After 30 years in power, the party that has defined South African politics faces its strongest challenge yet

After 30 years in power, the party that has defined South African politics faces its strongest challenge yet

After 30 Years in Power: The ANC Faces Its Strongest Challenge Yet in South African Politics

Since the end of apartheid in 1994, the African National Congress (ANC) has been the dominant political force in South Africa. For three decades, the party has governed the country with a firm hand, delivering on key promises such as the extension of democratic rights and the redistribution of land. However, the ANC’s grip on power is now being challenged like never before.

Economic Woes

The South African economy has been in a state of decline for several years, with high unemployment rates and widespread poverty. The ANC’s handling of the economic situation has been criticized by many, including its own members. The party’s inability to address these issues has led to a growing disillusionment among the population.

Corruption Scandals

The ANC has also been beset by corruption scandals, with several high-ranking officials being implicated in various schemes. These scandals have undermined public trust in the party and its leadership.

Rise of New Political Parties

The ANC’s dominance is being challenged by new political parties that are capitalizing on public disillusionment with the ruling party. The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), in particular, has gained significant support among the youth and the poor.

Internal Divisions

The ANC is also facing significant internal divisions, with factions vying for power and influence. These divisions have led to infighting and instability within the party.

The Way Forward

The ANC’s ability to weather these challenges will depend on its capacity to address the root causes of public disillusionment and corruption. The party must also find a way to unite its factions and reconnect with its base.

I. Introduction

The African National Congress (ANC), established in 1912, is the oldest and most prominent

political organization

in South Africa. Its


marked the beginning of a sustained struggle for political rights and equality for the black majority under white minority rule. The ANC’s historical significance lies in its role as an advocate for non-violent resistance against


, a system of institutionalized racial segregation and discrimination.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, under the leadership of Nelson Mandela, the ANC initiated negotiations with the South African government to transition from apartheid to a democratic system. These efforts culminated in the

first all-race, multiparty elections

in 199The ANC emerged as the majority party and has been the ruling party ever since, with Mandela becoming South Africa’s first black president.


South African politics

remains complex, with the ANC continuing to shape the country’s political landscape. However, the party faces numerous


: widespread corruption, an unemployment rate of over 30%, and increasing socio-economic disparities. In recent years, the ANC’s electoral support has weakened, with the rise of new political parties and growing voter disillusionment.

The Roots of the Current Challenge

Economic struggles and inequality

South Africa’s current political turmoil is deeply rooted in economic struggles and inequality that have persisted since the end of apartheid.

Unemployment rates


poverty levels

, in particular, remain alarmingly high, with the unemployment rate hovering around 30% and poverty affecting over 56% of the population.

Income disparities

between racial groups remain stark, with Black South Africans continuing to earn significantly less than their White counterparts. This economic inequality is further exacerbated by

declining economic growth


rising debt

. The economy, which has historically relied heavily on mining and agriculture, has struggled to adapt to the changing global economic landscape. Additionally, corruption and mismanagement in state-owned enterprises have siphoned off much-needed resources, leaving many South Africans feeling disillusioned and frustrated.

Corruption scandals and the erosion of public trust

The erosion of public trust in the government, particularly the ruling African National Congress (ANC), has been a major factor fueling political instability. High-profile

corruption scandals

have plagued the ANC for decades, from the Arms Deal in the late 1990s to more recent cases involving senior government officials. These scandals have not only drained the national treasury but also tarnished the ANC’s reputation and electoral support, leading many South Africans to seek alternative political options.

Demographic shifts and changing societal values

South Africa’s demographic landscape is also undergoing significant changes, with increasing


and a growing

youth population

creating new political dynamics. The emergence of new political parties and social movements, such as the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), is further challenging the ANC’s dominance in South African politics. Additionally, changing attitudes towards




, and governance are increasingly shaping the political discourse. These shifts, driven in part by social media and other forms of digital communication, have made it more difficult for traditional political parties to maintain their hold on power.

