The African National Congress (ANC) is the longest and strongest surviving political party in South Africa. Today, the ANC’s history and the failing of the democratic governance within its national committee has a profound effect on South Africa.
The ANC in the beginning
The formation of the Native National Congress (NNC) was a democratic event and is the only political party than rose above the tribe and clan formalities of the different cultures in South Africa in the early 1900’s. Through the exile period, the ANC displayed both democratic and anti-democratic tendencies. The ANC displayed one-party state behavior while in exile over its own members and were stifled by its own security department.
The ANC continued its growth and gained support locally and internationally. The strong nationalist relationship between its members and the dominant form of its political policies remained an instrument of power over the years. After years of negotiations, the ANC won the first democratic election of South Africa and a chance to prove that democracy can work for all the people of the country. Racial segregation torn down, the rainbow nation emerged to build a democratic nation with a constitution signed by all political parties ensuring that every citizen would live in peace and sustain democratic rights.
Yet the possibility of their anti-democratic policies during exile remained a risk that they would choose these anti-democratic policies into governance upon their victory.
A test of Democracy
Informal settlements sprung up all over the country, and this type of dwelling cast a massive problem for its poor residents. Health, electricity, running water and sanitation were a serious concern. The dirt and pollution from these settlements can cause damage and persistent problems not only for the residents but surrounding residential areas.
During 2005, a campaign called Abahlali baseMiondolo (translated from Zulu means, those who live in shacks) formed to help the poor and shack dwellers throughout the country. This forum rallied international support and won a legal battle against the ANC. It was claimed the ANC attempted forced removal of the shack dwellers. Further reports of intimidation and anti-democratic tactics used against the AbM members.
A prominent feature of democratic governance before the forced removal of shack dwellers was the ANC’s attempts to clean up slums and provide decent housing for the poor.
After the 1994 election, South African remained a highly politicized country. This incident of the shack dwellers is a serious human basic rights and a serious political issue, yet this legal battle was ignored by international countries.
Why did the ANC fail?
There are significant challenges to democratic elements within the Constitution, and the freedom of the media is a notable example. The media failed horribly during these attacks by the ANC and their security forces. Support from local churches and organizations, including international relief, to find a solution remained significant. The forced removals of the shack dwellers attracted attention. The long drawn court battle that continued for months on end saw the prosecution, magistrates and police provide no reliable evidence. There was manipulation and intimidation of the witnesses by police and local ANC structures. The innocent were persecuted and the attention provided to this political prosecution by the media in South Africa. The media failed in their responsibility, and that is cause for the integrity of the media and how they stop working for the citizens of the country.
A worrying factor
This incident created worldwide and local outrage, and reporting of incidents occurring around this charge remains a daunting factor. These are serious, and the how this event looked to the world as a post liberation experience, can be likened to a one-party type, exactly how the ANC looked in exile and its relationship with the Soviet Union, and the violent attack by ANC local government structures on the AbM in September 2009. The attackers, and the free warrant given to attackers, and the exploitation of a trial of the innocent lasting longer than the treason trial of 1956 remains a cause for concern. The innocent were persecuted and the guilty remain untouched.
This trial is a signal that South Africa is in danger of a failing democracy, the ANC have failed miserably to bring true democracy into the country, and difficult times can be expected if this failed attempt at democracy continues. The ANC will cry out that it is an emerging and vulnerable democracy but the party is over 100 years old, and their formation of their former democracy, brought into the present can only lead to failure in the future.
Questions that must be answered
Did the ANC stop the road to democracy when the arms deal was revealed?
Was Vusi Pikoli ousted because he was an honest politician and did ANC cadres put Fana Hlongwane and Jacob Zuma above the law?
By Laura Oneale (Op-Ed)