Democracy by accident: the rise of Zuma and the renaissance of the tripartite alliance

06 Dec 2012

In party organisational terms, the rise of Jacob Zuma to the Presidency of the African National Congress (ANC) is a victory for the alliance partners and the struggle-era vision of the ANC as a popular front, or the ‘ANC as alliance’, as against Mbeki’s centralised and exclusionary practice. Accidentally, this renaissance of the ANC as alliance is good for democracy in South Africa understood in both liberal and participatory terms. On the one hand, the factionalism in the party provided for an alternation of leadership not possible through formal elections; and perhaps not desirable at this time. Further, the emergence of Congress of the People (COPE) promises a more meaningful party pluralism, taking the pressure for democratic competition off ANC internal processes into the future. On the other hand, the renaissance of the ANC as alliance provides better access to government by organisations, especially COSATU, who have a proven record in mobilising working and poor people around key social issues from land to HIV-AIDS and Zimbabwe. In this way the chances of greater inclusion in national decision-making are heightened, at least for some marginalised groups.