African National Congress

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African National Congress (ANC)
Abbreviation ANC
President Jacob Zuma
Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe
Spokesperson Zizi Kodwa
Founder John Dube
Pixley ka Isaka Seme
Sol Plaatje
National Chairperson Baleka Mbete
Treasurer General Zweli Mkhize
Slogan South Africa's National Liberation Movement
Founded 8 January 1912
Headquarters Luthuli House, 54 Sauer Street, Johannesburg
Newspaper ANC Today
Youth wing ANC Youth League
Women's wing ANC Women's League
Veteran's League ANC Veterans League
Paramilitary wing Umkhonto we Sizwe (integrated into SANDF)
Membership  (2015) 769,000[1]
Ideology African nationalism,
Left-wing nationalism,
Social democracy,
Democratic socialism
Political position Far-left
National affiliation Tripartite Alliance
International affiliation Socialist International[2]
African affiliation Former Liberation Movements of SA
Colours Black, green, gold
National Assembly seats
249 / 400
NCOP seats
60 / 90
NCOP delegations
8 / 9
Pan African Parliament
3 / 5
Party flag
African National Congress Flag.svg
Politics of South Africa
Political parties
The South African Native National Congress delegation to England, June 1914. Left to right: Thomas Mapike, Rev Walter Rubusana, Rev John Dube, Saul Msane, Sol Plaatje

The African National Congress (ANC) is the Republic of South Africa's governing communist political party. Until the 1990s, the ANC also had an active and murderous terrorist wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation), which was formed in 1961. It has been the ruling party of post-apartheid South Africa on the national level since 1994, including the election of Nelson Mandela as president from 1994-1999. In the 2004 general election the ANC won 69.7% of the votes, in the 2009 general election it won 65.9% of the votes, and in 2014 it won 62.15% of the votes.

The ANC defines itself as a "disciplined force of the left",[3] and it has been supported by the Tripartite Alliance with the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and the South African Communist Party (SACP), since the establishment of a non-racial democracy in April 1994.

Members founded the organisation as the South African Native National Congress (SANNC) on 8 January 1912 at the Waaihoek Wesleyan Church in Bloemfontein to work for 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.

After recent developments, such as its land reform program and ongoing violence against the previously dominant but now shrinking European minority groups in the country, it may possibly be considered a black supremacist organization.


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.[4]

The government of the newly formed Union of South Africa began a systematic oppression of black people in South Africa. The 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 passes (an ID which non-whites had to possess). However, it then became dormant in the mid-1920s. During that time, black people were also represented by the ICU and the previously white-only Communist party. In 1923, the organisation became the African National Congress, and in 1929 the ANC supported a militant mineworkers' strike.

By 1927, J.T. Gumede (president of the ANC) proposed co-operation 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 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, stating 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.[5] 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.

The ANC and its members were officially removed from the United States terrorism watch list in 2008.[6]

Umkhonto we Sizwe

Umkhonto we Sizwe or MK, translated "The 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. MK commenced the military struggle against apartheid with acts of sabotage aimed at the installations of the state, and in the early stages was reluctant to target civilian targets.[7]

MK was responsible for the deaths of both civilians and members of the military. Acts committed by MK include the Church Street bombing and the Magoo's Bar bombing.

In co-operation with the South African Communist Party, MK was founded in 1961[8] and integrated into the South African National Defence Force by 1994.


The ANC deems 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.[2] It also 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 working class 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.[9][10][11]

In 2004 the ANC declared itself to be a social democratic party.[12]

The 53rd National Conference of the ANC, held in 2015, stated in its "Discussion Document" that "China economic development trajectory remains a leading example of the triumph of humanity over adversity. The exemplary role of the collective leadership of the Communist Party of China in this regard should be a guiding lodestar of our own struggle."[13] It went on to state that "The collapse of the Berlin Wall and socialism in the Soviet Union and Eastern European States influenced our transition towards the negotiated political settlement in our country. The cause of events in the world changed tremendously in favour of the US led imperialism."[14]

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 SACP and COSATU.[15][16][17][18]

2008 schism

Following Zuma's accession to the ANC leadership in 2007 and Mbeki's resignation as president in 2008, a number of former ANC leaders led by Mosiuoa Lekota split away from the ANC to form the Congress of the People.

