African National Congress

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Group.png African National Congress   WebsiteRdf-icon.png
AbbreviationANC
Formation8 January 1912
FounderJohn Dube
HeadquartersLuthuli House, 54 Sauer Street, Johannesburg
Interest ofAndrew Feinstein

The African National Congress (ANC) is South Africa's governing political party, supported by its Tripartite Alliance with the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and the South African Communist Party (SACP), since the establishment of non-racial democracy in April 1994. It defines itself as a "disciplined force of the left".[1] Members founded the organisation as the South African Native National Congress (SANNC) on 8 January 1912 at the Waaihoek Wesleyan Church in Bloemfontein to increase the rights of the black South African population. John Dube, its first president, and poet and author Sol Plaatje were among its founding members. The organisation became the ANC in 1923 and formed a military wing, the Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation) in 1961.

It has been the ruling party of post-apartheid South Africa on the national level since 1994. It increased its majority in the 1999 general election, and further increased it in 2004, with 69.7% of the votes. In 2009 South African general election its share of the vote reduced slightly, but it remained the dominant party with 65.9% of the votes.

History

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.[2]

The government of the newly formed Union of South Africa began a systematic oppression of black people in South Africa. The Natives' Land Act was promulgated in 1913 forcing many non-whites 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 the pass laws but then became dormant in the mid-1920s. During that time, black people were also represented by the Industrial and Commercial Workers' Union (ICU) and the previously whites-only Communist Party. In 1923, the organisation became the African National Congress, and in 1929 the ANC supported a militant mineworkers' strike.

By 1927, Josiah Tshangana Gumede (president of the ANC) proposed cooperation 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 militarily 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, which set out 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.[3] 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.

Whites eventually joined the fight against apartheid, leading many Black nationalists to break away from the ANC.

During apartheid there was violence between the ANC and Chief Buthulezi's government-funded Inkatha Freedom Party. For example between 1985 and 1989, an estimated 5,000 civilians were killed in fighting between the two parties.[4] Massacres by each of the other's supporters included the Shell House massacre and the Boipatong massacre.

The ANC and its members were officially removed from the United States "terrorism" watch list in 2008.[5]

Umkhonto we Sizwe

Umkhonto we Sizwe (or MK), translated "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 protest had failed to quell. There was a significant portion of the ANC who therefore turned to violence in order to achieve their goals. A significant portion of ANC leadership agreed that this violence was needed to combat increasing backlash from the government.

Some ANC members were upset by the actions of the MK, and refused to accept violence as necessary for the ending of Apartheid, but these individuals became a minority as the militant leaders such as Nelson Mandela gained significant popularity. Many consider their actions to be criminal, but the MK deemed the means justified by the end goal. The MK committed terrorist acts to achieve their aims, and MK was responsible for the deaths of both civilians and members of the military. Acts of "terrorism" committed by the MK include the Church Street bombing and the Magoo's Bar bombing. In cooperation with the South African Communist Party, MK was founded in 1961.[6]

Ideology

The ANC deemed 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 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 government 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.[7][8][9]

In 2004, the ANC declared itself to be a social democratic party.[10]

Tripartite Alliance

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 South African Communist Party and COSATU.[11][12][13][14]

2008 schism

Following Zuma's accession to the ANC leadership in 2007 and Mbeki's resignation as president in 2008, the Mbeki faction of former ministers led by Mosiuoa Lekota split away from the ANC to form the South African political party, Congress of the People.

ANC flag

The ANC flag is composed of three stripes – black, green and gold.[15] Black symbolizes the native black people of South Africa, green represents the land and gold represents the mineral and other natural wealth of South Africa. This flag was also the battle flag of the Umkhonto we Sizwe. The official party flag also has the emblem of the party incorporated onto the flag.

Party list

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.[16]

Ending the apartheid era

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.[17] Discussions and negotiations took place leading to the eventual unbanning of the ANC and other opposing political parties by then President F.W. de Klerk on 2 February 1990. These initial meetings were the first crucial steps towards resolution.

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.[18]

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 Abolishment of Racially Based Measures Act was passed.[18] These measures ensured no one could claim, or be deprived of, any 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 meetings 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.[19]

Criticism

Corruption

The most prominent corruption case involving the ANC relates to a series of bribes paid to companies involved in the ongoing R55 billion South African Arms Deal saga, which resulted in a long term jail sentence to former Deputy President Jacob Zuma's legal adviser Schabir Shaik. Schabir Shaik was released after about two years on the basis that he was terminally ill. Zuma, now the State 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.[20] 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.

Other recent corruption issues include the sexual misconduct and criminal charges of the Beaufort West municipal manager Truman Prince,[21] and the "Oilgate" scandal, in which millions of Rand in funds from a state-owned company were allegedly funnelled into ANC coffers.[22]

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.[23][24] This has resulted in the "No Land! No House! No Vote!" Campaign which becomes very prominent each time the country holds elections.[25][26]

Wasteful Expenditure

The ANC reportedly wasted over R1 billion of taxpayers' money on luxury vehicles, expensive hotels, banquets, advertising and other "wasteful expenditure" between August 2009 and April 2010.[27][28][29] The main thrust behind this reporting is the official opposition in the country, the Democratic Alliance (DA), which kept a tally of the expenditure called "The Wasteful Expenditure Monitor".[30]

According to the DA,[31] this waste could have:

  • Built 18,574 new RDP houses
  • Funded 7775 teachers for a year

Secrecy Bill

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.[32] 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.[33]

Marikana Massacre

The ANC have been criticised for its role in failing to prevent the 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.[34]

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'.[35]

External links



References

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  4. Violence
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