University of South Afica
|The African National Congress (ANC) successfully ushered in a new political system in South Africa after winning the epoch-making non-racial democratic election in 1994. While campaigning for this election, the ANC promised that once elected to power it would transform the then existing socio-economic system to redress inequalities created through 80 years of white authoritarian rule. However, during the first five years of its rule, the process of transformation and delivery of services did not take place as satisfactorily as the ANC would have wished. Much to the frustration of Congress and its largely black constituency, only small gains were made. Among the factors accounting for this are that the ANC could not act precipitously before consolidating itself in power, and had to allay the fears of apprehensive whites to whom it appealed not to leave the country. Before the second election in 1999, the ANC emphasised the need to acquire a two-thirds majority in order to be able to speed up transformation and deliver its promised policies. What will the future bring? Faced with opposition, cynicism, and resistance, will the ANC use its majority to "bulldoze" the way to its stated objective? This article argues that the ANC, dissatisfied with the pace of change and concerned about its black constituency, will throw caution to the wind in order to meet the challenges facing it in the new millennium, resulting in South Africa's nascent democracy being put to the test.|
|Emergence of the ANC's Dominant Position in South African Politics|
After its unbanning in February 1990 and upon its return to the country, the ANC went on the offensive and soon came to dominate South Africa's geo-political landscape. It organised rallies and campaigns attended by thousands of people and addressed by high profile leaders of the organisation, most of who had been heard of but never seen in person as they were either in exile or in jail. The ANC went on to dominate the negotiation process that discussed the establishment of a new political system. By the time the first non-racial democratic election was held in April 1994, there was no doubt that the ANC was far ahead of its nearest rivals (Giliomee 1998: 131). Only the percentage of votes it would win was questioned. There was speculation it would win a two-thirds majority. It won 62 percent of the vote, giving it 242 seats in the National Assembly base on proportional representation.
The ANC's overwhelming margin prompted academics and politicians to speculate if South Africa was perhaps not destined for a one-party dominant system. Predictions were made that it would win all forthcoming elections. Welsh (1997: 93) compared the ANC ascendancy to power to that of liberation movements in Africa:
The ANC won South Africa's second election in 1999 with an increased majority, fractionally short of the magical two-thirds majority needed to unilaterally change the constitution. It consolidated its position and took the first step towards becoming a dominant party. The ANC does not at this stage fulfil the criteria to be regarded as a dominant party, although showing a propensity towards becoming one. Giliomee (1998: 138) argues that with blacks forming more than three-quarters of the population, ANC rule seems assured. The majority of people who voted for the ANC are blacks.
The theory of one-party dominance was first discussed by T. J. Pempel in his book Uncommon Democracies: The One-Party Dominant Regimes, published in 1990. He discusses the conditions a party must meet before it can be said to be dominant and cites Sweden, Japan, Israel and Italy as examples where ruling parties established dominance. Pempel (1990: 341) avers that long term dominance cannot be predicted when a party first ascends to power. By this criterion, the ANC cannot yet be regarded as a dominant party. Pempel points out that for a party to qualify as dominant, it must satisfy the following four conditions:
The ANC fulfils some of these conditions. It increased its number of seats during the 1999 election, thus dominating parliament. It also dominates the Government of National Unity as it has more cabinet ministers than all the other parties. It dominates them in the formation of governments and policy-making. The only condition that it does not satisfy is that it has not been at the core of the nation's government over a substantial period as it has only won two successive elections.
Various factors account for the favourable position the ANC found itself in just before the 1994 election. One of these was the political crisis in South Africa. According to Pempel, dominance can be a product of crisis. A party takes advantage of an abnormal situation and positions itself as the force capable of solving it. A crisis can occur when a country is in the midst of war, recession, or emerging from an authoritarian system. The Labour Party in Israel was seen as responsible for the very formation of the Israeli State. It thus becomes difficult to unseat such a party as it is regarded as a saviour.
The crisis that accounted for the ANC's electoral victory started gradually with the formation of the South African state in 1910. Blacks were excluded from the newly established political system. The ANC was formed two years later, in 1912, in order to appeal to the new government that blacks should be included in parliament. During the first forty years of its existence, Congress patiently lobbied for parliamentary representation through petitions and delegations, a method described by some critics as apologetic (Mothlabi, 1984: 39). Instead of their petitions being entertained, discriminatory legislation that deleteriously affected Africans was passed, creating further challenges for the ANC.
The ANC changed its strategy when it realised that it was making no headway in its efforts to achieve black representation. It decided in the 1950s to embark on a defiance campaign whereby discriminatory legislation was deliberately transgressed. However, the government of the National Party (NP), which formulated and introduced the policy of apartheid when it came to power in 1948, dealt harshly with those convicted of transgressing the law. Eventually, in March 1960, after the Sharpeville shootings, the ANC and the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) were banned. Following its banning, and with all peaceful strategies having failed, the ANC resorted to the armed struggle. It also sent some of its leaders into exile.
