The African National Congress is considered a symbol of continent-wide pride. As the governing political party of the Republic of South Africa, it is lauded for its establishment of a non-racial democracy in April of 1994, a timorously fragile span of time that saw the end of the apartheid. Its original purpose, in 1912, was to promote the social rights of the black South African population in the face of political injustice, making its foundational philosophy attractive to the rest of post-colonial Africa.
In a region rife with racial conflict and with an uncertain path to good governance, the ANC served as an example or resilience to adversity both through armed and unarmed resolution. Perhaps it is due to this reverence that the ANC is yet to be held accountable for various socio-political issues that developed under its leadership.
One could argue that Pretoria began feeling international pressure in 2007, during president Thabo Mbeki’s loss of power to Jacob Zuma as a result of frustration due to unchanging national economic inequality. However, a survey of South Africa’s latest appearances on international papers would suggest that there is still a lot of work to be done. The paramount news piece was the declaration of Nelson Mandela’s death, which propagated a wave of global grief, but also refocused the spotlight on South Africa’s political problems.
These problems include a lack of transparency, which was made evident in the Marikana killings of 2012. In this event, 44 people were shot dead, the majority of whom were mine workers on strike. Apart from the killings, which represented the most lethal use of violence by government security forces on civilians since the apartheid era, the revelations that surfaced after the catastrophe exposed the government’s lack of political transparency, as the South African Police falsified documents and gave misleading accounts regarding the shootings. Furthermore, the ANC has been allegedly plagued by corruption, which is endemic to its poorer neighbors as, earlier on in 2013, President Jacob Zuma himself was accused of misappropriating taxpayer money on upgrading his luxurious private residence.
Therefore, as any other political body holding long-term undisputed power, the ANC is in need of reform or replacement. It may serve other African nations as a symbol of African fortitude, but it can no longer be a political example. If we consider countries like Rwanda, which have taken it upon themselves to spur economic development by targeting their political deficiencies, it would seem spurious to claim that Pretoria remains the main economic and political model in the continent. Unfortunately, a proposed merger that would have prompted a historic shift in South Africa’s political landscape has recently broken down. In any case, the reinvigorated attention to South African affairs may provide the ANC with the international pressure necessary to ensure positive change.
David Nebiyu Vioque, Guest Contributor
David Nebiyu Vioque is an Economics major at the University of Chicago. Interested in development economics, David has lived in Kenya for the past 5 years and is a staff writer for the Chicago Journal of Foreign Policy. Aside from academics, he enjoys rock climbing and playing football.