After 30 years in power, the party that has defined South African politics faces its strongest challenge yet

I The Emergence of New Challenges and Opposing Forces

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and other new political parties

Background and ideology of the EFF:

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), a radical left-wing political party founded in 2013, has emerged as a significant force challenging the ruling ANC in South African politics. The party was formed by former ANC Youth League President, Julius Malema, following his expulsion from the ANC for criticizing then-President Jacob Zuma. The EFF’s ideology is rooted in the belief that South Africa remains economically and politically unequal, with a strong emphasis on land redistribution without compensation, nationalization of mines, banks, and strategic sectors, and an end to foreign ownership in the country.

Growing influence and electoral successes:

The EFF has seen substantial growth in popularity, securing 6.35% of the votes in the 2014 general elections and increasing this to 10.79% in the 2019 elections – making it the third-largest party in parliament. The party’s influence extends beyond its parliamentary presence, as it has managed to mobilize thousands of supporters through public protests and demonstrations.

Civil society organizations, social movements, and grassroots activism

Examples of key movements and their objectives:

Numerous civil society organizations, social movements, and grassroots activist groups have emerged to challenge the status quo in South African politics. These include the #FeesMustFall movement, which demanded free education for all; the #RhodesMustFall and #ColonialMonumentsMustFall movements, which aimed to remove symbols of colonialism and apartheid from public spaces; and the #AmINext movement, which focused on gender-based violence and women’s rights. These movements have not only led to significant changes in public discourse but also influenced political debates, pushing for reforms and policy shifts.

Impact on public discourse and political debates:

The growing influence of these civil society organizations, social movements, and grassroots activist groups has led to increased public scrutiny of government policies and actions. Social media platforms have played a vital role in amplifying their messages, making it easier for people to engage with one another on critical issues and to mobilize support for various causes.

International pressure and the role of international actors

Diplomatic initiatives, sanctions, and funding:

International pressure has also influenced South Africa’s political landscape. Diplomatic initiatives, sanctions, and funding from the international community have been employed to address human rights abuses, corruption, and other challenges. For instance, the European Union suspended certain trade benefits in response to concerns over human rights violations and the lack of progress on reforms. This international intervention can serve as a double-edged sword, both providing pressure for change and potentially fueling nationalist sentiments.

Effects on South Africa’s foreign relations and domestic politics:

The role of international actors in shaping South Africa’s political landscape can be significant. Diplomatic initiatives, sanctions, and funding have the potential to impact foreign relations, particularly when these actions are perceived as interfering in domestic politics. However, international pressure can also serve as a catalyst for positive change and contribute to the ongoing evolution of South Africa’s democratic institutions.

After 30 years in power, the party that has defined South African politics faces its strongest challenge yet

The ANC’s Response to the Challenges

Political strategies to address economic issues and corruption

The African National Congress (ANC), South Africa’s ruling party since the end of apartheid, has faced significant challenges in recent years. Among these challenges are persistent economic issues and rampant corruption. To address these matters, the ANC has implemented various political strategies.

Economic reforms, job creation programs, and poverty alleviation efforts

One approach has been to focus on economic reforms and job creation. The ANC government has introduced a number of initiatives aimed at reducing poverty, increasing employment opportunities, and stimulating economic growth. For instance, the National Development Plan (NDP) outlines a vision for creating an inclusive and prosperous society by 2030. The government has also launched various programs such as the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) and the Presidential Youth Employment Intervention (PYEI), which aim to provide temporary work opportunities for unemployed individuals.

Anti-corruption measures and accountability initiatives

Another critical area of focus has been to tackle corruption and promote accountability within the ANC and government. In 2017, President Cyril Ramaphosa replaced Jacob Zuma as head of state, bringing renewed hope for a more transparent and effective government. The ANC has also established various bodies to combat corruption, including the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious, and Linguistic Communities (CRLR) and the Special Investigating Unit (SIU).

