South Africa’s kleptocracy: the end is nigh for ANC?


As South Africa’s labor unions prepare mass protests against state capture and corruption, the country’s troubled democracy faces the prospect of “more kleptocracy, more division, fewer reforms and a path of stagnation,” analysts suggest.

The fall of the revered African National Congress once looked impossible. The party of Nelson Mandela embodied the aspirations of a black majority that had been systematically brutalized and impoverished under the apartheid system, notes analyst David Pilling. In 1994, after the fall of apartheid, as ruling party the ANC would transform the lives of the black majority and duly be rewarded with eternal power. Instead, the party that once commanded admiration around the world now looks like a dying force. It has failed on two counts, he writes for The Financial Times:

First, barring a slim coterie of black middle class, it has failed to transform the lives of the black majority it purports to represent. True, it has redistributed income through social payments and improved access to water, electricity and housing. Yet, after 23 years, economic apartheid lives on. The Gini coefficient, which measures inequality, has barely budged. Wealthy South Africans (mainly white) live in to-die-for suburbs; poor South Africans (almost exclusively black) in to-die-in townships. The ANC has spectacularly failed to lift educational standards, the most sustainable route to black mobility.

Second, under Mr Zuma, the ANC has become a machine, not for sensible policymaking but for lavish self-enrichment. The top ANC cadres drive flash cars and live in fancy houses. Increasingly that is the raison d’être for joining the party of Oliver Tambo and Ahmed Kathrada. Billions are stolen each year through the award of bloated contracts to ANC “donors” or through outright theft. President Zuma, convicted of spending millions of rand of state funds on his own ranch, faces a further 783 charges of graft, fraud and money-laundering.

Political scientist Prince Mashele calls it the “criminalization” of the party. In The Fall of the ANC, which he co-authored with Mzukisi Qobo, he writes: “The real ideology of the ANC is anti-development. Its reason for existence is no longer that of changing the social conditions of the majority, but rather to enrich the few.”

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