African National Congress

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African National Congress
PresidentCyril Ramaphosa
ChairpersonGwede Mantashe
PresidiumNational Executive Committee
SpokespersonPule Mabe
Deputy PresidentDavid Mabuza
Deputy Secretary GeneralJessie Duarte
Treasurer GeneralPaul Mashatile
FoundersJohn Langalibalele Dube
Pixley ka Isaka Seme
Sol Plaatje
Founded8 January 1912; 110 years ago (1912-01-08)
Legalised3 February 1990; 31 years ago (1990-02-03)
HeadquartersLuthuli House
54 Sauer Street
NewspaperANC Today
Youth wingANC Youth League
Women's wingANC Women's League
Veteran's LeagueANC Veterans League
Paramilitary winguMkhonto we Sizwe (until 1994)
Membership (2015)769,000[1]
IdeologyAfrican nationalism
Social democracy
Political positionCentre-left[2]
National affiliationTripartite Alliance
International affiliationSocialist International[3]
African affiliationFormer Liberation Movements of Southern Africa
ColoursBlack, Green and Gold
SloganSouth Africa's National Liberation Movement
"Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika"
"Lord Bless Africa"
National Assembly seats
230 / 400
NCOP seats
54 / 90
Control of NCOP delegations
8 / 9
Pan-African Parliament
3 / 5
(South African seats)
Provincial Legislatures
255 / 430
City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality (council)
121 / 270
Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality (council)
50 / 120
City of Cape Town (council)
57 / 231
Party flag
Flag of the African National Congress.svg
Website Edit this at Wikidata
The South African Native National Congress delegation to England, June 1914. Left to right: Thomas Mtobi Mapikela, Rev Walter Rubusana, Rev John Dube, Saul Msane, and Sol Plaatje

The African National Congress (ANC) is a social-democratic political party in South Africa. It has been in power since the election of lawyer, activist and former political prisoner Nelson Mandela at the first free and fair elections in 1994, and has been re-elected at every election since, though with a reduced majority every time since 2004. Cyril Ramaphosa, the incumbent President of South Africa, has served as President of the ANC since 18 December 2017.[4]

The ANC was founded on 8 January 1912 by John Langalibalele Dube in Bloemfontein as the South African Native National Congress (SANNC), its primary mission was to bring all Africans together as one people, to defend their rights and freedoms. This included giving full voting rights to Black South Africans and mixed-race South Africans and, to end the apartheid system introduced by the National Party government after their election victory in 1948.[5]

The ANC originally attempted to use non-violent protests to end apartheid; however, the Sharpeville massacre in March 1960, where 69 Black South Africans were shot and killed by police and hundreds wounded during a peaceful protest; contributed to deteriorating relations with the White minority government. On 8 April 1960, Governor-General Charles Robberts Swart declared the ANC illegal, and they would remain outlawed for the next thirty years.[6] After being outlawed, the ANC formed the Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation) to fight against apartheid utilising guerrilla warfare and sabotage.

After thirty years in exile, during which many ANC members had been imprisoned or forced to flee abroad, the country began its move towards full non-racial democracy. On 3 February 1990, State President F. W. de Klerk repealed the ban on the ANC and released Nelson Mandela from Victor Verster Prison on 11 February 1990.[7] On 17 March 1992, a referendum on the continuation of apartheid was held; but only White South Africans could vote. The majority of the electorate voted to abolish apartheid and the ANC were allowed to stand at the 1994 general election which, for the first time, allowed all South Africans regardless of race the right to vote.

Since 1994, the ANC has polled better than 55% at all general elections, including the most recent 2019 general election; where the ANC received their worst electoral result to date. However, the party has been embroiled in a number of controversies since 2011 and has been steadily losing ground to smaller parties.[8]


The founding of the SANNC was in direct response to injustice against black South Africans at the hands of the government then in power. It can be said that the SANNC had its origins in a pronouncement by Pixley ka Isaka Seme who said in 1911, "Forget all the past differences among Africans and unite in one national organisation." The SANNC was founded the following year on 8 January 1912.[9]

The government of the newly formed Union of South Africa began a systematic oppression of black people in South Africa. The Land Act was promulgated in 1913 forcing many black South Africans from their farms into the cities and towns to work, and to restrict their movement within South Africa.

