The ANC, COPE and the DA in a rapidly maturing Democratic South Africa

Contrary to popular belief, the ANC is not first and foremost a political party, but rather a liberation movement which has, since 1994, been attempting the near impossible task of transforming itself into a homogenous political party.

The ANC was established in 1912 as the South African Native National Congress (SANNC) to pursue the interests of the oppressed black South African population living under the laws and social constructs that came to be the most formalised racial discrimination in the world: Apartheid.  Between 1912 and 1994, the ANC defined itself around the singular challenge of securing a free and equal South Africa for all South Africans, regardless of their race.

During the 82 years between 1912 and 1994, the ANC gradually transformed from a pressure group into a militant liberation movement.  During those years the organisation utilised every conceivable form of campaigning, protests, passive resistance, international appeals and the like before eventually resorting to armed resistance in the 1980s.

The ANC’s membership comprised everyone willing and interested in a free and equal South Africa; anyone interested in the liberation of non-white South Africans from the injustices of the Apartheid regime.  The membership of the ANC was thus not as one might find in a traditional political party such as the Democratic Alliance – an organisation rooted in liberal politics, and thus comprising largely liberal thinking South Africans – but rather it was diverse in political ideology, ranging from communists to capitalists, all united under the banner of liberation.

When freedom came to South African in 1994, the ANC as a liberation movement achieved the goal which it had worked to secure for over 80 years, and thus began the transition from liberation movement to political party.  Since 1994 the ANC has struggled to unite ideologies within its ranks ranging from peaceful free market capitalism to militant communism, and the recent rift which saw the birth of another political party was the inevitable result. The ANC is rapidly maturing into a more leftist political party and is shedding much of the ideological baggage that its current leadership bloc no longer tolerates.

The split of the ANC spells the death of this liberation movement and sees the birth of one political party and the purification of another.  The ANC will finally have ideological purity, more left leaning than it has been since 1994; and the Congress of the People (COPE) will attract the more centrist and progressive members of the ANC.

These events will go some way to bringing clarity to the voter, letting them know exactly what the ANC is and what it stands for.  The voices of Jacob Zuma and Julius Malema, influenced as they are by their SACP and COSATU alliance partners, will no longer be tempered by moderate or liberal ANC leaders who have attempted to maintain the centrist image of the ANC.

COPE and a resurgent Democratic Alliance (DA) pose a significant threat to ANC dominance in post-independence South Africa.  COPE will appeal to a range of South Africans for a variety reasons from ethnicity, where it is perceived as being Xhosa aligned, to competence where it may be able to lay claim to having attracted more qualified and experienced leaders and politicians from the ANC and other parties.

The DA has a new leader in Helen Zille who is as yet untested in a major election, but if the results of the recent round of by-elections in South Africa are anything to go by (the DA won as many wards as the ANC, 11, followed by COPE with 10), then the DA should have a good showing in the April 2009 poll.  Helen Zille has proven herself able to connect and identify with the average South African and her prominent and effective mayorship of the City of Cape Town has won her many supporters, especially from the Coloured community.

Many prominent South Africans, most notably Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, have expressed their dissatisfaction with the performance of the ANC government, especially with regard to pertinent issues such as the provision of basic services, housing, land reform and crime.  Tutu recently publicly expressed his intention to withhold his vote in the upcoming poll in what has become a clear example to other disenchanted ANC supporters that they can apply pressure on their party without actually voting against it.

In the two polls since 1994, the number of voters turning out for the ANC has dropped by an average of 1.5 million votes.  The ANC, however, managed to increase its winning margin due to the decrease of more than 3 million voters participating in the polls as a whole.  The notable exception to this trend has been the Democratic Alliance who, as the Democratic Party, secured only 1.73% in 1994 but won significant increases at each of the 1999 and 2004 polls.  Nearly six times as many people voted for the DA in 2004 than did for the DP in 1994, resulting in an over 7-fold increase in the percentage vote when compared with 1994.

Table 1: Comparison of Election Results since 1994


ANC Votes


DA Votes

DA %

Total Votes



















The emergence of COPE and its mobilisation of a significant proportion of ANC supporters, atop widespread dissatisfaction with the performance of the ANC, pose a very real threat to the ANC at the upcoming poll.  The Democratic Alliance’s recent by-election successes and increasingly popular leader also hint at the possibility of a significant increase in DA support in April.

Consider a scenario where the Democratic Alliance, with a revitalised brand and Helen Zille at the helm, manage to increase their support to 17.5% of the total vote by consolidating opposition support and winning over a small number of ANC voters; COPE secure 10%, largely from ANC voters but potentially also consolidating the opposition vote; and minority parties such as the IFP, UDM, ID, ACDP, FF+, MF manage to secure 15% (down from around 17% in 2004).