2013 NUMSA split from Cosatu

On 20 December 2013, a special congress of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), the country's biggest trade union with 338,000 members,[19] voted to withdraw support from the ANC and SACP, and form a socialist party to protect the interests of the working class. NUMSA secretary general Irvin Jim condemned the ANC and SACP's support for big business and stated: "It is clear that the working class cannot any longer see the ANC or the SACP as its class allies in any meaningful sense."[19]

ANC flag

The ANC flag is composed of three stripes – black, green and gold.[20] Black symbolises the native 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 Umkhonto we Sizwe. An unrelated but identical flag was used by the Grand Duchy of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach from 1813.

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.[21]

ANC Today

In 2001, the ANC launched an online weekly web-based newsletter, ANC Today – Online Voice of the African National Congress to offset the alleged bias of the press.[22] It consists mainly of updates on current programmes and initiatives of the ANC. It is one of the few major online publications from an African political party.[citation needed]

Election results

File:South Africa national election 2014 ANC vote by ward.svg
Proportion of votes cast for the ANC in the 2014 election, by ward.


National Assembly
Election year # of
overall votes
 % of
overall vote
# of
overall seats won
1994 12,237,655 62.65
252 / 400
1999 10,601,330 66.35
266 / 400
Increase 14
2004 10,880,915 69.69
279 / 400
Increase 13
2009 11,650,748 65.90
264 / 400
Decrease 15
2014 11,436,921 62.15
249 / 400
Decrease 15

Provincial elections

Election Eastern Cape Free State Gauteng KwaZulu-Natal Limpopo Mpumalanga North-West Northern Cape Western Cape
% Seats % Seats % Seats % Seats % Seats % Seats % Seats % Seats % Seats
1994 84.35% 48/56 76.65% 24/30 57.60% 50/86 32.23% 26/81 91.63% 38/40 80.69% 25/30 83.33% 26/30 49.74% 15/30 33.01% 14/42
1999 73.80% 47/63 80.79% 25/30 67.87% 50/73 39.38% 32/80 88.29% 44/49 84.83% 26/30 78.97% 27/33 64.32% 20/30 42.07% 18/42
2004 79.27% 51/63 81.78% 25/30 68.40% 51/73 46.98% 38/80 89.18% 45/49 86.30% 27/30 80.71% 27/33 68.83% 21/30 45.25% 19/42
2009 68.82% 44/63 71.10% 22/30 64.04% 47/73 62.95% 51/80 84.88% 43/49 85.55% 27/30 72.89% 25/33 60.75% 19/30 31.55% 14/42
2014 70.09% 45/63 69.85% 22/30 53.59% 40/73 64.52% 52/80 78.60% 39/49 78.23% 24/30 67.39% 23/33 64.40% 20/30 32.89% 14/42
Election year # of
overall seats won
60 / 90
63 / 90
Increase 3
65 / 90
Increase 2
62 / 90
Decrease 3
60 / 90
Decrease 2

Municipal elections

Election Votes %
1995–96 5,033,855 58%
2000 None released 59.4%
2006 17,466,948 66.3%
2011 16,548,826 62%

Role of the ANC in resolving the conflict

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.[23] Discussions and negotiations took place leading to the eventual unbanning of the ANC and other opposing political parties by then President 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.[24]

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 Abolition of Racially Based Land Measures Act was passed.[24] These measures ensured no one could claim, or be deprived of, any land 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.[24] The ANC won 62.5% of the votes and has been in power ever since.[25]


Controversy over corrupt members

The most prominent corruption case involving the ANC relates to a series of bribes paid to companies involved in the ongoing R55 billion Arms Deal saga, which resulted in a long term jail sentence to then Deputy President Jacob Zuma's legal adviser Schabir Shaik. Shaik was released after nearly two years imprisonment after being diagnosed with a terminal illness. 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.[26] 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. Tony Yengeni, in his then position as chief whip of the ANC and also head of the Parliaments defence committee has recently been named as being involved in a R6 million bribe with the German company ThyssenKrupp over the purchase of four corvettes for the SANDF. German detectives raided the offices of the German company and found documentation linking Yengeni to the bribe

Other recent corruption issues include the sexual misconduct and criminal charges of Beaufort West municipal manager Truman Prince,[27] and the Oilgate scandal, in which millions of Rand in funds from a state-owned company were allegedly funnelled into ANC coffers.[28]

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.[29][30] This has resulted in the "No Land! No House! No Vote!" Campaign which became very prominent during elections.[31][32]

Controversy over wasteful expenditure

The ANC spent over R1 billion of taxpayers' money on luxury vehicles, expensive hotels, banquets, advertising and other "wasteful expenditure" between August 2009 and April 2010.[33][34][35] 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".[36]

According to the DA,[37] this money could have:

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

The ANC Northern Cape premier, Sylvia Lucas, in her first 10 weeks in office, spent R53,159.00 of taxpayers money on "fast food" at outlets such as Spur, Nandos, KFC and Wimpy.

