South Africa’s Inherent failure: The divide in the ANC

Nelson Mandela may have delivered South Africa from Apartheid rule into a free enterprise market economy and a stable democratic nation, but  majority of South Africans are losing hope every day due to the attitude of the current political leadership.

The mission of Mandela, who spent 27 years in prison on Robin Island, may not have been to improve the economic lives of South Africans, but to create a climate that political and economic leaders after him would take advantage of to lift South Africans out of poverty.


The aging Mandela served as South Africa’s first democratically elected president under the African National Congress (ANC) after the end of a predominantly white rule.

Since turning over power to the next generation of the ANC, a revolutionary organization which later assumed a political party’s identity, Mandela played an elderly stateman’s role not just in South Africa, but throughout Africa before his death last year, at age 94.

Now, it seems the African National Congress (ANC) envisaged by Mandela and which he used as a vehicle to fight for the liberation of South Africans is not the African National Congress majority of the poor and black South Africans know and believe in.

The divide between the poor and the rich in black and white South Africa is getting even wider than it had been under white rule, especially between the super wealthy black ANC-grown South African leaders and the masses, or Soweto and rural-based South Africans in whose names the current super ANC band of leaders claimed to have fought.

Former President Thabo (left) Mbeki and current President Jacob Zuma (right)
Former President Thabo (left) Mbeki and current President Jacob Zuma (right)

Stories and allegations of bribery and corruption in the leadership of the ANC continue repeatedly, and are ongoing. Political analysts say, Mandela, Steve Biko, Oliver Tambo, and Govan Mbeki must be shaking in their graves with the level of shame and greed in the current ANC.

Julius Malema and members of the EFF Party

The failure of the ANC to deliver on economic promises has led to splitter groups in its midst. The most vocal splitter sect is the one led by former ANC’s Youth Wing leader Julius Malema.

Malema leads what he and his followers called the Economic Freedom Fighters, a shadowy political party with no real policy direction other than anger – anger from the corruption in the ANC and the ill-treatment of South African black workers.


There are also more black South Africans who are retreating from the causes and mantra of the ANC, and surprisingly they are mending fences with white South Africans into the Democratic Alliance.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) is a South African political party and the official opposition to the governing African National Congress (ANC). The present leader is Mmusi Maimane, who succeeded former Mayor of Cape Town and Premier of the Western Cape Helen Zille on 10 May 2015.

Mmusi Maimane, leader of Democratic Alliance (DA)
Mmusi Maimane, leader of Democratic Alliance (DA)
Faces of South Africa’s political actors

Mmusi Maimane is a promising political leader not just for the DA but across South Africa’s political landscape. He is a young black South African who is married to a white South African woman. Some in ANC called him a traitor to the ANC and to black interest. Julius Sello Malema, the EFF leader, referred to him as a ‘front-man’ for the return of white rule.

Julius Sello Malema is the leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters, a South African political party, which he founded in July 2013. He previously served as president of the African National Congress Youth League from 2008 to 2012. Malema was once the bulldozer for current South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma, who is now his archenemy.

The present divide in South Africa cannot be considered the making of Nelson Mandela, a man who managed competing interests and conflicts after Apartheid. One of such competing interests was Mandela’s practical understanding in encouraging Cyril Ramaphosa to enter the private sector when he was passed over for the vice president position that went to former president. Thabo Mvuyelwa Mbeki.

Mbeki tried to sail South Africa through the turmoil of anger and economic desperation from the masses by frowning and acting on corruption, and pursuing reasonable social and economic policies during his two terms as president. But unfortunately, he was forced into resigning due the disunity within the ruling ANC.

Mbeki’s abrupt departure from power ushered in a brief transitional administration under interim president Kgalema Motlanthe, followed by the election of the all-powerful Jacob Zuma, a man who was previously liked by ordinary ANC’s members and the masses for his down-to-earth persona despite his political and social baggage.

To consolidate his power and add a semblance of credibility to his authority as leader of the ANC and indeed as president of South Africa, Zuma aligned with powerful black businessman Cyril Ramaphosa.

Ramaphosa, apart from his time as a young leader in the ANC, had served as secretary general of South Africa’s most powerful labor union, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU).

COSATU, South Africa’s biggest workers group, says it is disappointed that President Jacob Zuma has failed to implement policies to improve the living conditions of its members. Therefore, the group has publicly announced that it is endorsing Cyril Ramaphosa for president.

South Africa's Vice President Cyril Ramaphosa
South Africa’s Vice President Cyril Ramaphosa

Ramaphosa is currently the country’s deputy president and the deputy leader of the ruling African National Congress (ANC).

More fluid is COSATU’s plan going forward whether to maintain its alliance with the ANC or go solo as a new political force. The signal then is that COSATU could possibly turn into another South Africa’s political party and Ramaphosa could end up being the candidate for them.

Sizwe Pamla, spokesman for COSATU, says members of the group plan to decide if they should continue the alliance with the ANC, a massive political conglomerate which has failed in lifting black South Africans out of poverty and economic hardship.

COSATU played a key role in backing Jacob Zuma to become the county’s president after the ANC decided to recall former president Thabo Mbeki in 2007.

There are serious risk factors should Ramaphosa abandon the ANC and side with COSATU if it turns into a political party, since in fact, the ANC, despite its ills and weakness, continues to remain South Africa’s largest political institution by membership affiliation.

Critics and commentators of South Africa’s politics and culture query the rationale behind COSATU’s decision to endorse Ramaphosa since he is a very wealthy businessman who is unlikely to fight for the “common man” in workers’ demands for better conditions, particularly when he is part of the current administration led by Zuma.

But the spoke person for COSATU argued that the Union has confidence in Ramaphosa that he would not betray the workers since, the spokesman maintained, the deputy president had previously worked for the betterment of the working class.


“COSATU is very disappointed by what the current president of the country has failed to do for the workers,” said Pamla.

The Union spokesman added “With Ramaphosa, we have someone who is a founding general secretary of the National Union of Mine Workers. We have someone who is a principal negotiator during the drafting of the South African constitution. But we also have a businessman… We are not looking for a leader of the workers or the working class, we are looking for a leader of the country, which means there can be no discussions that say somebody is overqualified to be the president of the country. A billionaire or a millionaire, for us who has a background in the working-class movement, is the right person to take us forward because …We don’t believe that he would be surrounded by the level of scandals that are surrounding the current president.”

The political divide in South Africa could dim the image of Nelson Mandela, Govan Mbeki, Steve Biko, Oliver Thabo and others. More importantly, it could eliminate the influence and dominance of the ANC in very near future and the signs are apparent.

Already, there are black South Africans who think supporting a decent and non-corrupt white South African for president in the next presidential election would be an option than having a corrupt and shadowy black leader within the ANC assuming office again.

Some international observers say this paradox is marking a new phase into South Africa’s journey from Apartheid to a democratic and free enterprise market system.

Trevor Noah is a South Africa Comedian and TV personality, leading one of the best late night shows in the USA. He speaks of Africa and South Africa frequently during his shows

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