Despite being banned inside South Africa, the ANC continued to highlight the plight of blacks. It established contact with sympathetic governments and organisations opposed to apartheid and took joint protest actions with anti-apartheid organisations against the South African government. When many youths fled the country following the 1976 uprisings, the ANC was well placed to absorb them. These enthusiastic youths helped revitalise Congress and after they completed military training, they were deployed inside South Africa in intensified guerrilla campaigns.
By the late 1970s, the ANC became known to more black people within the country through its armed actions, helping bring it to the forefront as the leading liberation movement. When violence erupted in the early 1980s, with the government challenged by the mass movement under the leadership of the United Democratic Front (UDF), the ANC urged that the country be made ungovernable. The ANC, by proxy, became an important force in the fight against apartheid.
In the 1980s, there was a proliferation of mass organisations inside South Africa that identified with the ANC. Some of them, notably those associated with the UDF, adopted the Freedom Charter, which the ANC had initiated in 1955. These developments strengthened the ANC's claim of being behind resistance activities. In defiance of the government, which prosecuted people who had contact with the ANC, leaders of internal organisations went to visit it overseas and in Africa to inform it of developments and to seek its advice. Prominent whites, including Afrikaners, started visiting the ANC, much to the anger of the government, which threatened to withdraw their passports.
Thus, when the ANC was unbanned in 1990 it had without actually having been formally active in the country for about three decades amassed a large constituency. It absorbed the internal organisations aligned to it into its structures and gave birth to new ones. With this support and the dominant role it played during negotiations for a new political dispensation, the ANC was well placed to win the 1994 election. The ANC also portrayed itself as the saviour of the country.
The political crisis that engulfed South Africa in the early 1990s was closely linked to the loss of legitimacy of the state. The country was isolated internationally by economic, political, and cultural sanctions that had a negative impact on the economy and public morale, which dropped sharply due to the low-intensity civil war between the state and mass democratic movement. There also was a crisis within the ruling party. Influential whites urged the government and ANC to hold talks.
In one of its early policy documents, African Claims (1943), the ANC spelt out its vision for a future South Africa: freedom of the African people from all discriminatory laws, and their full participation in the government. Full political rights were to be the prerequisite for a just social and economic order (Walshe 1987).
The ANC produced another important, but far more radical, policy document in 1955, the Freedom Charter, which was adopted at the Congress of the People in Kliptown. This document became the Bible of the ANC. When asked to spell out their policy for a future South Africa, ANC spokespersons often referred to the Charter. Oliver Tambo, president of the movement in exile, stated that:
The Freedom Charter was a controversial document from its adoption. The government saw it as proclaiming communism, as it alluded to the nationalisation of property. Others saw it as promoting liberal democracy as it called for everyone to be given the right to vote. It also had strong social democratic principles. The Charter touched on important aspects of society which the ANC was concerned with, such as peoples' rights, citizenship, land, mineral wealth, housing, education, human rights, employment, recreation, etc. Among the most debated clauses was that which focussed on wealth and proclaimed that "the mineral wealth beneath the soil, the banks and monopoly industries shall be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole." This was interpreted by government and business to mean nationalisation of the means of production in accordance with socialist ideology.
However, diverse ideologies existed within the ANC throughout its existence, both within and outside the country. It was not wedded to a single ideology. Nationalists, communists, social and liberal democrats were all to be found within its ranks. The cement that held them together from 1955 onwards was the Freedom Charter that they all interpreted to suit their ideologies. The Charter was like an umbrella under which they all sheltered. Since its formation, Congress has always been accommodating of different views and pragmatic. It was prepared to forge alliances with organisations of diverse ideologies in pursuit of a common goal, hence its association with the communists.
The ANC was not a Marxist-oriented organisation despite the fact that it had communists within its ranks. It did not officially envisage a socialist transformation based on Marxist-Leninist philosophy for South Africa as happened with Frelimo in Mozambique. Its intention was not the total destruction of the existing capitalist system as occurred in Cuba, Mozambique, and North Vietnam.
The ANC did, however, pledge itself to improve the well being of blacks through free education, welfare, housing, and state subsidies. This was not based on any particular firm ideological position. In one of its election policy documents (ANC Ready to Govern, 1992: 1). Nelson Mandela said:
This obviously referred to black people, as the quality of life of whites was by far better than that of blacks.
The ANC inherited a country characterised by gross inequalities. The rich lived side by side with the poor but as complete strangers to one another. The ANC's major concern was to redress the imbalances created by decades of discriminatory legislation. It also had to transform minds that had become intractable, as well as change stereotypes in order to form a new society owing allegiance to a common political system.
