Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part series on the implications of the African National Congress’ decline for South Africa’s political landscape. Part I examined the factors contributing to the ANC’s decline. Part II examines the prospects for the opposition Democratic Alliance to become an alternative governing party.
The African National Congress (ANC) is trapped in a systemic crisis from which it cannot extricate itself. Consequently, the wellbeing of South African democracy requires a shift from the current one-party dominant system to a more competitive multiparty system. One route to this outcome is through the fragmentation of the ANC, whose current fractious and unstable condition virtually guarantees dysfunctional government. However, progress to a more pluralist order may also be accelerated by a simultaneous development, namely the ability of the Democratic Alliance (DA), the official opposition, to position itself as a credible alternative governing party.
The DA’s challenge is daunting given the historical backdrop. Since 1912, the ANC has been embedded in the political consciousness of black South Africa, whereas the DA’s origins lie in the elite and largely white world of South African liberalism. This historical baggage is a liability for the DA and, when added to the electoral arithmetic, the party’s task assumes herculean proportions. The ANC secured 65.9 percent of the vote in the 2009 general election and 63 percent in the 2011 municipal elections, sobering statistics for any opposition challenger.