South Africa’s ruling party is at war with itself – and the apparent scuffle between president Jacob Zuma and finance minister Pravin Gordhan is the just the surface show for a much deeper internal conflict.
In a detailed “deep dive” analysis of the ANC’s structures, investment research firm Nomura has delivered an ‘explainer’ on how it sees the current make-up of the party – and how it has changed over the years.
According to Nomura, the ANC’s factionalism is a deeper issue than the surface-level spats between Zuma (representing the tenderpreneur faction) and Gordhan (representing the reformists), and will likely play out in one of the most complicated succession battles in the party’s history.
“The traditional view of the ANC has been of left vs right along a traditional economic policy axis. More recently the market view has been oversimplified as ‘Zuma vs Gordhan’ or ‘tenderpreneurs vs clean ANC’,” said Nomura analyst, Peter Attard Montalto.
“All these characterisations are too simplistic.”
According to Nomura, it is easier to undersand the ANC’s factions in terms of how they relate to each president – from Nelson Mandela’s left-wing and conservative-centre-left (CCL) coalition, to Mbeki’s cadre-deployees and tenderpreneurs and the CCL, and then Jacob Zuma ditching the CCL for the left wing at Polokwane.
Within these three areas, smaller factions exist:
However, even this representation is too simple, Nomura said, adding that the ANC is aligned on a provincial and tribal basis as well:
All of these elements within the ANC are not mutually exclusive, making for an extremely complicated set of political values and ideals, Nomura said – which is leading to conflict, and is threatening to tear the party apart.
“On the flip side, however, there are still strong forces holding the ANC together, acting as invisible and sometimes inexplicable glue between warring factions,” Nomura said.
“In particular, the ANC’s views on codes of behaviour, collectivism and language mean change can be difficult. A need to act by consensus entrenches the status quo.”
These forces are holding the ANC together, but as was the case with Congress of the People, and even the EFF to an extent, the ANC is increasingly at risk of seeing splits from the main party, the group said.
This is most notable by the shifting levels of power within the party structures, Nomura said. Notably, worker union Cosatu, and the SACP (of which Gordhan is a member) have seen a drop in influence since Zuma came to power in Polokwane – while the KZN “Zulu” block, and the so-called “premier league” have risen.
According to Nomura, from here on out, the 2017 ANC elective conference will govern much of South Africa’s politics until the general election in 2019.
Depending on the outcome of that conferences – and any possible internal alliances between factions – South Africa could be heading to one of four major outcomes: from true reform (the most positive outcome) to a grinding to the halt scenario (worst outcome).
In reality, however, Nomura says it is almost impossible to say where the country is headed.
“We believe it is nearly impossible, given the stresses within the ANC and the factional divides, for a single slate to be achieved.”
“It would require either consensus between the factions which we don’t think will occur, or (maybe more likely but still hard to see) any ‘losing factions’ to not put up an opposing slate and basically admit defeat,” it said.