By 1919, the SANNC was leading a campaign against passes (an ID which black South Africans had to possess). However, it then became dormant in the mid-1920s. During that time, black people were also represented by the ICU and the previously white-only Communist party. In 1923, the organisation became the African National Congress, and in 1929 the ANC supported a militant mineworkers' strike.

By 1927, J.T. Gumede (president of the ANC) proposed co-operation with the Communists in a bid to revitalise the organisation, but he was voted out of power in the 1930s. This led to the ANC becoming largely ineffectual and inactive, until the mid-1940s when the ANC was remodelled as a mass movement.

The ANC responded to attacks on the rights of black South Africans, as well as calling for strikes, boycotts, and defiance. This led to a later Defiance Campaign in the 1950s, a mass movement of resistance to apartheid. The government tried to stop the ANC by banning party leaders and enacting new laws to stop the ANC, however these measures ultimately proved to be ineffective.

In 1955, the Congress of the People officially adopted the Freedom Charter, stating the core principles of the South African Congress Alliance, which consisted of the African National Congress and its allies the South African Communist Party (SACP), the South African Indian Congress, the South African Congress of Democrats (COD) and the Coloured People's Congress.[10] The government claimed that this was a communist document, and consequently leaders of the ANC and Congress were arrested. 1960 saw the Sharpeville massacre, in which 69 people were killed when police opened fire on anti-apartheid protesters.

uMkhonto we Sizwe

uMkhonto we Sizwe or MK, translated "The Spear of the Nation", was the military wing of the ANC. Partly in response to the Sharpeville massacre of 1960, individual members of the ANC found it necessary to consider violence to combat what passive protests had failed to quell.[11]

In co-operation with the South African Communist Party, MK was founded in 1961.[12] MK commenced the military struggle against apartheid with acts of sabotage aimed at the installations of the state, and in the early stages was reluctant to target civilian targets.[13] MK was responsible for the deaths of both civilians and members of the military. Acts committed by MK include the Church Street bombing, the Magoo's Bar bombing and bombing a branch of the Standard Bank in Roodepoort.[14][15][16] It was integrated into the South African National Defence Force by 1994.

The ANC and its members were officially removed from the US terrorism watch list in 2008.[17]


The ANC deems itself a force of national liberation in the post-apartheid era; it officially defines its agenda as the National Democratic Revolution. The ANC is a member of the Socialist International.[3] It also sets forth the redressing of socio-economic differences stemming from colonial- and apartheid-era policies as a central focus of ANC policy.

The National Democratic Revolution (NDR) is described as a process through which the National Democratic Society (NDS) is achieved; a society in which people are intellectually, socially, economically and politically empowered. The drivers of the NDR are also called the motive forces and are defined as the elements within society that gain from the success of the NDR. Using contour plots or concentric circles the centre represents the elements in society that gain the most out of the success of the NDR. Moving away from the centre results in the reduction of the gains that those elements derive. It is generally believed that the force that occupies the centre of those concentric circles in countries with low unemployment is the working class while in countries with higher levels of unemployment it is the unemployed. Some of the many theoreticians that have written about the NDR include Joe Slovo, Joel Netshitenzhe and Tshilidzi Marwala.[18][19][20]

In 2004, the ANC declared itself to be a social democratic party.[21]

The 53rd National Conference of the ANC, held in 2015, stated in its "Discussion Document" that "China economic development trajectory remains a leading example of the triumph of humanity over adversity. The exemplary role of the collective leadership of the Communist Party of China in this regard should be a guiding lodestar of our own struggle."[22] It went on to state that "The collapse of the Berlin Wall and socialism in the Soviet Union and Eastern European States influenced our transition towards the negotiated political settlement in our country. The cause of events in the world changed tremendously in favour of the US led imperialism."[23]

Tripartite Alliance

The ANC holds a historic alliance with the South African Communist Party (SACP) and Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), known as the Tripartite Alliance. The SACP and COSATU have not contested any election in South Africa, but field candidates through the ANC, hold senior positions in the ANC, and influence party policy and dialogue. During Mbeki's presidency, the government took a more pro-capitalist stance, often running counter to the demands of the SACP and COSATU.[24][25][26][27]

2008 schism

Following Zuma's accession to the ANC leadership in 2007 and Mbeki's resignation as president in 2008, a number of former ANC leaders led by Mosiuoa Lekota split away from the ANC to form the Congress of the People.

