Academic journal article The Polish Quarterly of International Affairs

South African Politics after the Mangaung Conference

Academic journal article The Polish Quarterly of International Affairs

South African Politics after the Mangaung Conference

Article excerpt


The aim of this paper is to evaluate two events that will determine the course of South African politics for the coming five years. These are the African National Congress' (ANC) 53rd national conference in Mangaung and the 2014 general election. The paper will also deliver a perspective on the economic and foreign policy outlook for South Africa.

This article has a qualitative character, and the analysis is rooted in political realism, in which the self-interest of individuals is the deciding factor. In this study, attention is placed on the impact of factional tensions within the ANC and changes in the political landscape of South Africa.

The motivation for this research is the importance of the ANC in relation to domestic South African politics, foreign and economic policy. The party of Nelson Mandela has won all elections in South Africa since the end of Apartheid in 1994, including the 2014 general election. The ANC is a key player on South Africa's political scene and is a respected and influential agent on the African continent. South Africa is the second biggest and the most advanced economy in Africa. It enjoys substantial diplomatic clout and is considered the leading voice in the African Union and among developing countries. It is also a member of BRICS, an informal club of leading developing economies.

The key results of my research are as follows. The ANC conference in Mangaung determined, a year before the general election, the president and deputy president of South Africa. This also holds true for previous ANC conferences. The ANC is currently divided into two groups. The first group, led by the president, Jacob Zuma, has the support of roughly three quarters of the party members. The key interest of this group is the well-being of the South African business class, and key objective is to sustain a favourable business climate in South Africa, both for domestic and foreign entrepreneurs and investors. The cost is alienating voters who are sympathetic to nationalistic rhetoric both in domestic politics and in foreign and economic policy. The second group, led by the former deputy president, Kgalema Motlanthe, has the support of roughly one quarter of the ANC members. The key interest of this group is the dominance of the ANC in South African politics. The key objective is to keep the widest possible support base among voters. The cost is accepting nationalistic rhetoric in domestic politics and engaging in populism-driven foreign and economic policy. Both factions use the ANC in an instrumental manner. Zuma's group uses the ANC as a tool to secure the interests of the South African business class. Motlanthe's faction perceives the ANC as a platform for career and personal advancement. Division within the ANC is unlikely. The fraction led by Motlanthe will not risk destruction of the ANC. The risk of either entering a political vacuum, as happened to the Congress of the People (COPE), another off-shoot of the ANC, or of sharing power with one of the opposition parties, are efficient deterrents. Domestic politics are more fragmented and polarised after the Mangaung conference. This is a result of the ANC abandoning nationalistic rhetoric, on which a new political outfit, the Economic Freedom Fighters, capitalised and entered South African politics as the third party in parliament. The main opposition party, the progressive Democratic Alliance, won more seats in the 2014 election than in previous elections. Despite the advances made by the opposition parties, the supremacy of the ANC in South African politics is unequivocal. South African economic policy will be directed towards business and foreign investors. Without a major positive change in the dynamics of the global economy, the export-reliant South Africa can expect slow economic growth. Foreign policy will drift away from the "African solutions for African affairs" paradigm towards limited involvement.

This study is structured in the following way. …

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