Much as the ANC made valiant efforts to effect transformation and effect delivery of these policies to the people, it was aware that not enough was achieved. There was also concern from its constituency about the slow pace of delivery. The ANC had, at the outset, anticipated this situation and cautioned against high expectations. In ANC Ready to Govern (1992: 4) it stated that it was not promising to make all changes immediately as it faced many problems.
Nevertheless, the ANC was able to make some improvements in the lives of many people, particularly in the rural areas where it provided water, electricity, telephones, streets, and schools. In urban areas, it provided low cost housing.
Not having been able to satisfy the masses or implement fully its policies, it is now apparent that the ANC wants to effect far-reaching changes in the first decade of the new millennium. It wants to flex its muscle and is determined to pursue with more vigour its objectives. Before the 1999 election, ANC Secretary-General Khalema Motlanthe stated that they wanted an overwhelming mandate from the people to continue with the process of reconstruction and development, to pursue "with all the means at our disposal, the fundamental transformation of all institutions of the state" (Sowetan, 4 May 1988: 5).
|Building a new society|
One of the major challenges to confront the ANC was creating a single nation. The ANC found itself in a situation similar to that which confronted African leaders when they came to power after the demise of colonialism. There were to be found within these new states numerous ethnic groups. According to Legum (1985: 25), they often lacked a single national identity and were still only at the beginning of the process of integration into a new political system. Like these states, South Africa started a search for stability and nationhood when the ANC came to power.
There was a need for the creation of a political system that would demand of all the different groups a loyalty to the state above that of their traditional loyalties to their individual groups, clans, or regions. When the NP came to power in 1948, it baulked at the idea of forming a state- nation by bringing together the disparate groups and forging a society owing allegiance to a common state. Instead, it proceeded to form a nation-state with different groups not being members of a state-nation of South Africa. It went further and created tribal-states which were a sub-type of the nation state (Curtin 1966: 98). Different African ethnic groups were promoted to the status of a nation and the territories where they were residing became instant countries. Whites, on the other hand, occupied an undivided South Africa. In the post-1994 South Africa, both groups had to be integrated into one country after years of officially sanctioned separation.
Before South Africa went to the polls in 1994, Barber (1994: 70) posed the following questions that are pertinent to nation building:
Nation building and reconciliation became the predominant themes in the first five years of ANC rule. During his inauguration in 1994 as South Africa's first black president, Nelson Mandela stated: "we know it well that none of us acting alone can achieve success. We must therefore act together as a united people, for national reconciliation, for nation building, for the birth of a new world (United States Information Agency 1994: 7). In this connection, the Freedom Charter proclaimed that South Africa belonged to all the people who lived in it - black and white. With this clause, the ANC had in mind an open kind of nationalism as opposed to a closed kind in which the criteria for nation are based on factors such as common origins, blood ties, culture, race, and ancestral roots. This orthodox nationalism would have discouraged whites from forming a common nation with blacks. On the other hand, open nationalism sees a nation as comprised of people staying within the same territory regardless of their race and ethnic origins.
It was the intention of the new ANC rulers to create a common nationalism where all the people would identify themselves with a common state and owe allegiance to the political system and symbols such as flag, anthem and national holidays. According to Balibar (1996: 459), no nation possesses an ethnic base naturally, but rather, all states face problems of cohesion and must draw together disparate political, ideological, religious, ethnic, and racial interests in a process called nationalisation.
Whilst blacks had been optimistic about the formation of a new South Africa, some of them now have doubts about this occurring, as this letter from a reader of a popular black newspaper attest:
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, in the forefront of the promotion of reconciliation and chairperson of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, also voiced his concern at the attitude of whites towards reconciliation. He had earlier coined the phrase "Rainbow Nation" to refer to the diverse ethnic groups in South Africa. Later, in a book he wrote during the first five years of South Africa's new democracy, he chastised whites for their failure to grasp the hand of friendship extended by black people who had suffered the most during the apartheid era. He made an impassioned plea to whites to reciprocate the spirit of ubuntu and forgiveness shown by blacks (City Press, 3 October 1999: 7).
There is dissatisfaction among blacks that whites have not appreciated the messages and tireless efforts of Nelson Mandela and Bishop Tutu. Integration to form one political society has not yet taken place, as evidenced by a number of events discussed below. South Africa, according to President Thabo Mbeki still consists of two nations - one white and rich, the other black and poor.
On the other hand, some whites are piqued at the constant accusations levelled against them that they have not accepted the hand of friendship extended to them by blacks, are aloof, and do not want to embrace the new South Africa. They ask what is expected of them to show that they have accepted reconciliation. One white person reacted angrily to these accusations in a letter sent to the press (The Star 14 October 1999: 12):
The reader argues that not all whites should be bundled together with a minority of white oafs. Yet there is evidence, such as the above-mentioned letter to The Sowetan and the views of Archbishop Tutu, that blacks are increasingly showing their displeasure at the failure of whites in general to reconcile with blacks.
