Should South Africa’s ANC split?

September 22, 2008

Supporters of Jacob Zuma, the leader of South Africa’s ruling ANC, chant slogans at the Pietermaritzburg high court outside Durban, August 5, 2008. Zuma appeared in court in a bid to win the dismissal of a graft case that could wreck his chances of becoming the nation’s president next year. REUTERS/Siphiwe SibekoThe African National Congress faces the biggest internal crisis of its history after the decision to oust President Thabo Mbeki following suggestions of official interference in the corruption case against his rival, party leader Jacob Zuma.

South Africa’s ruling party has stressed that the decision of the executive was unanimous. Mbeki’s resignation speech also made clear he was not planning to fight.

But despite the show of unity, there is talk of some ANC members splitting to form a new party before the 2009 election.

While that might not seem such a great idea from the ANC’s point of view, would it be so bad for South Africa?

Nelson Mandela’s party represented a wide spectrum of views because of the need for a united front in the fight against apartheid. More than 14 years on, the effects of apartheid certainly linger, but would there be an argument for having more parties to choose from?

A man attaches posters to a lamp-post in Soweto April 7, 1994. The face of Africa National Congress (ANC) President Nelson Mandela beams down from electorial posters three weeks ahead of South Africa’s first all-race elections.

Although South Africa is by no means a one-party state, the weak opposition parties have never had much influence.

The ideological split within the ANC is between those from Zuma’s wing who favour a more left-leaning approach sought by unions and by the poor and those from Mbeki’s side who are more pro-business – and claim credit for South Africa’s longest period of economic growth.

Would it be good for voters to be able to choose between the two camps directly instead of leaving the debate within the ANC? Or might such a loss of unity in South Africa be dangerous at what is still a difficult time? Would a split be a recipe for disaster that would marginalise some points of view? Could a breakaway party make any meaningful impact given the ANC’s dominance anyway?

What do you think?


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i want Mbeki to open his organization, we still need leaders like him in this bleeding country.

Posted by Motlalekgotso | Report as abusive

I think Tabo Mbeki doesnt fit anywhere in the ANC when looking at the way they expelled him. A new party is needed and I believe it will win 2009 election. If the party will be comprising of Lekota, Tabo, Ngcuka[dep pres]. The old ANC has a bad reputation of corruption

Posted by GOODMAN | Report as abusive

it will be best if the anc can split. we will have a much stronger opposition and the current anc will not play us around like bags of potatoes.


Posted by catherine | Report as abusive

I feel that a split would be good for democracy in this country so a true opposition will come to the fore within this country cause all the opposition together does not even put a dent in the ruling party

Posted by Mark | Report as abusive

There are people who can vote 4 Thibos’ party,mara, the are not enough 2 win the 2009 elections.The are giants parties lyk DA or in case IFP,not a new party that will be lead by Mbeki on top of that.Mbeki should just accept that he is no longer a president of this political cripled country,and just bcome an ANC member of parly.In otherways Thibos should 4get about forming a party.

Posted by skhokho | Report as abusive

Thibos should accept being a looser .Am a big fan of him mara the competition is tyt up there .His party can see nothin during the votes.

Posted by wandie | Report as abusive

South Africa will never be a true democracy unless it has a viable opposition. And as we can tell from history and even economics, monopolies of power usually lead to shoddy service and corruption of power. The recent power outages was a scary view of what may lie ahead for South Africa. Its time for intelligent and educated South Africans to stand up and create their own party. The ANC is sinking deeply into the hands of the Communists, and that doesn’t fare well for anyone.

Posted by Ayan | Report as abusive

South africa has enough parties to oppose each other, forming another one will be adding to a lot of power struggles, noise and no direction. The former Pres. must just find in his heart to support the movement, which he fought for all his life not disband it. I’m sure he is key to healing the rivalry.

Posted by Druz | Report as abusive

There is no need for the ANC to split, the thing is that we must accept and be proud that democracy in South Africa is maturing.Though I respect Thibos for what he has done for our country and the continent it does not mean he is beyong criticism.

The ANC will win the elections next year with majority because they have giants such as Cyril Ramaphosa; Tokyo Sexwale; Matthew Phosa and others who will work tirelessly to ensure victory.

Posted by gaddafi | Report as abusive

i speak on behalf of the South African youth who’s future is at stake.i feel that Pres.Mbeki(he is still ma President) has served this country with distinction and he really doesnt belong to a party full of hypocrisy and violence. Mbeki is a true leader and does so in his own right for he understands the cries and joys of our people. i call on the youth to stand back and look at the state of this country long and hard and honestly decide without fear, if we need leaders like the Zuma gang? where are they leading us to. a future where we’ve lost our values, pride and sense of responsibility and violence? i say it is up to us to stand up and say we deserve a better future.

