The impact of a leftist ideological shift in South Africa on the ANC, Cosatu and the SACP as the governing Tripartite Alliance
Van Heerden, G.
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The ANC's relationship with COSATU and the SACP has been volatile ever since the formation of the Tripartite Alliance in 1990. In terms of economic policy, COSATU and the SACP lean to the far left as they believe that addressing South Africa's socioeconomic problems and the legacy of apartheid requires the creation of either a socialist or a communist society. For some time prior to South Africa's transition to democracy in 1994, the ANC held a similar view, and even up until the negotiating years of the early 1990s the would-be ruling party still firmly believed in nationalisation - one of the pillars of the Freedom Charter. However, the international and domestic business community convinced the ANC, led at the time by Nelson Mandela, to embark on a more neoliberal path in order to appease the markets and attract investment. The ANC's quite sudden reversal in ideological direction deeply disturbed COSATU and the SACP. However, they both believed that remaining in the Tripartite Alliance would enable them to exert considerable influence over the ANC's economic agenda. This was not the case, as evidenced in the Mbeki administration adopting the GEAR strategy, with its economically conservative policies, in 1996. COSATU and the SACP saw their influence continuing to wane under Mbeki's presidency, which eventually prompted them to assist in the ousting of Mbeki and the election of Jacob Zuma as ANC president at the National Elective Conference in 2007. COSATU and the SACP hoped that Zuma, installed as South Africa's new president in 2009, would oversee a new era of reform and would champion socialist ideals. Zuma's rise to power did increase COSATU's and the SACP's leverage within the Tripartite Alliance and economic policy did shift to the left, as evidenced in the introduction of the Industrial Policy Action Plan (IPAP) and the New Growth Path. However, Zuma's presidency soon became mired in political scandals, which would eventually pave the way for major political instability in South Africa, downgrades by international credit rating agencies, the fleeing of capital and declining living standards among the general populace. These developments have seen the ANC's electoral support wither, while far-leftist political parties such as the EFF are growing in stature. The ANC has taken notice of this and the Zuma faction in particular has started to echo some of the ideas propagated by its far-left competitors. Yet high levels of corruption within the ANC, coupled with the fact that the ruling party is still highly accommodating of capital, have exacerbated tensions within the Tripartite Alliance, and COSATU and the SACP have officially withdrawn their support for Zuma and his faction. Should pressure continue to mount externally during the elections and internally within the Alliance, there is the possibility of yet another breakaway party from the ANC. This split could either strip the ANC of its socialist elements or alternatively, encourage the ANC to finally follow its original ideological path as set out in the Freedom Charter.
- Humanities