One example of this problem is in sport. It was hoped by the ANC that through sports the different groups would come closer together and the creation of a common team would help towards building a new nation. Throughout the apartheid years, blacks did not support the white Springbok sports teams, as they did not regard them as their representatives. Instead, they supported visiting teams. After the institution of the new political system, appeals were made by, among others President Mandela, that everybody should support South African national teams. Accordingly, when South African cricket and rugby teams took part in international games, blacks for the first time supported them. An undivided nation stood behind the rugby team when it won the World Cup in 1995. The triumphant team was named Amabokoboko (an Africanised version of Springboks).
However, the marriage between blacks and rugby to unite and support a South African team and assist in building a new nation floundered three years after that momentous occasion. Blacks were angered when Mandela was subpoenaed by Louis Luyt, boss of the South African Rugby Football Union (SARFU). This was seen as a deliberate humiliation of the president who had fought, amidst strong opposition by blacks, for the rugby team to retain the Springbok emblem which blacks regarded as a symbol of apartheid. On the other hand, some whites, particularly Afrikaners, interpreted a decision by the government to institute a commission of inquiry to investigate the affairs of SARFU as a challenge to their own group.
Today national sports teams in South Africa are still not yet fully integrated and remain predominantly white. Concerned about this situation, the then Minister of Sports and Recreation, Steve Tshwete, suggested that a quota should be applied. This caused an outcry among whites who argued that teams should only be selected on merit. Amid this opposition, the government considered imposing legislation to force integration of teams. Tshwete's successor as Minister, Ngconde Balfour, took a softer line than his predecessor and opposed legislating quotas for national teams. However, he emphasised the urgency of developmental programmes to afford blacks the opportunity of being considered for selection and in 1999 he stated that he expected to see transformation in the composition of national teams within one year (The Star, 20 September 1999: 2).
Others cultural symbols also exemplify these problems of national integration. A country's national anthem serves as a unifying factor, but South Africa's anthem has not proven so. Instead, it has indicated national divisions. Blacks are more comfortable with their former anthem, Nkosi Sikelele i'Africa, whilst the preference of many whites is Die Stem. Should not South Africa have a new unifying anthem and discard the present one, which identifies with the past?
National holidays are another problematic aspect of South African culture. Days of importance on South Africa's post-apartheid calendar, which should be celebrated by all, tend to be only observed by blacks. These include 27 April (to commemorate the day on which it could be said the country became independent) and 16 June (the day on which the new struggle against apartheid was kick-started). It is perhaps understandable that whites would not want to celebrate days that mark the end of a system that only benefited them.
A country's defence force can be a symbol of unity. The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) comprises soldiers from Umkhonto We Sizwe (the ANC's former army) and the Azanian People's Liberation Army of the PAC, and those from the previously white South African Defence Force (SADF). Much effort was put into integrating soldiers into one force. However little progress appears to have been achieved. The old SADF troops still look down upon the unconventional liberation movement soldiers while the latter still regard the former as their oppressors. This uneasy relationship was brought to the fore when a black soldier shot dead seven of his colleagues at a military base in 1999. After this incident, the Minister of Defence, Mosioa Lekota, promised to purge the SANDF of right-wing resistance to change. He stated that an inquiry would be instituted to probe problems of integration (The Star, 22 September 1999: 8).
Problems of integration also have been encountered in schools. South African schools can be seen as laboratories for racial harmony or conflict, a microcosm of society (Adam and Moodley, 1999: 18). When the ANC took over government, it desegregated state schools and created a single education department. Yet, the majority of black pupils still attend schools in black areas although those who can afford the higher fees are generally accepted at English-medium schools, particularly in urban areas. However, problems persist in rural areas where the medium of instruction is Afrikaans. For instance, black pupils were accepted at Afrikaans schools in Potgietersrust and Vryburg but were not taught in the same classrooms as whites. This caused a nation-wide political uproar as it was a contravention of clause 9(4) of the South African constitution which states that no person may unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on grounds such as race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, colour, culture, language, gender and birth.
One of the difficult tasks still facing the ANC is how to transform inherited state institutions. During the political negotiations between 1990-94, the ANC pioneered a resolution that came to be known as the "Sunset Clause." This provided for the retention of thousands of Afrikaner civil servants, sometimes referred to as the "Old Guard" and accused by the ANC of being opposed to transformation and sabotaging efforts to implement it. ANC Secretary-General Motlanthe commented that the government needed a civil service that is service oriented and loyal to the government (Sunday Times 18 April 1999.