Efforts to engage with new political parties, civil society, and international actors

In an effort to broaden its support base and address the challenges it faces, the ANC has also made efforts to engage with new political parties, civil society organizations, and international actors.

Dialogue and negotiations with opposition parties and social movements

Dialogue and negotiations have been a key part of the ANC’s approach to engaging with political opponents. For instance, the party has held several talks with opposition parties such as the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), as well as various civil society organizations. These discussions have aimed to foster greater understanding and collaboration on key issues.

Diplomatic engagements and multilateral cooperation

The ANC has also sought to engage with international actors to address the challenges it faces. Diplomatic engagements have included visits by President Ramaphosa to various countries, as well as participation in multilateral organizations such as the African Union and the United Nations.

The role of ANC leaders and key figures in addressing the challenges

The leadership of the ANC and key figures within the party have played a critical role in shaping the response to the challenges the country faces.

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s vision and reform agenda

Since taking office, President Ramaphosa has emphasized the need for economic reforms and anti-corruption measures. His vision for a “New Dawn” in South African politics has resonated with many within and outside the ANC, giving hope for a more transparent and effective government.

Other influential figures within the ANC and their positions on key issues

Other influential figures within the ANC, such as Deputy President David Mabuza and Secretary-General Ace Magashule, have also taken positions on key issues. While some have supported Ramaphosa’s reform agenda, others have been more cautious or even resistant to change. The role of these figures and their respective positions will continue to shape the ANC’s response to the challenges it faces.

After 30 years in power, the party that has defined South African politics faces its strongest challenge yet


The African National Congress (ANC), South Africa’s ruling party since the end of apartheid, has faced numerous challenges in recent years that have raised questions about its ability to remain in power. In assessing the ANC’s chances of overcoming these challenges and maintaining its political dominance, it is essential to examine both internal and external factors.

Assessing the ANC’s chances of overcoming challenges

Internal factors: The ANC’s internal challenges include leadership and party unity. With President Jacob Zuma’s controversial tenure coming to an end, there is a need for new leadership that can restore the party’s reputation and rebuild trust with South Africans. The ANC’s internal divisions have been on display during the leadership race, which saw a bitter contest between President Cyril Ramaphosa and Nkosasana Dlamini-Zuma. The party must also address issues of corruption and mismanagement, which have eroded public trust in the government.

External factors: External challenges include economic conditions and political competition. South Africa’s economy remains stagnant, with high levels of unemployment and inequality. This economic malaise has fueled discontent among the population and made it easier for opposition parties to gain support. Political competition comes from various quarters, including the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and the Democratic Alliance (DA), which have made gains in recent local and provincial elections.

Implications for South African politics and the region

Potential scenarios: The consequences of these challenges for South African politics and the region depend on whether the ANC can effectively address its internal and external challenges. If the ANC fails to do so, there is a risk of political instability and even violence. On the other hand, if the ANC manages to restore its reputation and address the root causes of public discontent, it could consolidate its position as a stable democratic party. However, even if the ANC remains in power, there is a risk that its dominance will lead to complacency and a lack of political competition, which could undermine democratic institutions and governance.

The future of democracy in South Africa

Ongoing debates: As the ANC navigates these challenges, there are ongoing debates on political reforms and governance. Some argue that South Africa needs fundamental political reforms to strengthen democratic institutions and promote greater accountability and transparency. Others call for a more inclusive political process that represents the diverse interests of South Africa’s population. These debates are essential for ensuring that South Africa remains a vibrant and sustainable democracy.

Importance of transparency, accountability, and inclusivity: Ultimately, the future of democracy in South Africa depends on the role that the ANC plays in promoting transparency, accountability, and inclusivity. By addressing its internal challenges, such as leadership and party unity, and external challenges, such as economic conditions and political competition, the ANC can help to ensure that South Africa remains a stable and prosperous democracy. Moreover, by engaging in meaningful dialogue with opposition parties and civil society groups, the ANC can help to promote political competition and democratic governance that serves the interests of all South Africans.