• Simon Glendinning

    What worries me in SA today is the hesitancy shown both by the ANC leadership and their prominent supporters for the formation of what in the UK is called a “loyal opposition”. The position among SA elites seems to be that the only thing you need to do is cultivate ‘self-criticism’. But there are really no examples in the history of the world of an effectively one-party-state being able to generate that kind of internal pluralism. An internal, critical debate does not have to take place within one party – indeed everything suggests that such a condition prevents it.

  • Michael May

    Interesting point Simon. I imagine it’s difficult to forge an alternative when your challenging a ruling party that is so intimately connected to the end of Apartheid.

  • Steve Levitsky

    South Africa is really distinctive in that it combines a founding or liberation party with democracy. When a well-organized mass party leads a successful anti-colonial or liberation movement, it usually earns a degree of popular legitimacy and support that make it unbeatable–for awhile–at the polls. Most successful liberation movements end up establishing hegemonic regimes (e.g., Zimbabwe). Only in a few cases have regimes remained democratic. The closest historical comparison to South Africa is post-colonial India under the Indian National Congress. Another somewhat comparable case is Israel under its founding generation in the 1950s and 60s. In both of these cases, it took a solid 25-30 years for the founding party’s hegemony to erode. In South Africa, it’s been “only” 18 years. Plus, for all the talk of corruption and selling out, the ANC has governed reasonably well–growth rates have been pretty solid. Finally, opposition party-building in South Africa is made more difficult by the race question. My guess is that South Africa will ultimately follow a path somewhat similar to that of India, with the ANC’s electoral dominance slowly eroding and the regime gradually becoming more competitive. But it could easily be another 10-20 years before the ANC loses power.

    • Michael May

      Thanks for your comment Steve. It will be interesting to see how South African democracy matures, and what issues will finally cause a viable alternative to emerge.