- "ANC" redirects here. For other meanings see ANC (disambig).
The African National Congress (ANC), originally (until 1923) South African Native National Congress, has been South Africa's governing party since the establishment of majority rule in May 1994. It was founded to defend the rights of the black majority on January 8, 1912 in the city of Bloemfontein, and counted poet and author Sol Plaatje among its founder members.
Loosely, it can also be described as the parliamentary wing of a tripartite alliance between itself, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and the South African Communist Party.
It has been the only party to rule South Africa since 1994. It lost some support in the 1999 elections, but subsequently gained support in 2004.
Formed initially to oppose the passage of the 1913 Land Act, the ANC from its inception represented both traditional and modern elements, from tribal chiefs to church and community bodies and educated black professionals, though women were only admitted as affiliate members from 1931 and as full members in 1943.
The formation of the ANC Youth League in 1944 by Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, and Oliver Tambo heralded a new generation committed to building non-violent mass action against the legal underpinnings of the white minority's supremacy. In 1947 the ANC allied with the Natal Indian Congress and Transvaal Indian congress , broadening the basis of its opposition to the government.
The return of an Afrikaner-led National Party government by the overwhelmingly white electorate in 1948 signaled the advent of the policy of apartheid (Afrikaans: "separateness" of the races, or political and social segregation of black and white people). During the 1950s non-whites were moved from electoral rolls, residence and mobility laws were tightened and political activities restricted.
Other struggle parties
In June 1952 the ANC joined with other anti-apartheid organisations in a Defiance Campaign against the restriction of political, labour and residential rights, during which protesters deliberately violated oppressive laws, following the example of Mohandas Gandhi's passive resistance in Natal and India. The campaign was called off in April 1953 after new laws prohibiting protest meetings.
In June 1955 the Congress of the People organised by the ANC and Indian, Coloured and white organisations at Kliptown near Johannesburg, adopted the Freedom Charter, henceforth the fundamental document of the anti-apartheid struggle with its demand for equal rights for all regardless of race. As opposition to the regime's policies continued, 156 leading members of the ANC and allied organisations were arrested in 1956: the resulting "Treason Trial" ended in their acquittal five years later.
In 1959, a number of members broke away from the ANC because they objected to the ANC's non-racist policies. They formed the rival Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), led by Robert Sobukwe.
The ANC planned a campaign against the Pass Laws (which required blacks to carry an identity card at all times to justify their presence in "white" areas) which was to begin on March 31 1960. The PAC decided to pre-empt the ANC, by holding protests on March 21. During a peaceful protest organized by the PAC on March 21, 69 protesters were shot by police in what became known as the Sharpeville Massacre.
In the aftermath of the Sharpeville Massacre, the ANC and PAC were banned from political activity.
International opposition to the regime increased throughout the 1950s and 1960s, fueled by the growing number of newly independent nations and the civil rights movement in the United States. In 1960 the leader of the ANC, Albert Luthuli, won the Nobel Peace Prize, a feat that would be repeated in 1993 by Nelson Mandela.
Umkhonto we Sizwe
Now underground or in exile, the ANC leadership came to the conclusion that armed means had become a legitimate means of resistance, and in 1961 Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation) was created to carry out armed attacks against the government. Its commander, Mandela, was however arrested in 1962 and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964 on Robben Island along with Sisulu and other ANC leaders after the Rivonia Trial.
With apartheid ever more evidently untenable, the ANC and PAC were unbanned by president F.W. de Klerk on February 2, 1990.
In April 1994, in a tripartite coalition with the South African Communist Party and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), the ANC won a landslide victory in the country's first non-racial elections under Nelson Mandela.
In Kwa-Zulu Natal the party was in an uneasy coalition with the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) on the 1994 and 1999 provincial elections. In the 2004 elections the IFP contested the province with the Democratic Alliance.
In 2004 the party contested national elections in voluntary coalition with the New National Party.
After the 1994 and 1999 elections, it rule seven of the nine provinces, missing Kwa-Zulu Natal (to the IFP) and Western Cape Province (to the NNP). As of 2004 it gained Western Cape, and Kwa-Zulu Natal after a poor showing by the IFP.
By 2001, the tripartite alliance between the ANC, COSATU and SACP was showing signs of strain as the ANC moved to more liberal economic policies than its alliance partners were prepared to accommodate. The focus for dissent was Growth, Employment and Redistribution, or GEAR.
In late 2004 this was again thrown into sharp relief by Zwelinzima Vavi of COSATU, protesting the ANCs Zimbabwe policy of Quiet diplomacy and Black Economic Empowerment (BEE), which he complained benefits a favoured few in the black elite and not the masses.
Politicians in the party win a place in parliament by being on the Party List—drawn up before the elections, and enumerating, in order, the party's preferred MPs. Numbers of seats are allocated in proportion to the popular national vote, and the cut-off point is determined.
Bishop Desmond Tutu in his Nelson Mandela speech in 2004 criticized this system as discouraging debate and encouraging patronage within the party. He also singled out business deals that favor the recycled few in Black Empowerment deals instead of the poor majority.
Other sources of funding
In the late 1990s, the Saudi king Fahd gave the African National Congress US$50 million.
Key personalities within the ANC (listed alphabetically by surname)
Pre 1994: Mbeki, Thabo; Mandela, Nelson; Sisulu, Walter; Sobukwe, Robert; Tambo, Oliver
Post 1994: Mufamadi, Sydney; Mbeki, Thabo; Mandela, Nelson