In general, the ANC government is confronted with a dilemma in integrating society. It can force some institutions and structures to integrate but cannot legislate to make individuals mix. Whites cannot be forced against their will to reconcile with blacks and vice versa. Mixing should be spontaneous and voluntary.
|Legislation and transformation|
The foundation to a successful transformation of society lies with the economy. The South African economy is still controlled by local whites and by overseas whites with companies operating in the country. South Africa finds itself in a situation similar to that of Zimbabwe in 1985, five years after independence in 1980. The intentions of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) government to effect a radical transformation of the economy and society were frustrated by the fact that the economy remained essentially controlled by whites. For ZANU to implement socialism, it had to nationalise commerce and industry but the government lacked the funds to compensate those that owned the means of production and could not risk international condemnation and economic isolation by nationalising without such compensation.
In the Freedom Charter, the ANC had stated that industry and trade would be controlled - presumably by the state on behalf of the people - to assist in the well being of the people. After 1990, overseas and local industrialists exerted subtle pressure on the organisation to forego the idea of the nationalisation of property. It thus came as no surprise when Mandela revealed that the ANC was flexible on the economy. In 1991, he said that the ANC had no ideological commitment to the policy of nationalisation and would be prepared to consider other alternatives (The Star 21 November 1991). This was the first deviation from the Freedom Charter to which the ANC was committed during the liberation struggle.
The ANC in government has political power but lacks the economic muscle to make this power meaningful. It has introduced programmes aimed at transferring wealth from whites to blacks. This includes Black Economic Empowerment whereby blacks are given preference in securing tenders and in other business matters. A number of black-owned companies have been established and black entrepreneurs are buying into white companies. Some black companies have been listed on the stock exchange.
These measures have, however, not had the effect of transferring economic resources to a significant number of blacks. Only a minute percentage of blacks have been economically empowered. Moreover, there is no downward flow of wealth from the small stratum of rich blacks to the impoverished masses. Neither have government policies led to significant job creation. Some blacks argue that the masses will remain in dire poverty, squalor and misery as long as political power is not utilised to generate an expanding economy.
The likelihood of a redistribution of wealth from blacks to whites occurring is most unlikely. Much as the ANC talks about the need for wealth to be redistributed, it has not specified how this should occur. A suggestion that whites should pay for the sins of apartheid by making a monetary contribution drew angry responses from them. More generally, for any meaningful redistribution to occur the economy has to grow and employment needs to be created for the many thousands of unemployed blacks.
The ANC is conscious of the problem of unemployment and the negative effect this could have on the country. The government organised a Job Summit to discuss plans for job creation, whilst business, government officials, and ordinary individuals were requested to donate money towards a job creation fund.
The ANC recognises its weaknesses. After the second election of 1999, it decided to be pro-active in its attempt to improve the living conditions of the people. According to the Minister of Labour, Membathisi Mdladlana, inequalities cannot be remedied by a constitution that does not encourage positive discrimination and he argues that policies, programmes, and positive action designed to redress the imbalances of the past are needed (Sowetan 12 August 1999: 10).
Concerned about the slowness and opposition to transformation, the government started in earnest to implement legislation. Many employers only paid lip service to the non-discriminatory nature of the constitution and the need for them to consider affirmative action in their employment practises. Discrimination still prevailed in most private institutions. Some of the legislation passed to redress this situation included the Conditions of Basic Employment Act and the Employment Equity Act. The government also considered legislation to regulate the employment of domestic and farm workers, the most exploited of all South African workers.
The Conditions of Employment Act, passed in 1997, regulates the working conditions of employees. Previously the working conditions of some employees were not stipulated. They worked long hours without sufficient break. Others worked on weekends, public holidays and at night without extra remuneration. The government also considered introducing a minimum wage for domestic and farm workers, most of who are not unionised (Mail and Guardian, 10-16 September 1999: 37), and called for public submissions and comment on the issue. Presently domestic workers earn about R300 a month and farm labourers R400 a month. Most employers were not adhering to the Conditions of Basic Employment Act. The Minister of Labour warned that action would be taken against those who transgressed this act. He also warned farmers not to ill-treat their employees. He revealed that he had received 4 336 complaints of human rights abuses from farm workers between January and September 1999.
The Employment Equity Act was promulgated with the view of redressing years of discrimination in the work place. Although its focus will be on discrimination based on race, it will also look at discrimination against women, the disabled, and those infected with Aids. The Minister said the legacy of discrimination had left behind tremendous inequalities which revealed themselves in the labour market through such traits as the distribution of jobs, occupation and incomes mainly affecting black people, women and people with disabilities (Sowetan, 12 August 1999: 10).
