Inside Story

Can the ANC fix South Africa's problems?

We ask how, if at all, the ruling party can solve prevailing socio-economic problems given its own internal divisions.
Last Modified: 17 Dec 2012 09:51

South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC) is holding a conference in Bloemfontein, the city where it was founded 100 years ago, to pick its next leader.

The meeting is seen as an opportunity for the ANC to dispel accusations of corruption and infighting, and comes at a time when the movement is struggling to regain its moral high ground.

"The ANC is not divided as people project it. There are people in the ANC who hold different opinions on many issues and they articulate them differently. There are different preferences as to who should lead the ANC .... [And] the issues of corruption against Zuma, him refusing to go to court are unfounded."

- Keith Khoza, the head of communications for the ANC

Jacob Zuma, the current head of the ANC and South African president, is being challenged by his deputy, Kgalema Motlanthe.

Zuma remains the favourite heading into the conference after winning the nominations in most provincial ANC polls. He came to power at the last ANC conference in 2007, when he ran against and defeated then president, Thabo Mbeki.

His populist persona differed from Mbeki's more remote and academic style. Zuma styled himself as a champion of the poor, and his supporters called him the 'people's president'.

He has wide support among the Zulus, South Africa's largest ethnic group, as well as from a loyal cadre of government and party officials.

But he has been criticised for his failure to fix South Africa's faltering economy, and has been plagued by allegations of nepotism and corruption, including using millions of tax dollars to renovate his home.

Many became disenchanted with Zuma, who was sacked as deputy president in 2005 by Mbeki, after he was implicated in the corruption trial of a close friend and financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, over a 1999 arms deal.

"Our party in parliament recently put in a motion of no-confidence against Zuma .… We live in a society that is the most unequal in the world, the levels of poverty have deepened, we have a heightened number of unemployment ....  Quite frankly, South Africa cannot afford another term of Zuma."

- Mmusi Maimane, the spokesperson for the opposition Democratic Alliance

He also faced accusations by the media of being unable to manage his personal finances and of relying on friends and colleagues to bail him out, including, allegedly, Nelson Mandela himself.

Critics say Zuma mishandled the miners' strike earlier this year that turned violent, with the death of 46 platinum mine workers leading to labour unrest elsewhere in the country.

A family friend also accused the South African leader of raping her, but he was acquitted of the charge in 2006.

So, can the ANC solve South Africa's problems? Inside Story discusses the future of South Africa's ruling party in light of the deepening divisions within the movement.

For the discussion presenter Dareen Abughaida is joined by guests: Keith Khoza, the head of communications for the African National Congress; Mmusi Maimane, the spokesperson for the opposition Democratic Alliance, and Martin Plaut, a fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies at the University of London, and an expert on South Africa, the Horn of Africa and Sudan.

"Jacob Zuma has had 700 different allegations of corruption hanging over him for nearly a decade now, over the arms deal that he allegedly had a part in. He has never allowed this to come to court .... At the same time he says 'Well, I've never been found guilty', well of course he's never been found guilty, he's tried very hard to make sure that he's never in court."

Martin Plaut, from the Institute of Commonwealth Studies


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