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Splinter faction challenges ANC

South Africa’s ruling party the African National Congress or ANC has a new breakaway faction. This follows the ousting of South African President Thabo Mbeki involved in a bitter dispute with his political rival Jacob Zuma. Zuma defeated Mbeki to ascend to the ANC’s top position last year, prompting a split within the party. Although the splinter faction highlights the discord within the ANC, Professor Adam Habib believes this development "will create a dynamic of political accountability within the system." The new faction is yet to be named.

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Splinter faction challenges ANC

Producer: Zaa Nkweta

ZAA NKWETA, TRNN: South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress, or ANC, has a new breakaway faction. This follows the ousting of South African President Thabo Mbeki, involved in a bitter dispute with his political rival Jacob Zuma. Zuma defeated Mbeki to ascend to the ANC’s top position last year, prompting a split within the party. Although the splinter faction highlights the discord within the ANC, Professor Adam Habib believes this development may signal the potential of a more vibrant democracy. I spoke to him earlier in Johannesburg.

PROFESSOR ADAM HABIB, POLITICAL ANALYST: If the ANC is split, what’s worth bearing in mind is that for a long while now political commentators have said that the prospects for a viable opposition in South Africa are unlikely to come from the rump of opposition parties, that they really largely do their electioneering amongst minority groups and they could never constitute a threat to the ANC, and that it would have to emerge from within the ANC itself to have split. For much of the period, people including myself expected that split to happen as a result of Congress of South African Trade Unions and the South African Communist Party leaving the ANC. In fact, what has come to pass is the old Mbeki-ites, those right of political center, have actually split from the ANC, forming a new party. The first consultative forum took place in Sandton in Johannesburg. It had about 6,000 delegates, and at least 70 to 80 percent of them African and black. What that has indicated is that at least this party has the prospects of non-racializing the opposition. It’s going to be sad for the ANC, it’s going to be a traumatic experience for the ANC, but it’s really going to be good for the country, because the emergence of a party that is competing in the same electoral base as the ANC will force the ANC to become responsive to the citizens. It will force them to start dealing with policy issues that impact on poor and marginalized communities. And the larger political competition will force the emergence, if you like, of a developmental agenda. We’ve seen this happen in the last couple of years with the emergence of Jacob Zuma and Thabo Mbeki splitting. And what that has done is the split within the ANC has forced the ANC to become more responsive. But it wasn’t an institutionalized split. Now we’re seeing the split institutionalize itself, and that’s good for democracy and development. There are some challenges, of course: Can they develop their organizational infrastructure at the national level to do it? Do they have enough resources to carry, hold this thing? Can they [inaudible] themselves in a policy discourse? But overall I think the potential for a viable opposition to emerge is great. It’s worth bearing in mind that for this group to be successful, they don’t have to win the elections. All they need to do is get 12 to 13 percent; then they’ll become the official opposition. I mean, the process would have non-racialized the opposition movement, and that would be a great success story for South Africa. So I think that it’s a wonderful opportunity. I think it will not racialize the opposition. It will as a result create the dynamic of accountability within the political system, and that will be good for democracy and development. So I’m very hopeful that this is a positive sign for the future.

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Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.