Such a scenario would leave the ANC with 57.5% of the vote and only 230 out of 400 seats in the National Assembly (down from 279 in 2004), revoking the constitutional majority held by the ANC since 2004.  Additionally, were the ANC to lose control of the Western Cape, the Northern Cape and possibly the Eastern Cape, this would result in the upper house of Parliament, the National Council of Provinces, becoming a more useful democratic institution than it is now.  Presently, the ANC controls all 9 provinces and the NCOP effectively rubber-stamps all resolutions sent through the house.

The changes in the South African political landscape since the recall of President Mbeki in late September last year have been numerous and significant.  The recall of the President on the basis of a court judgement that has since been set aside, alienated with finality many ANC supporters from the post-Polokwane leadership of the Party.  The decision created the precedent upon which the National Convention was called and held in Sandton and ultimately, The Congress of the People formed, all within less than 3 months of President Mbeki leaving office.

Democracy in South Africa will be strengthened in three significant regards as a result of these changes, making 2009 the most important year for South Africa since 1994.  First, and most importantly, ANC will find it extremely difficult to maintain more than two-thirds of the vote and will thus lose its constitutional majority.  Second, the emergence of COPE will add another opposition voice to the fray, greatly increasing the number of people who can oppose abuse of power or poor performance by the ANC. Third, the potential is created for COPE and DA to form coalitions to win provinces and municipalities and ultimately work closely together to form a united opposition – with a merger a real possibility within 10 or even 5 years of this election.

The election in April this year provides an opportunity for every South African to make their choice about the direction our democracy takes.  In the 15 years under the stewardship of the ANC the South African Government has failed to realise the potential this country holds to create prosperity for all.  Every South African must be encouraged to make their mark and get out and vote for CHANGE.

Crime – Should I stay or should I go?

A friend mailed to to request some advice on whether or not her friend should stay in SA or not, being seriously concerned about crime since visiting South Africans living in Perth. Herewith my response:

I cannot argue on the point of crime. If someone feels that the (crime) risk of living in South Africa is not worth the general quality of life we have here, then that is something I feel other people should not interfere with. The way I feel about it, and I don’t expect other people to feel like this, is that South Africa needs people like you and I to be here and contribute if it is going to have any chance of sorting out its many problems – crime being the most critical of all. I am willing to risk, if in the wrong place at the wrong time, being a victim of crime if it means I get to live here with my friends and family and be part of what this country is fighting hard to become.

Crime to me is about vigilance – we need to know and respect the fact that it is a major problem in our society and learn to live with it. If it is something one cannot come to accept, then that person cannot stay in South Africa. If, however, you can accept that we are required to learn to live with crime – and all that implies – then I believe we can live a safe and happy life in South Africa.

What do I mean by learning to live with it – well, are you daydreaming at the robots at 2am, instead of being vigilant about what is around you? Are you aware of those two dodgy characters walking toward you – if you are, something as simple as stepping into a shopping centre might be all that’s required to scare them off. Are you careful not to be on the beach, concealed from view of everyone else at night, perhaps distracted by a friend or companion? These are simple things, but they can mean the difference between being a victim of crime and not.

Now let’s be clear that I do not for a second condone the crime situation in South Africa, but I do suggest that being as serious a problem as it is, we either need to accept it exists and learn to live with it – learn to be as safe and vigilant as possible – or, if we cannot or will not, then South Africa is not going to be worth it for you.

This is a question only you can answer and nobody can ever hold you to account for your choice. Is South Africa and being in South Africa the most important thing, or is the relative safety of another country with less of a crime problem than South Africa more important. You answer will decide whether you stay or whether you go.


Note: I included a copy of Steuart Pennington’s words on truth:

These are my truths (Steuart Pennington)

I have received so many mails recently regarding our current crises.
They force me to reflect on my own truths, rather than argue the merits of who did what.

These are my truths:

I am acutely aware of Africa’s problems and find them hard to defend.
I wasn’t aware that in black languages there is no word for “maintenance”.
I become angry when I read of the fracas in SA Cricket over selection.
I cannot defend the Judge Hlope debacle.
I become extremely impatient when I witness the hopeless incompetence of some in positions of authority.
I recoil with anguish when I visit the crèche in Soweto (which I have adopted) and see the plight of those living in poverty.
I am ashamed when I visit black schools to see how little they have.
I hate it when my friends refer to my compatriots with racist epithets.
I hurt when people, particularly the media, run this country down.