2013 NUMSA split from Cosatu

On 20 December 2013, a special congress of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), the country's biggest trade union with 338,000 members,[28] voted to withdraw support from the ANC and SACP, and form a socialist party to protect the interests of the working class. NUMSA secretary general Irvin Jim condemned the ANC and SACP's support for big business and stated: "It is clear that the working class cannot any longer see the ANC or the SACP as its class allies in any meaningful sense."[28]

Neoliberal turn

Since the 1990s, academics have argued that the ANC has increasingly adopted neoliberal socio-economic policies. The economist Asghar Adelzadeh found that the shift from the Reconstruction and Development Programme, formulated in 1994, to the Growth Employment and Redistribution policy, implemented in 1996, constituted a move towards a neoliberal economic framework.[29] Similarly, the social geographer Sagie Narsiah considers this shift as one from a socialist to a neoliberal development framework. Moreover, he considers the increasing reliance on privatisation as symptomatic of this shift.[30]

The social and political analyst Patrick Bond contends that the ANC failed to implement a program of radical transformation after 1994. He draws attention, in particular, to the convergence between political and business elites in the formation of social policy favouring "social contract capitalism."[31]

ANC flag

The ANC flag with three equal horizontal bands

The ANC flag comprises three equal horizontal stripes – black, green and gold. Black symbolises the native people of South Africa, green represents the land and gold represents the mineral and other natural wealth of South Africa.[32]

This flag was also the battle flag of uMkhonto we Sizwe.[33]

The Grand Duchy of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach used an unrelated but identical flag from 1813 to 1897. The black, green and gold tricolor was also used on the flag of the KwaZulu 'bantustan'.

Although the colours of the new national Flag of South Africa since the transition from apartheid in 1994 have no official meaning, the three colours of the ANC flag were included in it, together with red, white and blue.[34]

Party list

Politicians in the party win a place in parliament by being on the Party List, which is drawn up before the elections and enumerates, in order, the party's preferred MPs. The number of seats allocated is proportional to the popular national vote, which determines the cut-off point.

The ANC has also gained members through the controversial floor crossing process.

Although most South African parties announced their candidate list for provincial premierships in the 2009 election, the ANC did not, as it is not required for parties to do so.[35]

ANC Today

In 2001, the ANC launched an online weekly web-based newsletter, ANC Today – Online Voice of the African National Congress to offset the alleged bias of the press.[36] It consists mainly of updates on current programmes and initiatives of the ANC.

Election results

Proportion of votes cast for the ANC in the 2014 election, by ward.

National Assembly elections

Election Party leader Votes % Seats +/– Position Outcome
1994 Nelson Mandela 12,237,655 62.65%
252 / 400
Increase 252 Increase 1st ANC–NPIFP coalition government
1999 Thabo Mbeki 10,601,330 66.35%
266 / 400
Increase 14 Steady 1st ANC–IFP coalition government
2004 10,880,915 69.69%
279 / 400
Increase 13 Steady 1st Supermajority government
2009 Jacob Zuma 11,650,748 65.90%
264 / 400
Decrease 15 Steady 1st Majority government
2014 11,436,921 62.15%
249 / 400
Decrease 15 Steady 1st Majority government
2019 Cyril Ramaphosa 10,026,475 57.50%
230 / 400
Decrease 19 Steady 1st Majority government

National Council of Provinces

Election Seats +/–
60 / 90
Increase 60
63 / 90
Increase 3
65 / 90
Increase 2
62 / 90
Decrease 3
60 / 90
Decrease 2
54 / 90
Decrease 6

