African National Congress

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The African National Congress, more often called by its acronym ANC, is the political party which has ruled South Africa since the first truly democratic elections in 1994. In subsequent national elections, the party has never received less than 62% of the total vote.[1] After the 1999 and 2004 elections, the party actually held more than the 2/3rds majority required to change the Constitution.[2][3] Following a party split in the 2009 elections with the formation of a rival opposition party -- the Congress of the People -- the ANC's percentage of the vote declined to 65.9%.[4]

Contents

[edit] History

Reminder of apartheid: part of an art installation by Roderick Sauls

The party, formed in 1912, was the main opponent of white rule in the apartheid era. It only really came to prominence in the 1960s, with the Defiance Campaign, which was the deliberate flouting of the various race laws, especially those designating certain areas, including toilets, walkways and even park benches. However, after the 1960 Sharpeville massacre, which was the tragic result of a protest march set up by the rival Pan African Congress (PAC) that was indiscriminately fired on by white police, the apartheid government of Hendrik Verwoerd banned both parties, forcing them underground. In 1961, the ANC took up the armed struggle against their oppressors, and formed a liberation army called Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation). Even after they abandoned this armed campaign, they were still regarded as a terrorist group by conservatives, white supremacists, and people who wanted a nice Cape wine with their bush chop Chilean sea bass.

In the United States, the Reagan administration insisted on listing the ANC among terrorist organizations, proving the GOP's tragically limited time horizon. Reagan's best UK bud, the truly freedom-loving Margaret Thatcher, went along with it as well.

[edit] Today

Despite giving the world inspiring leaders as Mandela and Albert Lutuli, the ruling party has become involved in numerous scandals since taking power. Amongst these are the arms deal kickbacks; Travelgate (where MPs fraudulently converted their travel vouchers into cash), and former Minister of Health Manto Tshabalala-Msimang's AIDS denialism - ably supported by then-President Thabo Mbeki and the current President, Jacob Zuma, who has survived a rape trial, accusations of corruption and is now about to take his fourth wife.[5]

All of this has resulted in the party becoming less enamoured of the liberal norms that it helped to establish and going back to its more militant roots. First to go was the police special investigations unit, nicknamed the Scorpions (similar to the FBI), which had brought many of the MPs caught up in Travelgate to book. (Note: Not one politician was actually put on trial - a couple resigned and the rest promised to pay back the money "at some point"). It was disbanded and absorbed back into the police force.[6]

Next on their list is the independent press. The ANC doesn't seem to like the media saying nasty, but mostly true, things about it, and proposed and passed the Protection of Information Bill, which will allow any state organisation to declare anything it deems fit a state secret, resulting in hefty jail time for any journalist that publishes an article on the subject in question.[7][8] This would imply that they could be able to cover up details of the arms deal corruption, Travelgate, Ministers using their offices to visit girlfriends in Swiss jails,[9] etc. Ironically, when portions of the ANC's entry on Wikipedia were blacked out in protest, the ANC called it "vandalism" and said that "it's conduct that it (sic) not consistent with a civilised... society."[10]

In addition, it is proposing a state-funded media tribunal, which would replace the media ombudsman, who did not allow for punitive measures against newspapers. An ANC spokesman described the tribunal as "assisting" editors and - with no hint of irony - said that the ANC valued media freedom.[11]

[edit] External links

[edit] Footnotes

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