The Employment Equity Act has two components. The first applies to all employees, and prohibits unfair discrimination on any arbitrary basis against an employee or an applicant for employment. The second part obliges medium to large companies to embark on affirmative action programmes to ensure that the demographic make-up of the workforce is substantially representative of the society in which it is situated. Enforcement of the Act has been considered, with penalties levied on companies not complying (The Star, `Workplace,' 18 August 199: 3).
The government has proposed a Bill that it hopes will assist in transforming attitudes among South Africans who use derogatory terms to refer to one another. The Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Bill will give victims redress against discrimination and racism, even of a verbal nature. It would be an offence to use words such as "kaffir," "boer", and "hotnot" to refer to people. Tribunals would be created to deal with cases of discrimination.
The ANC is not convinced of the impartiality of the judiciary. South Africa's judiciary has been white dominated. The people serving on it were appointees of the old apartheid regime. Court officials were accused of still being steeped in the previous ideology. The ANC has called for the restructuring of the judiciary and has started doing something about this. Blacks have been appointed as judges, magistrates, attorneys-general, and public prosecutors. However, in KwaZulu-Natal white judges opposed the application of a black judge to a senior post saying that he would not command respect, as he did not have enough experience. The then ANC Deputy President, Jacob Zuma, stated that the judicial system had failed to transform itself and was partly responsible for the country not moving towards complete transformation (The Star, 20 May 1998).
Opposition has been raised concerning the above-mentioned legislation. The Democratic Party (DP) has opposed affirmative action and the Employment Equity Bills. It claims affirmative action is immoral and that it is impractical to redress racial imbalances by taking steps that will allegedly merely entrench race consciousness. The vision for South Africa, it argues, should be the creation of an opportunity society in which the pursuit of happiness is made possible through ever expanding opportunities for all. The DP argues that it cannot support the Employment Equity Bill in its present form. The Bill, it claims, would encumber the small businessperson, re-racialise the work force, strain economic growth, have a negative impact on job creation, increase government interference in the economy, and provide a disincentive against private sector investment (DP Policy document). Fears also were expressed that the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Bill may violate the right to freedom of expression. In addition, employers of domestic and farm workers warned they would be forced to dismiss workers if a minimum wage was stipulated and enforced.
Blacks, on the other hand, generally favour legislation to redress the imbalances of the past. Mzwandile Khumalo wrote to The Star (26 October 1999: 9) that the Promotion for Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Bill was the right medicine to heal a sick society. He said there was a need for legislation to realise the goals of the ANC:
|ANC, transformation and democracy|
One of the very reasons for the formation of the ANC was "to give all the people of our country the chance to choose their own government." The ANC also stated in the first clause of the Freedom Charter that "The People shall govern." When the ANC was unbanned, it committed itself to establishing a new political system for the country that would end all forms of discrimination and recognise that all South Africans were equal. It reiterated its commitment to liberal democracy. However, because of its association with authoritarian regimes in Africa, the Soviet Bloc and its prosecution of the armed struggle, fears were raised that if elected to power, the ANC would not adhere to liberal democracy and would instead turn South Africa into a single-party state. In these arguments, Africa was used as an example of what could easily occur in South Africa. Nationalist leaders in various African countries had opposed colonial rule on the basis that it was undemocratic and pledged that once elected they would institute democratic rule. However, authoritarian rule of a civilian or military type became the norm rather than the exception in these countries.
There were concerns in South Africa that should the ANC win the first election with a two-thirds majority it would write the constitution on its own and exclude other parties. This would give it an unfettered right to do as it pleased in pursuance of its goals. Assurances that this would not happen were often dismissed. Concerns also were raised about the ANC's observance of democracy. Bernstein (1999: 120) argued that whilst the ANC championed democracy for South Africa the constraints of exile led it to operate in undemocratic ways. Laurence (1999: 31) points out that the ANC does not really recognise the legitimacy of opposition parties. It instead sees them as reactionary forces seeking to protect vital interest by trying to thwart the post-apartheid transformation of South Africa.
The ANC's desire to tackle the issue of transformation head-on has set it on a collision course with the DP about democracy. The DP, which became the official opposition party after the second election, has made the observance of democracy by government as one of its major tasks. In parliament DP members, some with considerable experience gained during the apartheid era, are very active and have criticised the ANC who have responded by shouting them down.
The ANC perceives the DP as being unsympathetic to both the plight of the poor masses and the difficulty of the government to improve their living conditions. The DP has been labelled as unpatriotic by the ANC. For its part, the DP turned down a suggestion that opposition parties should join the government in one capacity or another. This was an unthinkable proposition for the DP, which has a different outlook than the ANC on a range of issues. For example, the DP opposes the ANC's fraternising with radical leaders such as Fidel Castro of Cuba, Muammar Gaddafi of Libya and Yasser Arafat of Palestine.
