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ANC in crisis: South Africa’s governing party is fighting to stay relevant - 5 essential reads

A woman wearing pants uses sign language to interpretes a speech by a man wearing a leather jacket speaking at a podium to her left.
President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses African National Congress members in Johannesburg in July. Phill Magakoe/AFP via Getty Images

South Africa’s governing party, the African National Congress (ANC), is in a crisis. Having dominated the country’s politics since democracy in 1994, it has been losing voter support in the last three national elections. Since the 2016 local elections, the party has also been losing some of its strongholds.

Factionalism, association with corruption and poor governance have been its undoing. Some pundits are predicting that its 55th national elective conference will be the last to capture the national imagination, and that it is doomed to have less influence after the 2024 national elections. Talk is also rife that the party faces an existential threat. We bring you five essential reads on the state of the ANC.


Keith Gottschalk shares insights from a book that sets out how the ANC lost the battle against corruption – within its ranks and in the government it leads.


Read more: Corruption in South Africa: new book sets out how ruling ANC lost the battle


On the debilitating factionalism, Roger Southall puts the spotlight on the motley grouping within the party opposed to Ramaphosa. The so-called “radical economic transformation (RET)” faction opposes Ramaphosa at almost every turn and wants to topple him. The faction is “destined to remain a powerful bloc” within the ANC, Southall argues, constraining Ramaphosa’s leadership and his project to fix the economy and promote clean governance.


Read more: What is RET and what does it want? The Radical Economic Transformation faction in South Africa explained


The ANC has become such an integral part of South Africa’s political landscape that thinking of life without the party is something akin to heresy. Many can’t imagine such a future, given its long history and continued dominance. But, in his second article, Southall shows that the existential threat facing the party is no idle talk. He shares his insights on a recent remark by former president Kgalema Motlanthe, warning of the ANC’s imminent demise.


Read more: Former South African president predicts the end of the ruling party: history is on his side


Relatedly, Christopher Isike shares his insights from a book which predicts that the ANC’s electoral dominance will come to an end in either the 2024 or 2029 national elections. The book argues that the party’s expected poor showing provides new opportunities for political reform and development in the country.


Read more: Book predicts ANC’s last decade of political dominance in South Africa


Whatever the outcome of the ANC conference, it will have a bearing on the country which it still runs. Will the leaders the delegates choose be fit for the job of getting the country out of its current socio-economic crises? These include high unemployment, poverty, inequality and crime. Chris Jones weighs in on the recent gloomy comments by former president Thabo Mbeki. He said the ANC under Ramaphosa had no plan to address the country’s pressing problems.


Read more: South Africa is trapped again: what kind of leaders can set the country free


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