Posted by Pelani | Report as abusive

The ANC does not need to split considering South Africa’s progress so far. A split at this stage will be detrimental to their development efforts since resources will be spent on politics rather than the development of the nation. Well done to Mbeki for having the courage to step down. How many African leaders can do that when they are so hungry for power even when they have been democratically removed from office after so many years?

Posted by Davi | Report as abusive

I think people are so confused, they certainly dont want things run properly, People are only after Zuma just because of a need to favour their ethinicity. Despite the corrupt practices of the latter, people still want him. Why do we need to be lead by a corrupt guy? What about our economy as south africans? Please come to reality people. Mbeki was a very good leader, I think an opposition will certainly be acknowledge. I think Thibos need to form an opposition party.

Posted by Tsamba | Report as abusive

Definitely! A new alternative is needed. The ANC needs to realise that being in power is not an automatic thing. We voted for them, therefore we can vote them out as well. It’s a pity that the opposition parties currently don’t have much clout otherwise this would just not be happening. We’re tired of watching them abuse state institutions, the corruption, the scandals. All at the voters’ expense. It’s time for a new dispensation.

Posted by Nelisa | Report as abusive

As an outsider who loves Africa, I wonder if Mandela actually intended to create such a one-sided political reality for his country as exists today. Yes, he needed the strength of unity in the beginning to push through to a place that it was hoped would benefit all South Africans. Unfortunately though the weight of the fight appears to need another Mandela to complete the rest of the dream…the “…for all South Africans…” part of his dream! We’re hard pressed to point to even one society on this globe as examples of all good things to all people all the time; people fall through the cracks everyday, everywhere.

But I suspect he never really believed as many in his country would still be falling between the cracks this far along the path of his dream for Freedom. And I suspect in his private and quiet times away from the beating drums of political change, he may well admit to his heart of hearts that he never intended his ANC juggernaut of a party to take on a singularity position… for ever. His, own words seem to confirm; [to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others. Nelson Mandela] …freedom from prisons chains or political singularity might well amount to similarity of prisons.

Sadly the fact that we are reading so much record of political turmoil of South African singularity politics of the day…may well bear witness that Mandela’s dream is still far off when you remember his proclamation so many years past; [Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another. Nelson Mandela] …oppression is oppression whether by a body of our own or another. Because as he also said and this is the final truth of it all; [There is no such thing as part freedom. Nelson Mandela]

Posted by Doug | Report as abusive

One of the admirable aspects of African culture is its respect for the elders of society. South Africa must heed the wise words of her elder statesmen such as Desmond Tutu and Mangosuthu Buthelesi. They are calling for changes to South Africa’s flawed democratic system.

Under the current system, the president enjoys far too many powers for that job to be entrusted to a politician. For example, it is clear that a judicial commission of enquiry should have been created to investigate the arms deal. This can only be done by the president. Unfortunately the outgoing president has not seen fit to create such a commission and if the new president is JZ, there is not the slightest hope that he will do so.

Although obviously an ANC member, Nelson Mandela was wise enough to rise above party politics. The current crop of politicians are clearly not able to do the same. Not only should the president be directly elected by the people, in my view he should also be forbidden membership of a political party.

The party list system has lumbered us with a mindless pile of unrepresentative sycophantic voting fodder in parliament. Worse still, far from heeding the wisdom of the years, the ANC is allowing itself to be led to its own destruction by the maniacal rantings of the juveniles in the ANCYL.

A split in the ANC certainly can’t do any harm. And, if a new party has the wisdom to stand on a platform of political reform, they can count on my vote.

Posted by Keith Garrod | Report as abusive

I totally agree with you Pelani, now that all the ministers are stepping down indicates that they have your point of view. They dont wana remain with the corrupt leaders and they know for sure they are on right track.
I personally believe that they wont be an opposition party next year but still a ruling party. The muti that Msholozi uses doesnt hypnotise all South Africans, that is true

Posted by Isaac | Report as abusive

I really feel very helpless & hopeless about this entire debacle. I can’t believe that there are actually people who think that Zuma is innocent – with his corruption case. I wonder if Zuma’s rape case wasn’t corrupt as well??? Honestly South Africa, Wake up!!!! We all moan & moan, but when the next ellections come – Zuma will be president – that just makes me sick!

Posted by Lezell | Report as abusive

A new party is very desirable for our democracy to flourish otherwise we are left with no viable alternative

Posted by Elias | Report as abusive

They say “that a government is only as strong as its opposition”. The first thing the ANC did in 1994 was get rid of the Westminster system – we now vote for the party as a whole not for a local MP. This creates a situation where no one is accountable (therefor corruption is rife). Currently the ANC has a 66% majority.
A split in the ANC would be good news, because hopefully then, there would be a strong opposition.
In the meantime, I believe that the president-elect – Jacob Zuma – should have his day in court. If he is not guilty of the 700 odd charges of corruption against him, then let him take over.

