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The ANC needs to develop a proper political philosophy | Letters

Story from: South Africa | The Guardian

South Africa had its liberation decades ago. Now, like Northern Ireland, it needs a healthier electoral democracy, suggests Michael Meadowcroft

There is a much more fundamental problem for the ANC (Zuma survives – but can the ANC have confidence in its future, 9 August) and it is one that bedevils every liberation movement that seeks to transform itself into a political party. By definition a liberation movement draws into its fold every organisation that seeks the overthrow of an authoritarian regime and thus encompasses bodies with a wide range of political philosophies. In South Africa the ANC included the Black Sash women’s movement, the armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe, trade unions such as Cosatu, the Saso student organisation, plus a number of other groups including the South African Communist party.

Having achieved its aim of defeating apartheid, the ANC presented itself at the first free election in 1994 as a political party. Not surprisingly, given its successful image, it won the election with a large majority. It has continued to do so at each successive election, but at the price of increased tensions, breakaways and the fracturing of any coherent ideological basis for a governing programme. It has on occasion examined ways and means of moving to a more philosophical political identity, but every time an election approaches it shies away from narrowing its electoral appeal.

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