Monday 22 September 2008

Is a split in the ANC now inevitable?

As matters came to head in a tumultuous weekend in South Africa which culminated in Thabo Mbeki’s resignation as State President of South Africa, a little side story but one that’s sure to gain prominence in coming days is the suggestion that some staunch Mbeki supporters may break away from the ANC and perhaps form a new party that will contest the general election in April 2009. This would be quite a staggering, but I suppose, inevitable outcome of the internecine feuding that can be traced back to even before Mbeki fired Jacob Zuma, his then deputy in 2005 due to allegations of corruption. Now ANC leader, Zuma has seemingly meted out his revenge but one suspects Mbeki’s stepping down is only the beginning of interesting and uncertain times ahead, especially if this breakaway threat comes to fruition. With tribal politics never far-off in African politics, the fact that Zuma is a Zulu (Nelson Mandela and Mbeki are both Xhosas) means that if Mbeki supporters do indeed break-away from the ANC, the split could most likely be along tribal lines and this would be a recipe for disaster. On the other hand, perhaps a break-up of the ANC would not be such a bad thing after all, seeing as they have had more than a two-thirds majority in parliament since 1994 and therefore in effect can do as they please constitutionally, if they were so inclined. These latest events and other tell-tale signs that South Africa may unfortunately tread the path of other African countries where liberation war movements became the predominant and dictatorial governing parties show that the country needs a two (major) party system. The current official opposition, the Democratic Alliance, which is  largely seen as a white and elitist party by the majority black South Africans has a truly remarkable 246 seats less than the ANC, in what is a 400 seat National Assembly. With time, the fervour for the ANC will diminish somewhat and perhaps South Africa will be better for it. Looking at the events of the last few days, whereby a powerful political party has literally held a country to ransom (it can be argued) one can see why it would not be a bad thing at all.

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