I am optimistic about our future.
I am proud of what this country has achieved over the past 14 years despite the contrary predictions of many.
I am learning that Africa is beginning to change for the better.
I am aware that English does not have a word that embodies ubuntu.
I love the warmth of African people and their ability to forgive.
I believe in our president’s and our governments resolve to deliver “a better life for all”.
I am in awe of the thousands of South Africans who toil, unsung, to help the less fortunate.
I am hopeful that Africa will have a better 21st Century that the previous five.
I pray everyday that I will remain proud of my country and that my actions will contribute to building a great nation.

And finally, I hope my optimism is firmly rooted in the reality of our progress and the goodwill of our people.

“I want to come home, but what about Zuma?”

I just recently got a mail from a buddy currently living on the grey, dreary, alcoholic and muddy island they call the United Kingdom:

“Im […] wanting to come back to SA permanently quite soon but I’m not so sure about it anymore with Zuma being voted in! What is your opinion? Do you think the country is going to go to ruins?”

I provide, for your interest, my response – and please note this is by no means a complete argument, but I thought it may be of interest to some:


Zuma has been voted in as president of the ANC. Mbeki remains President of the country and will be until 2009.

In order for Zuma to take over as President of South Africa (something which does not actually scare me that much), he has to be cleared of all criminal charges currently pending. He has fraud, corruption and racketeering charges laid against him and will be going to court in August 2008 to try clear his name.

The way I see it, if he is convicted of the above, then, well, he goes to prison. If he is cleared, then it is important because we would not want a State President with such a cloud over his head. Fact is Zuma is a popular, practical man. He’s a little stupid, but he knows he is no rocket scientist and to my mind that could well be a benefit – he’ll focus on what he can do and delegate the rest. This is certainly in line with everything I have read of the guy. I’ll tell you that I believe Zuma would do much more about the crime problem in South Africa than Mbeki has.

South Africa is not a Zimbabwe in the making and there are several reasons for this, but they are best explained in an article by a M&G journalist Jonty Fisher and my response (backing him up) to his position.

Take a look at my blog at and read: “M&G’s DG Report Summary” and “Response to the comments to Jonty Fisher’s ‘South Africa’s going the way of Zimbabwe’”. I would urge you to read as well Jonty Fisher’s original article at ThoughLeader, “South Africa’s going the way of Zimbabwe

The long and the short of it goes like this. This is the 21st century – the world over wants Africa to work. There are enough examples over the past 50+ year of what NOT to do in an African country. Priority number 1 is not to let any one lead become a leader for life. Unlike Zimbabwe, we have a population united around the limitation that our State President can serve a maximum of two terms (5 years each) as stipulated in our Constitution. Nobody is marching and toyi-toying to have Mbeki run for a third term as State President. Aside from being wildly unpopular for protecting people like Selebi and Manto, this is why Mbeki cannot be State President beyond 2009.

Priority number 2 (or even more important that 1) is an independent judiciary. Ie. Are your judges free from political interference. Again, unlike Zimbabwe, this is still the case. So our courts are free to judge against Zuma without fear of recrimination.

The way I see it, the future of South Africa is like the potential for shark attack when swimming out at backline. We all know that the chances of getting killed on the way to the beach are much higher than that of being attacked by a Shark, but nonetheless, thanks to Jaws, Jaws II, Jaws 2849 (ie. Zimbabwe and other shockers), we have this graphic image in our minds of the horror of being attacked, even though we know the chances are next to nothing.

South Africa is the 18th (out of 200+) most attractive destination in the world for foreign direct investment (read my blog “Excerpts from Manuel’s Mid-term Budget Speech (Delivered yesterday)”), we’ve made massive progress over the past 14 years (even if it is hard to see from day to day). We’re not going to throw that all away. Even the most communist of communist idealists in South Africa cannot deny massive progress has been made since then…

Come home kid. Rather take part in what’s happening here than rot on that sad, grey, muddy-ass island wishing you were here in the sun and fun.

K, shooting to the beach for a swim.

Ciao, Warwick

[Update: I came back from the swim and sent him another mail]

“Ok, I made the swim without getting attacked by a shark. It is ok for you to come home now.”

Response to the comments to Jonty Fisher’s ‘South Africa’s going the way of Zimbabwe’

This is a response to Jonty Fisher‘s ‘South Africa’s going the way of Zimbabwe’ posted on the Mail&Guardian‘s ThoughLeader blogging paltform.

I have read with interest the article and most especially the comments over the past few days.

I understand these first comments are not directly related to the topic at hand, but in the context of the debate which has ensued since the article being published, I wish to make a few points.