Condemnation over 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.[38] 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.[39]

Role in the Marikana killings

The ANC have been criticised for its role in failing to prevent 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.[40]

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'.[41] Archbishop Desmond Tutu has announced that he no longer can bring himself to exercise a vote for the ANC as it is no longer the party that he and Nelson Mandela fought for, and that the party has now lost its way, and is in danger of becoming a corrupt entity in power.

There is also controversy over an email that the ANC deputy president and shareholder in Lonmin, Cyril Ramaphosa sent where he asked for "decisive action" to be taken against the striking miners.[citation needed]

See also


  1. Mataboge, Mmanaledi (10 October 2015). "Smaller provinces the saving grace for ANC membership". Mail & Guardian. Retrieved 11 October 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 Mapekuka, Vulindlela (November 2007). "The ANC and the Socialist International". Umrabulo. African National Congress. 30.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "ANC Party Declaration 51". the African National Congress. Retrieved 26 July 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. The African National Congress. Retrieved on 23 November 2011.
  5. Pillay, Gerald J. (1993). Voices of Liberation: Albert Lutuli. HSRC Press. pp. 82–91. ISBN 0-7969-1356-0.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Mandela taken off US terror list, BBC News, 1 July 2008
  8. Retrieved 26 July 2012.
  9. Slovo, Joe. "The South African Working Class and the National Democratic Revolution".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Netshitenzhe, Joel. "Understanding the tasks of the moment". Umrabulo. 25.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Marwala, T. "The anatomy of capital and the national democratic revolution". Umrabulo. 29.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. The Mail & Guardian A-Z of South African Politics by Barbara Ludman, Paul Stober, and Ferial Haffagee
  13. page 161
  14. page 189
  15. Paul Trewhela (8 May 2007). "ANC 'At Fork in the Road'".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. "How the Tripartite Alliance works". Mayibuye. 2 (3). 1991.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. McKinley, Dale (2003). COSATU and the Tripartite Alliance since 1994. Rethinking the Labour Movement in the 'New' South Africa (T. Bramble and F. Barchiesi (eds)).<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. Ngonyama, Percy (16 October 2006). "The ideological differences within the Tripartite Alliance: What now for the left?".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. 19.0 19.1 Polgreen, Lydia (20 December 2013). "South Africa's Biggest Trade Union Pulls Its Support for A.N.C." The New York Times.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. "The Flag of the African National Congress". African National Congress. Retrieved 20 August 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. James Myburgh The ANC's secret premier candidates. 6 March 2009. Retrieved on 23 November 2011.
  22. Fourie, Pieter J. (2008). Media Studies Volume 2: Policy, management and media representation (second ed.). Cape Town: Juta and Company. p. 44. ISBN 978-0-7021-7675-3.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. apartheid. (8 May 1996). Retrieved on 23 November 2011.
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 Ross, Robert (1999). A concise history of South Africa. Cambridge University Press.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. Apartheid FAQ: When Did Apartheid End?. (27 April 1994). Retrieved on 23 November 2011.
  26. "Opposition hails challenge to ANC rule". 9 October 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  27. Bester, Ronel (5 May 2005). "Action against Prince 'a farce'". Die Burger.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  28. "Special Report: Oilgate". Mail & Guardian. Retrieved 27 April 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  29. "DA councillor's role in Delft is 'criminal'". Cape Argus. 20 February 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  30. "DA's Delft councillor denies claims". Cape Argus. 28 February 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  31. "The 'No Land, No House, No Vote' campaign still on for 2009". Abahlali baseMjondolo. 5 May 2005.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  32. "IndyMedia Presents: No Land! No House! No Vote!". Anti-Eviction Campaign. 12 December 2005.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  33. "R1bn blinged, partied away". News24.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  34. "Taxpayers deserve answers on bling – DA". Independent Online.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  35. "Business Watch: Airlines must be cursing Blatter and the World Cup". Business Report.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  36. "Introduction: the Wasteful Expenditure Monitor". Democratic Alliance.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  37. "Wasteful expenditure monitor: Total up to R1 003 016 305.44". Democratic Alliance.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  38. du Plessis, Charl (22 November 2011). "Secrecy bill opposition reaching fever pitch". Times Live.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  39. "Mandela's office comments on S Africa's secrecy bill". AFP. 22 November 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  40. "Who gave permission to kill?". AFP. 22 October 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  41. "Marikana families horrified at Phiyegas behaviour". M&G. 24 October 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links