Provincial elections

Election[37] Eastern Cape Free State Gauteng KwaZulu-Natal Limpopo Mpumalanga North-West Northern Cape Western Cape
% Seats % Seats % Seats % Seats % Seats % Seats % Seats % Seats % Seats
1994 84.35 48/56 76.65 24/30 57.60 50/86 32.23 26/81 91.63 38/40 80.69 25/30 83.33 26/30 49.74 15/30 33.01 14/42
1999 73.80 47/63 80.79 25/30 67.87 50/73 39.38 32/80 88.29 44/49 84.83 26/30 78.97 27/33 64.32 20/30 42.07 18/42
2004 79.27 51/63 81.78 25/30 68.40 51/73 46.98 38/80 89.18 45/49 86.30 27/30 80.71 27/33 68.83 21/30 45.25 19/42
2009 68.82 44/63 71.10 22/30 64.04 47/73 62.95 51/80 84.88 43/49 85.55 27/30 72.89 25/33 60.75 19/30 31.55 14/42
2014 70.09 45/63 69.85 22/30 53.59 40/73 64.52 52/80 78.60 39/49 78.23 24/30 67.39 23/33 64.40 20/30 32.89 14/42
2019 68.74 44/63 61.14 19/30 50.19 37/73 54.22 44/80 75.49 38/49 70.58 22/30 61.87 21/33 57.54 18/30 28.63 12/42

Municipal elections

Election Votes % Change
1995–96 5,033,855 58%
2000 None released 59.4% Increase 1.4%
2006 17,466,948 66.3% Increase 6.9%
2011 16,548,826 61.9% Decrease 4.4%
2016[38] 21,450,332 55.7% Decrease 6.2%
2021 14,531,908 47.5% Decrease 8.2%

Role of the ANC in resolving the conflict

Old logo of the ANC from 1990

The ANC represented the main opposition to the government during apartheid and therefore they played a major role in resolving the conflict through participating in the peacemaking and peace-building processes. Initially intelligence agents of the National Party met in secret with ANC leaders, including Nelson Mandela, to judge whether conflict resolution was possible.[39] Discussions and negotiations took place leading to the eventual unbanning of the ANC and other opposing political parties by then President de Klerk on 2 February 1990.

The next official step towards rebuilding South Africa was the Groote Schuur Minute where the government and the ANC agreed on a common commitment towards resolving the existing climate of violence and intimidation and a commitment to stability and to a peaceful process of negotiations. The ANC negotiated the release of political prisoners and the indemnity from prosecution for returning exiles and moreover channels of communication were established between the Government and the ANC.

Later the Pretoria Minute represented another step towards resolution where agreements at Groote Schuur were reconsolidated and steps towards setting up an interim government and drafting a new constitution were established as well as suspension of the military wing of the ANC – the Umkhonto we Sizwe. This step helped end much of the violence within South Africa. Another agreement that came out of the Pretoria Minute was that both parties would try and raise awareness that a new way of governance was being created for South Africa, and that further violence would only hinder this process. However, violence still continued in Kwazulu-Natal, which violated the trust between Mandela and de Klerk. Moreover, internal disputes in the ANC prolonged the war as consensus on peace was not reached.[40]

The next significant steps towards resolution were the Repeal of the Population Registration Act, the repeal of the Group Areas and the Native Land Acts and a catch-all Abolition of Racially Based Land Measures Act was passed.[40] These measures ensured no one could claim, or be deprived of, any land rights on the basis of race.

In December 1991 the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA) was held with the aim of establishing an interim government. However, a few months later in June 1992 the Boipatong massacre occurred and all negotiations crumbled as the ANC pulled out. After this negotiations proceeded between two agents, Cyril Ramaphosa of the ANC, and Roelf Meyer of the National Party. In over 40 sessions the two men discussed and negotiated over many issues including the nature of the future political system, the fate of over 40,000 government employees and if/how the country would be divided. The result of these negotiations was an interim constitution that meant the transition from apartheid to democracy was a constitutional continuation and that the rule of law and state sovereignty remained intact during the transition, which was vital for stability within the country. A date was set for the first democratic elections on 27 April 1994.[40] The ANC won 62.5% of the votes and has been in power ever since.[41]

