South African Democracy Weakened by the ANC’s Lust for Power

African National Congress's stewardship of the nation leaves much to be desired

April 25, 2007

Media Contact: (202) 789-5200

WASHINGTON — As South Africa celebrates the thirteenth anniversary of the country’s first multi-racial election, the nation’s economy and stability are the envy of the African continent. But in the Cato briefing paper “Troubling Signs for South African Democracy under the ANC,” Marian Tupy, policy analyst with Cato’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity, examines political developments in South Africa, revealing problems beneath the veneer.

The ANC’s macroeconomic policies have been commendable. The nation’s GDP growth is accelerating, a budget surplus is predicted this year, and economic freedom has improved. Unfortunately, South Africa’s democratic record leaves much to be desired. “It is increasingly apparent that the ANC wishes to dominate the social and institutional life of South Africa in the same way that it dominates the country’s political life,” writes Tupy. 

The state-owned South African Broadcasting Corporation has a virtual monopoly on the broadcast media, controlling 18 radio stations and 4 television stations. With only one other source of subscription-free television in the country, the SABC’s pro-government bias is difficult to combat. Negative coverage of the ANC is stifled, while any criticism of the government is dismissed as being “racist” and politically incorrect. Additionally, a number of prominent ANC critics have been banned from appearing on the SABC.

The ANC has worked to expand its power in areas it does not yet control. An attempt to replace the Cape Town mayor with an ANC-controlled executive committee was narrowly avoided. Equally worrying are the ANC’s legislative proposals that would deprive the judiciary of some of its independence. Efforts are underway to rewrite the nation’s history, according the ANC an even greater role in South Africa’s anti-apartheid struggle.

Tupy recommends using international pressure to push back against the ANC’s infringements on democracy. “Constructive criticism of the ANC’s more outrageous policies could change its behavior and positively influence political developments in South Africa,” he concludes. “In order to do so, however, such criticism must be loud and unambiguous.”

Development Briefing Paper # 3