I, like Jonty, am one of those optimist types and am often accused of being blinkered to the rest of the goings on in this country. I still believe, however, that reading the good news, recognising the positive progress where it exists and being generally optimistic about our future will do more for the country than outright negativity masqueraded as realism or pragmatism.

I’ve spent much time, energy and frustration trying to convince South Africans abroad that South Africa is worth being positive about. I have found that by-in-large the South Africans abroad that trash the country at braais, dinner parties and the like do so because of a need to justify their decision to leave South Africa.

We live in (legally) one of the free countries in the world. If someone feels like South Africa is not for them now, or too risky, or the economic interventions affect them too much, or crime is too much to deal or any other valid reasons, they are free to leave South Africa and venture abroad. Indeed, were it not for my business here in South Africa, I am sure I would’ve spent a few years here and there already myself.

Any South African choosing to leave South Africa, either temporarily or through emigration, should not feel they need to justify their decision by convincing themselves, as well as the people around them, that South Africa is a Zimbabwe in the making and that it is indeed a matter of time. Surely you can be a South African living abroad and still be PROUD of where you come from and of the positive progress being made back home.,, and the like will all give these people the information they need to be proud of the advancement everyday in this country.

Then to the not-so-good: we have a young baby of a democracy and a whole lot of growing up lies ahead of us. Right now we’re teething, and it hurts. The sagas around Selebi, Pikoli, Hlope, Manto and the like are all extremely difficult pills for us to swallow but these scandals are not insurmountable. Our media is still free and can (within the limitations of the law) ensure truth is demanded of those in the highest echelons of government. If the Sunday Times broke the law in getting the Health Minister’s Health Records, then, unfortunately, they need to be prosecuted. Nobody should be exempt from the law and the leadership challenge during this time of teething will be for President Mbeki to show us that nobody is immune from investigation and prosecution; not the editor of a national newspaper, not the Chief Justice, not the Minister of Health, not the Commissioner of Police and so on.

As to the topic at hand, both sides of my family tree arrived in South Africa with the 1820 settlers. Both sides then moved to Rhodesia and both sides returned to South Africa by the middle of the 80’s. It was clear to them then, only a few years into democracy, that the effects of the debilitating civil war coupled with the rushed and flawed Lancaster House Agreement which led to the farce that saw Robert Mugabe take power was a recipe for yet another African National Disaster.

No doubt when our time came CODESA, the GNU and indeed our own constitution all took into account the lessons learned in the rest of Africa. CODESA started negotiations in December 1991, the GNU took over national governance in 1994 and only in February 1997 when the constitution was finalized, was power handed directly to the ANC. The process of handing control of the country from the NP to the ANC took nearly five and a half years.

By comparison, Zimbabwe saw hostilities end with the signing of Lancaster House just before Christmas in 1979 and by April 1980 Robert Mugabe and ZANU-PF had control of the country.

Compare 5 months for Zimbabwe and 5 years for South Africa. We did it properly.

South Africa will not go the way of the rest of Africa. Zimbabwe is the quoted example at present because it is in such a shocking state right now. Have no misconceptions that most Africans states have not been where they are now. By-in-large, the rest of Africa have been to the lowest low and are now rebuilding. Zambia, Mozambique, Angola are regional examples. They are building their economies, attracting investors, focusing on agriculture (thanks in no small part to ex-Zimbabwean farmers), building competence as responsible democratic leaders and generally trying to ensure their countries move only forward.

South Africa cannot and will not go the way of the rest of Africa. We have enough examples to learn from, enough education, modernity and intelligence in our leadership and enough goodwill from our neighbours and the rest of the world to ensure we never forget what we’re working toward.

We live a miracle every day in this country, but like most things these days, that miracle is dynamic and changing. In 1994 the miracle was democracy without civil war, through the nineties it was Madiba and his capacity to reconcile and in the new millennium the miracle is the rapid progress and integration we see taking place every day in this country. We’re moving forward. We sing the national anthem like we don’t remember the old one. We get angry when some idiot pulls out the old flag. We have black South Africans in France supporting the Bokke alongside white. We have roads, water, electricity, telephones, clinics, houses and schools where there were never any before – the places white generally don’t go and thus progress whites aren’t seeing.

We have a long, long way to go and a very many challenges to deal with along that road. We will succeed and of that I am absolutely certain. How can I be so certain?

“All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.” — Edmund Burke

The very fact that every single one of us, whether living in South Africa or not, is engaged in this conversation right here is testament to the sheer volume of resource, goodwill and hope behind the desire to see South Africa succeed.

I thank you all for your passion for our wonderful country.