Criticism and controversy

Corruption controversies

The most prominent corruption case involving the ANC relates to a series of bribes paid to companies involved in the ongoing R55 billion Arms Deal saga, which resulted in a long term jail sentence to then Deputy President Jacob Zuma's legal adviser Schabir Shaik. Zuma, the former South African President, was charged with fraud, bribery and corruption in the Arms Deal, but the charges were subsequently withdrawn by the National Prosecuting Authority of South Africa due to their delay in prosecution.[42] The ANC has also been criticised for its subsequent abolition of the Scorpions, the multidisciplinary agency that investigated and prosecuted organised crime and corruption, and was heavily involved in the investigation into Zuma and Shaik. Tony Yengeni, in his position as chief whip of the ANC and head of the Parliaments defence committee has recently been named as being involved in bribing the German company ThyssenKrupp over the purchase of four corvettes for the SANDF.

Other recent corruption issues include the sexual misconduct and criminal charges of Beaufort West municipal manager Truman Prince,[43] and the Oilgate scandal, in which millions of Rand in funds from a state-owned company were funnelled into ANC coffers.[44]

The ANC has also been accused of using government and civil society to fight its political battles against opposition parties such as the Democratic Alliance. The result has been a number of complaints and allegations that none of the political parties truly represent the interests of the poor.[45][46] This has resulted in the "No Land! No House! No Vote!" Campaign which became very prominent during elections.[47][48] In 2018, the New York Times reported on the killings of ANC corruption whistleblowers.[49]

During an address on 28 October 2021, former president Thabo Mbeki commented on the history of corruption within the ANC. He reflected that Mandela had already warned in 1997 that the ANC was attracting individuals who viewed the party as "a route to power and self-enrichment." He added that the ANC leadership "did not know how to deal with this problem."[50] During a lecture on 10 December, Mbeki reiterated concerns about "careerists" within the party, and stressed the need to "purge itself of such members".[51]

Condemnation over Secrecy Bill

In late 2011 the ANC was heavily criticised over the passage of the Protection of State Information Bill, which opponents claimed would improperly restrict the freedom of the press.[8] Opposition to the bill included otherwise ANC-aligned groups such as COSATU. Notably, Nelson Mandela and other Nobel laureates Nadine Gordimer, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and F. W. de Klerk have expressed disappointment with the bill for not meeting standards of constitutionality and aspirations for freedom of information and expression.[52]

Role in the Marikana killings

The ANC have been criticised for its role in failing to prevent 16 August 2012 massacre of Lonmin miners at Marikana in the North West. Some allege that Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega and Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa may have given the go ahead for the police action against the miners on that day.[53]

Commissioner Phiyega of the ANC came under further criticism as being insensitive and uncaring when she was caught smiling and laughing during the Farlam Commission's video playback of the 'massacre'.[54] Archbishop Desmond Tutu has announced that he no longer can bring himself to exercise a vote for the ANC as it is no longer the party that he and Nelson Mandela fought for, and that the party has now lost its way, and is in danger of becoming a corrupt entity in power.[55]

Financial mismanagement

Since at least 2017, the ANC has encountered significant problems related to financial mismanagement. According to a report filed by the former treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize in December 2017, the ANC was technically insolvent, as its liabilities exceeded its assets.[56] These problems continued into the second half of 2021. By September 2021, the ANC had reportedly amassed a debt exceeding R200-million, including over R100-million owed to the South African Revenue Service.[57]

Beginning in May 2021, the ANC failed to pay monthly staff salaries on time. Having gone without pay for three consecutive months, workers planned a strike in late August 2021.[58] In response, the ANC initiated a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for staff salaries.[59] By November 2021, its Cape Town staff was approaching their fourth month without salaries, while medical aid and provident fund contributions had been suspended in various provinces.[60]

State capture

In January 2018, the former President Jacob Zuma established the Zondo Commission to investigate allegations of state capture, corruption, and fraud in the public sector.[61] Over the following four years, the Commission heard testimony from over 250 witnesses and collected more than 150,000 pages of evidence.[62] After several extensions, the first part of the final three-part report was published on 4 January 2022.[63][64]

The report found that the ANC, including Zuma and his political allies, had benefited from the extensive corruption of state enterprises, including the South African Revenue Service.[65] It also found that the ANC "simply did not care that state entities were in decline during state capture or they slept on the job – or they simply didn't know what to do."[66]

See also


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External links