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Tensões e divisões no ANC

A hegemonia do ANC sobre a política sul-africana ameaça desmoronar-se, num horizonte previsível, devido a tensões e divisões no interior do partido que realmente sempre foi mais uma “frente” do que um partido homogéneo. Como analisa a Stratfor, as componentes mais radicais do ANC – Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) e African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL)  –  estão em oposição clara às políticas económicas do governo e da equipa dirigente do ANC, apesar de não terem ainda um candidato que ameace o líder Jacob Zuma. A África do Sul tem pela frente anos de tempestade e corre o risco de se tornar um novo Zimbabwé.

Rifts Challenge South Africa’s Ruling Party

August 4, 2011 | 1150 GMT

STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP/Getty Images| South African President Jacob Zuma in Johannesburg on July 15 Read more: Rifts Challenge South Africa's Ruling Party | STRATFOR


Divisions among the major blocs that form South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) have become more pronounced as the party approaches its 2012 leadership conference. The ANC has held power in the country since the 1994 end of apartheid, the struggle against which served as a unifying cause for the party’s disparate elements. With that common goal achieved, growing rifts between the groups, which include the ANC proper, the Congress of South African Trade Unions, and the South African Communist Party, should not be unexpected. Though these divisions could pose a long-term challenge, given the party’s dominance of the country’s politics, no serious candidate has come forward to challenge South African President Jacob Zuma for party leadership, and the president maintains enough support among the alliance members that he will likely proceed to re-election to party leadership in 2012 and the presidency in 2014.




As South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) prepares for the December 2012 leadership convention in Mangaung that will determine the party’s next nominee for the presidency, current President Jacob Zuma struggles with a number of intra-party tensions that have threatened the ANC’s ability to govern effectively. Strikes for higher wages led by member groups of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) have affected business in a number of sectors. Also, calls by the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) — another key group under the ANC banner — to nationalize industries and criticize purported efforts to undermine black South African advancement have made potential outside investors in the country wary.

No single allied faction is strong enough to control the party, and the ANC is unlikely to split apart. The party holds a commanding position in South African politics due to its support from the vast majority of black South Africans, who are 80 percent of the country’s population, and its three main factions, especially the South African Communist Party (SACP), understand they would have much to lose if the alliance cracked. The faction that holds the upper hand will have a strong influence on whom is chosen to lead the party in 2012, and thus likely the country, when national elections are held in 2014. Despite the increasing tensions, no credible candidate has come forward to challenge Zuma for party leadership, and the president maintains enough support in this diverse group of alliance members that he will likely proceed to re-election and the continuation of an overall centrist policy orientation.

The ANC’s Divisions

The growing rifts within the party should not come as a surprise. The ANC is better thought of as a coalition of parties than as a single unified group, with the three main blocs, known as the Tripartite Alliance, being the ANC proper, COSATU and SACP, that latter two fielding candidates through the ANC. Under various names, the ANC has been around for most of South Africa’s modern history, formed in 1912 at the beginning of the struggle against racial discrimination (which became known as apartheid under the National Party when it came to power in 1948). During the ensuing decades it possessed a unity of purpose that made it easier to subordinate each constituent group’s interests to the larger struggle against white minority rule. Having achieved that objective in 1994, self-interest among these groups has become more difficult to contain in the last decade and a half.

Among the most powerful groups represented within the ANC is COSATU, the country’s largest trade union federation, which claims more than 1.8 million members. Recent weeks have seen the beginning of South Africa’s so-called “strike season,” an annual mid-year period when unions enter wage and benefits negotiations with employers that often lead to strikes and other disruptions to business. Factory activity in July fell to its lowest level in two years, and strikes have already taken place in a number of sectors, particularly coal, gold, and diamond mining (one five-day strike by 100,000 gold miners ended by an agreement Aug. 2 cost the companies AngloGold, Gold Fields and Harmony as much as $25 million per day). Strikes have also hit the energy retail sector, with supplies to gasoline stations in the Gauteng capital province being interrupted, as well as manufacturing and chemical industries.