Posted by J.W.Faure-Field | Report as abusive

Lezell: I agree. Zuma’s whole campaign has not been about guilt or innocence or about justice, it has been about ‘getting away with it’. So far he has got away with it and for some unfathomable reason, doing wrong and getting away with it is more respectable among some South Africans than just being honest. Let’s not lose hope though. The leaders in the ANC must be aware of the division that Zuma’s candidacy for president in next year’s election would cause. Could it be that this whole debacle has been a plot to establish the relatively unknown Kgalema Motlhante as a credible presidential candidate? It depends who’s really pulling the strings in the ANC.

Posted by Keith Garrod | Report as abusive

The answer is NO. South african people do not need DIVISION… They truly need a leader who can bring CHANGE in their social life. They need REAL and FUNDAMENTAL REFORMS. President Mbeki gave the best he has during his 8 years in power. What he can do again for the welfare of South-African people? NOTHING. Remember Man and woman especially politicians, are only the tools which can be replaced anytime. This is the Zuma’s time…

Posted by Kiziton | Report as abusive



Posted by SUKI | Report as abusive

The events of the past week I think came as a shock for the outside world, meaning investors. Its no secret that SA is the African nation of choice for international investment, and this situation looks troubling and bizarre, even for people with an understanding of the country’s politics. After all, what ‘1st world’ countries do this?

There is an upside, and that is that other parties will enjoy some more support, in light of the ANC’s dysfunction. The Inkata Freedom Party, the Democratic Alliance, the United Democratic Movement, all stand to gain more votes–equalling more checks and balances (but hopefully not more infighting or tribalism). However, even if the ANC split, there would still be a majority in support of Zuma. That’s just the way it is. The Zulu population is the largest in SA, and he’s their guy.

A lot of saffers have worried that if SA doesn’t pick a Zulu president, after 14 years of Xhosa political dominance, that there will be serious resentment. It would just be better if that person wasn’t a convicted criminal and likely rapist.

Posted by B | Report as abusive

Thabo Mbeki has done a great job. A new party will do the country loads of good. Go for it Mbeki, continue to make things happen. The uncertainty Zuma brings will have grave consiquences for South Africa and the economy.

Posted by John D | Report as abusive

Again as an outsider my friendship with dozens of people of many countries on the continent…relates tribalism to me whether old or new, as an impediment rather than an out and out obstacle to equitable democracy. As “B” alluded a few comments earlier…in rather candid terms; the vital element of leadership morality will take any amount of new governance of both existing party structures and those still to come, much further down the road to national prosperity than any tribal definition will at this stage of international involvement in African life. The recent Transparency International numbers, no matter your confidence in them for absolute accuracy or not, should at least give those of age and experience from all walks of SA life, a reality check as to what might be in store for the country if social morality isn’t considered of high enough importance to determine a candidates ability to lead.

The poster-boy for corruption and organized crime… Nigeria has by all accounts moved 26 points to the positive while SA continues to nose dive down the negative side of the index by 11 more points. The fact is while SA may like to prop-up confidence in their ability to attract international investment and undoubtedly there’s still interest there; the DRC’s, the Sudan’s, the Angola’s…Nigeria’s…Cameroon’s Uganda’s and many, many more; all have immediate, multiple, proven, immense mineral wealth deposits and thus broad international investment interest. I just think, that at a time when energy resources the world over coupled with a runaway Far Eastern industrial revolution driving high rates of return for access to those mineral deposits….the very last thing SA can afford today, is to allow anything politic or of diminished morality to tarnish South Africa’s energy starved ability to participate to the highest levels possible! From the outside, it would seem economic suicide, to do anything less.

Posted by Doug | Report as abusive

ANC should get rid of both Mbeki and Zuma so that there will be no Zuma camp or Mbeki camp. This has brought about divisions in the party. They can only be ANC supporters.
The damage caused by these camps is irrepairable and it is unfair to have Mbeki down for his supporters as much as it gonna be if Zuma is down. As long as these two camps exist ANC must forget about unity and stability.
ANC is already losing supporters to other parties

Posted by Goodman | Report as abusive

My feeling is that a new party is needed,that would abide by the universlly accepted norms of democracy.The lot that had won at Polokwane are very vindictive.There is a perception that there are those are not to be touched by state legal institutions.ANC Secretary-General said the issue of Zuma if persued will continue to devide the ANC and the country.What does this mean?,is that there are those that are above the law.

Maybe its about time that we have a direct Presidential,Premier and Mayoral Elections. A change of Electral system altogether.

Removing Thabo from Office they didnt state that he has not implemented Party policies but by virtue of inferences Justice Nicholsen.

Posted by Simphiwe | Report as abusive

I prefer to interpret the word ‘split’ as in go or leave, and the answer then would be an emphatic yes. They have turned this country into a playground for the ANC Youth League, and are toying with our lives. Now we have two countries in Africa without government, Somalia and South Africa. This is what the geniuses in the ANC have reduced us to. Split, ANC.

Posted by Powerless | Report as abusive