi Khumalo, while working for the Department of Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation, posted the following on his Facebook account:
He also posted:
The Department of Sports, Arts, Culture and Recreation responded with a statement wherein it "views the hateful post by Velaphi Khumalo in a serious light. Our key mandate is nation-building and social cohesion. His sentiments take our country backwards and do not reflect what the Gauteng provincial government stands for.” Khumalo was suspended on full pay while an investigation was undertaken, was found to be guilty by an internal disciplinary procedure, and issued with a warning, whereafter he resumed his work at the department.
Esethu Hasane, Media and Communication Manager for the Department of Sport and Recreation tweeted the following during the severe droughts in the Western cape in 2017: "Only Western Cape still has dry dams. Please God, we have black people there, choose another way of punishing white people." Despite calls for his dismissal, no action was taken.