When the second five-year term of parliament started in June 1999, the ANC as the ruling party sought to marginalise the DP by denying it the chairing of portfolio committees. In turn, the DP accused the ANC of not respecting parliamentary democracy and of being intolerant of the opposition (Sunday Times, 15 August 1999: 2). Tony Yengeni, ANC Chief Whip in parliament, retorted that in the past, portfolio committees had been hindered on matters of transformation when opposition parties had chaired them. Committee chairpersons, he argued, must ensure that the ANC perspective prevails for it had received an overwhelming mandate from the electorate to speed up transformation and it was therefore important to utilise people who shared that goal (Sunday Times, 15 August 1999: 2). To the ANC, the issue of producing results for blacks is a primary concern to which it is prepared to take whatever measures are necessary even if they come close to being undemocratic. Yengeni stated that as long as opposition parties did not concern themselves with the aspirations of black people they would continue to marginalise themselves: an opposition cannot only criticise - it must also be seen as wanting to uplift the people.
The ANC's view of democracy in the new South Africa is similar to that of African leaders after independence when they moved away from multi-party democracy and argued in favour of the one-party system. They state that new states in their formative stages of becoming nation-states during a period of rapid modernisation and in urgent need of economic growth, demand single-party rule. Accordingly, one-party governments will allow for as large an element of democracy as is thought will not obstruct the objectives of national unity and economic growth (Legum, 1990: 131). The ANC is not per se against opposition parties exercising their right to differ with it but is against criticism that is negative and detrimental to the interests of the black masses.
However, the International Democrat Union, formed to encourage respect for democratic rule, is concerned about the ANC's observance of democracy. It has warned that South Africa's desire to speed up delivery for the disadvantaged people was placing its democracy at risk (Sowetan, 20 August 1999: 5). A stalwart of liberal democratic politics, Helen Suzman, sounded a warning that a one-party state may come into being "for unless the constitution is fully implemented both in spirit and letter this danger is ever present" (The Star, 23 August 1999: 9). She declared that people should not only rely on a constitution, but that its implementation should be closely monitored, otherwise the danger exists of South Africa sharing the fate that has overtaken so many other African countries. The DP is opposed to becoming a " pale imitation" of the ruling party. Its leader, Tony Leon, has stated that the consequences of ANC actions would turn South Africa into a dominant party state. The DP wants to adhere to the true spirit of liberal democratic parliamentary debate. A DP member, Professor George Devinish, commented (The Star, 24 October 1999: 7):
South Africa's constitution provides safeguards against the abuse of power through a Bill of Rights, Constitutional Court, Human Rights Commission, Public Protector and Public Service Commission. To what extent would these bodies prevent the ANC from undermining the constitution and becoming illiberal in its quest to speed up transformation? This is a critical challenge facing the ANC. Lane and Erickson (1997: 2) comment that:
The last sentence is significant. The actions of institutions determine the ANC's adherence to democracy. Many political commentators have pointed at the utterances, actions and appointments made by the ANC as an indication of a threat to South Africa's democracy. The constitution may guarantee the independence of the judiciary, but if senior members of the ruling party constantly attack this institution, then it casts doubt about the observance of democracy. The same goes for the media, which has come under attack by the ANC. Laurence (1999: 31) mentions the following court cases where judges were at the receiving end of the ANC following judgements which went against the organisation:
. Jan Hugo, who acquitted former Defence Minister Magnus Malan ;
. Jan Combrink, who acquitted warlord Sifiso Nkabinde;
. William de Villiers, who upheld an application by former rugby boss, Louis Luyt to set aside President Mandela's appointment of a commission of inquiry into SARFU.
An attempt was made to summon a judge who handed out what was generally considered a light sentence in a rape case to parliament to explain the rational behind his decision. This led to criticism by judges, including the Chief Justice of the Appeal Court and the president of the Constitutional Court, who stated that this amounted to legislative interference with the judiciary's independence. It called into question, they added, South Africa's constitutional democracy. Chapter 8(3) of the constitution states that no person or organ of state may interfere with the functioning of the courts (The Star, 14 October 1999: 1-2).
The ANC's appointment of its own people to important institutions, such as senior positions in parastatals, has been another cause of disagreement. This has been viewed as another way of undermining democracy. There is also concern that the ANC wants to curtail the powers of independent bodies such as the Public Protector and the Independent Electoral Commission (Laurence 1999: 30).
Was five years a sufficient period for the ANC to achieve its objectives of transforming society and effecting delivery for its black constituency? The ANC was cautious during the first five years of its rule as it was still consolidating its position. Now having won the second election and realising that some elements within South African society are not keen on transformation, it has decided to go on the offensive to make things happen. There has been resistance to transformation. In some instances, efforts at transformation have been sabotaged. In an editorial after the killing of white soldiers by their black colleague at Tempe military base, The Sowetan (23 September 1999: 8) wrote:
It was not going to be easy for the ANC to be able to introduce a new culture in South Africa without opposition. Booth (1996: 460) explains the ANC's dilemma thus:
During the next five years, the ANC will have to strike a balance between satisfying the expectations of revolution and those of democracy. Blacks want their expectations to be satisfied while whites want it to keep to its promise of democratic rule.
