JOHANNESBURG: Beset by plunging poll numbers, factional infighting and a raft of corruption allegations, the party of Nelson Mandela is at war with itself.
In the weeks since the African National Congress recorded its worst election results since the collapse of apartheid, cabinet ministers, activists and party grandees have squared off, exposing deep rifts ahead of a leadership contest scheduled for December 2017.
Allies of President Jacob Zuma are openly fighting with Treasury Minister Pravin Gordhan over control of state finances, including the running of state-owned enterprises, anticorruption agencies and the central bank.
The drip of corruption allegations against Zuma and his wealthy business associates has swelled to a torrent. Ratings firms have warned that political infighting could see South Africa downgraded to junk status.
The nation’s graft ombudsman, Thuli Madonsela, who is investigating official corruption, has said she could unveil some more potentially explosive revelations—without elaborating—before she steps down at the end of her term in October.
The ANC’s Youth League president, Collen Maine, on Sunday repeated a prior allegation by an ANC minister accusing her of being an agent of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. She has repeatedly denied the allegation.
The outcome of the struggle inside the ANC is likely to dictate the path of Africa’s most advanced economy—still reeling from the collapse of commodity prices, weak growth and stubbornly high unemployment—for the next decade.
It also will shape the future of Africa’s most famed liberation movement as revolutionary leaders turned strongmen from Angola to Zimbabwe cling to power.
“This is a battle royal to determine the future of the ANC. The outcome will dictate the structure of governance here for years to come and will have an echo effect across the region,” said Manji Cheto, an analyst with Teneo Intelligence, a risk consultancy.Advertisement
The party’s war of words has spilled onto the streets, with hundreds of party activists clashing at the ANC’s Johannesburg headquarters on Sept. 4.
For much of the past week, students have marched near the University of the Witwatersrand in downtown Johannesburg to protest higher tuition fees. Police fired tear gas to disperse the demonstrators.
President Jacob with South Africa’s finance minister