Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Strength of the ANC
Whilst I'm more in favour of a stronger opposition to challenge the ANC as a means to keeping non-democratic digressions in check, I really enjoyed reading Anthony Butler's article in yesterday's Business Day on the need for a strong ANC. Butler presents a very balanced view of both sides of the strength of ANC vs strength of opposition debate, before bringing his own conclusionary opinion to bear:
"The best scenario may well be 15 or 20 years of ANC dominance - creating a period of stability during which liberal institutions can entrench their authority. Government will face a real, but unrealised, threat of defeat by a credible opposition. Meanwhile, citizens will use other mechanisms of accountability to limit the abuse of executive power. When the ANC eventually begins to lose its electoral and organisational power, liberal institutions will by then be robust enough to cope with the immense internal strains generated by a more fluid political system.

A new consensus may be emerging out of the Zuma struggle. South Africans need a strong ANC more than ever. Liberal institutions and elections alone cannot address careerism, populism and ethnic factionalism. But the ANC also needs liberal democracy - a free press, effective courts and legislatures, functioning oversight bodies, and nonpartisan checks on abuse of political power."

I agree that political stability is the most important function for South Africa in the next decade, especially given the strong economic platform that has been set by the current ANC government. However, I don't believe that a stronger opposition has to be seen as a step towards political instability, quite the contrary. I believe the two are not mutually exclusive. Political opposition - not to overthrow the ANC government - but at least to represent a challenge in voting to its power base, will strengthen the stability of South Africa by ensuring that there are open debates and even battles fought over socio-economic and ideological issues. This presents a situation were government is held accountable for its actions, as opposed to running largely unchallenged, as in the current scenario.