Events during the past five years of ANC rule cannot be compared with what occurred in African countries where overnight legislation was passed declaring opposition parties illegal and where civil liberties were trampled upon. The rule of law still pertains in South Africa. The ANC has always played it by the rule although at times it has tended to behave undemocratically and has been accused of being arrogant and intolerant to criticism.
The need for the ANC to speed up transformation and delivery does not mean that this should be done at the expense of democracy. Whatever legislation is passed should not impinge on the constitutional rights of the people. Abuse of power could easily happen if the need for transformation is seen as paramount to the neglect of everything else. The ANC will have to police itself to ensure that it does not ride roughshod over society in the name of transformation.
The ANC will have to acknowledge the important role of the opposition in ensuring that democratic rule is observed. The opposition has played an important role in exposing corruption at both provincial and national government levels. Given its dominance in parliament the ANC does not have to resort to undemocratic methods to have its views prevail. It can introduce legislation without fear of it being defeated. Besides, it has the support of the other black parties in parliament, such as the PAC and the IFP, who also want a better deal for blacks.
Books and articles
Adam, H. and Moodley, K. "Racial interaction. Ten apartheid legacies" Indicator South Africa. vol. 16 (2). Winter 1999, pp.15-19.
ANC Ready to govern. An introduction to the ANC's policy guidelines. Learn and Teach Publications: Johannesburg, 1992.
Barber, J. "South Africa: the search for identity" International Affairs. vol. 70 (1). January 1994, pp.67-82.
Bernstein, A. Policy-making in a new democracy. South Africa's challenges for the 21st century Johannesburg: CDE publications, 1999.
Booth, D. "Mandela and Amabokoboko: the political and linguistic nationalisation of South Africa" Journal of Modern African Studies. vol. 34 (3). 1996. pp.459-477.
Curtin, P."Nationalism in Africa, 1945-1966" The Review of Politics. 28. 1966, pp.143-153.
Democratic Party policy document in homepage. https://www.dp.org.za/policy.asp?policy=642.
Giliomee, H. "South Africa's emerging dominant-party regime" Journal of Democracy. vol. 9 (4). October1998, pp.128-142.
Laurence, P. "Democracy or control? South Africa after the election" Indicator South Africa. vol. 16 (2). Winter 1999, pp.29-34.
Mothlabi, M. The theory and practice of Black resistance to apartheid. Johannesburg: Skotaville, 1984
Pempel, T.J. 1990. Uncommon democracies: The one-party dominant regimes. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press.
United States Information Agency, 1997.
Walshe, P. The rise of African nationalism in South Africa: the African National Congress 1912-1951.[First published 1970]. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987.
Welsh D. Opposition or coalition? Implications for the consolidation of democracy in South Africa.
City Press. 3 October 1999. Tutu warns whites about forgiveness.
Sowetan. 17 September 1999. Transformation in SA is too slow.
Mail and Guardian. 10-16 September 1999. Benefits of wage law could be marginal.
Sowetan. 20 September 1999. Democrat Union warns ANC.
Sowetan. 12 August 1999. New Act benefits all.
Sowetan. 4 May 1999. ANC wants unfettered power - NP.
Sowetan. September 1999. We must learn from the Tempe incident.
Sunday Times. 18 April 1999. ANC to target watchdog bodies.
Sunday Times. 15 August 1999. DP says ANC has pulled its teeth.
The Star. 23 August 1999. Constitution must be implemented in letter and spirit.
The Star. 14 October 1999. Dubious logic, outright racism from 2 writers.
The Star. 20, May 1999. Judging the judges.
The Star. 20 August 1999. Pick national teams on merit, not quotas, says minister.
The Star. 14 October 1999. Top judges warn parliament.
The Star, 22 September 1999. Tempe: Lekota to clean up SANDF.
The Star. 26 October 1999. Medicine to heal sick society.
The Star. 14 October 1999. Discrimination bill may violate right to freedom of expression.
The Star, 14 October, 1999. Parliament and the courts: what the constitution says.
Phil Mtimkulu is a PhD candidate. He is teaching African Politics in the Department of Political Sciences at the University of South Africa. His main research interest are democratisation in Africa, one-party dominance and political transition in South Africa.
|Paper presented at the African Studies Association of Australasia & the Pacific 22nd Annual & International Conference (Perth, 1999)|
New African Perspectives: Africa, Australasia, & the Wider World at the end of the twentieth century