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The roots of factional tensions over the ANC government's policies in the ruling alliance in South Africa

Rametse, Mochekoe (2014) The roots of factional tensions over the ANC government's policies in the ruling alliance in South Africa. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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An enduring question concerning the ruling tripartite alliance led by the ANC in South Africa is how such a powerful united liberation movement, which succeeded in defeating the apartheid system to assume governmental control, was torn by ideological divisions in its midst? The objective of this study is to investigate the causes of the disunity within the governing ANC alliance that culminated with the dismissal of the then President Thabo Mbeki from office in 2008. The thesis examines why the ANC alliance’s “revolutionary” language that had largely unified it during the protracted racial liberation struggle proved most divisive in the post-apartheid period.

The inquiry utilises the analytical framework of the alternative functions of ideology to analyse the development of the ANC’s ideological perspectives. The study argues that the ANC-led alliance’s “revolutionary” language is inherently ambiguous. The research excavates the origins of the imprecise ANC’s “two-stage theory” of revolution. It highlights how the theory of the “National Democratic Revolution” used to depict the first stage of liberation and its assumed programme, the Freedom Charter are contentious. The study contends that the inherent inconsistencies in the ANC alliance’s “revolutionary” language were mirrored in trenchant factional ideological disagreements.

Using “critical discourse” analysis, the thesis explains how the inherited “revolutionary” language enabled contending factions within the alliance to make contradictory and divisive interpretations of the ideological complexion of ANC government’s policies. Furthermore, the investigation demonstrates how such a language allowed successive ANC governments to adopt the “Keynesian-reformism” discourse used to rationalise the Neo-liberal macroeconomic policy framework. The thesis contends that the incoherent nature of ANC-led alliance’s “revolutionary” language was also expedient for government to promote the interests of the emerged black capitalists in the post-apartheid period. The Mbeki-Zuma leadership struggle found fertile ground cultivated by prior intra-ANC alliance factional disagreements. It thus apparent that the on-going factional disagreements in the ruling ANC-led alliance over the ideological content of government policies, if not resolved, would continue to impact negatively on their implementation.

Publication Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Management and Governance
Supervisor: Brown, David
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