Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Friday, April 07, 2006

The Economist on the ANC and South Africa
That irrefutable read, The Economist, carries a survey on South Africa in the latest edition, entitled Chasing the Rainbow. It offers a balanced view of both the good news and the areas of concern in South Africa, lauding the economic stability, but lamenting the fact that this has not benefited all sectors of society. It also carries an interview with Richard Cockett, the author of the survey.

Cockett has a harsh words for the ANC, illustrating that the ANC has failed to move from a liberation, transitional party to a traditional democratic party, particularly focusing on the ANC's increasing centralisation in its party structure, which Cockett states is alienating the party from its supporters.

"Over the past few years it has concentrated more and more power in Pretoria at the expense of the municipalities and the provinces at the same time as increasing the control it exerts over the lower ranks of the party. This has begun to produce a backlash among its own supporters. The ANC still has a top-down authoritarian structure where loyalty to the political cause is prized above almost everything else, including competence. The greatest weakness of the ANC's top-down system is that the party is inclined to dismiss ideas from outside its own bureaucracy."

I think this is a fair comment, as there have been a number of signs of strict control and political hubris shown by the ANC leadership, in terms of local government intervention, lack of service delivery, and the lack of permitted criticism of the political elite. Mbeki is an uncompromising politician, and many have lamented his "my way or the high way" and paranoid style of leadership, which undoubtedly does nothing to improve transparency and debate within the ANC structures.

Whether this will represent any seismic shifts in election trends in the next few years is a hot topic for debate, but I personally believe that the 'liberation party' voting trend amongst the general electorate is still alive and well, and will still play the biggest role in the next few years of elections.