South African workers’ wages have struggled to keep pace with the cost of living. Perceived insufficient protections for labor (which is concerned with issues like the increased use of temporary laborers by companies), combined with South Africa’s vast wealth disparity, have led to an erosion of support for the ANC among union workers. (The wealth disparity is particularly pronounced between blacks and whites, but is also an issue between blacks and those who have benefited from government empowerment schemes. Critics say the schemes have not translated into widespread socioeconomic improvements.)

Organized labor — that is, COSATU — is a key voting bloc and one useful for the party’s voter turnout operations. A decline in union backing could be problematic for Zuma’s re-election effort, so the president is attempting to reach an accommodation with other parts of the ANC to compensate for any potential loss.

Alternatives for Zuma

One option is the ANCYL, the youth wing of the party. Zuma and his supporters have used the ANCYL to mobilize support since 2007, when it opposed then-President Thabo Mbeki’s third-term ambitions. However, this group poses challenges of its own. Its leader, Julius Malema, has been known to issue statements considered reckless, such as calling for the nationalization of mines and industries, for “regime change” in Botswana, or making inflammatory, racially divisive statements, an extremely sensitive issue in South Africa. Despite this, Malema has merely been publicly rebuked by party leadership (such as on Aug. 2, after his description of Botswana as a “puppet regime” and a “footstool of imperialism”), not otherwise disciplined or forced out of office, which has led to speculation that he may have incriminating information on party leaders, perhaps even the president, that makes them reluctant to penalize him. It is unclear who within the ANC backs Malema, though as leader of the ANCYL he retains a great deal of political influence, and Malema clearly wants to use that influence to be a kingmaker within the party.

Malema may yet be disciplined, though. The South African Police Service’s Directorate of Priority Crime Investigation, known as the Hawks, have reportedly started a preliminary investigation into Malema for allegations of abuse of a trust fund the Youth League president supervises. The use of corruption investigations has often been a tool by South African politicians to attack their political enemies, and a corruption conviction may be a way to rein in Malema. Malema is not the only one receiving corruption-related attention; the Hawks may also reopen an investigation of corruption surrounding South Africa’s arms acquisition package that goes back to the late 1990s. Currently, the focus on this possible investigation is on allegations of payments to Fana Hlongwana, a former adviser to then-Defense Minister Johannes Modise regarding South Africa’s National Industrial Participation program intended to generate foreign investment in South African industry to offset South African purchases of European-manufactured arms (such as Saab Gripen fighter jets, BAE Hawk trainer jets and German frigates and submarines). This arms deal scandal has been widely known for years and no prima facie evidence of a crime was ever proven, but its reopening could be used to undermine Zuma, who was fired from his position as South African deputy president in 2005 by then-President Mbeki because of allegations of Zuma’s involvement in the arms deal (though it was widely viewed as Mbeki attempting to remove Zuma as a political rival). It is too early to tell whether these two investigations will lead to any serious consequences in party hierarchy, but their timing and implication involving two of the ANC’s most dominant personalities can mean navigating room within the ANC party is opening up.

As president of the country and head of the ANC, Zuma has opted for a strategy of conciliation between the factions in the party, which were united in supporting him against Mbeki in the 2007 party leadership contest. He has been reluctant, however, to align himself too closely with any one faction, in part because he fears rivals emerging from within other factions. This has led to criticism that he has failed to execute a strong policy preference, but Zuma’s accommodative approach has led to more pragmatic policies than might be seen under a different leader.

No serious rival to Zuma has emerged yet, but the treads of disunity mean this cannot be ruled out. Zuma sees the fraying within the party, and is playing a game for time — maintaining his alliance options so as to ensure he bests any other rival to again win the party’s leadership contest in 2012 and thus likely another term as president in the 2014 national elections, continuing the country’s overall centrist policy direction. Given the ANC’s preponderance in South African politics, the increasing tension between its factions does pose a significant long-term problem, but in the short term, and surely through the 2014 elections, the ANC will maintain its alliance, driven by the self-interest of its partners who know they have much more to lose politically should they break and form independent political parties.
Read more: Rifts Challenge South Africa’s Ruling Party | STRATFOR

“This report is republished with permission of STRATFOR

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