This article is the second part of the synthesis report of a conference which took place on November 22nd, 2013 at Ifri, Paris. The event was jointly organized by the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA), the French Institute in South Africa (IFAS), and the French Institute of International Relations (Ifri). It was part of the South Africa – France Seasons 2012 & 2013,

State of the Nation: Economy, Politics and Society


The State of the African National Congress
by Anthony Butler, Professor at the Department of Political Studies,University of Cape Town

According to Anthony Butler, a lot of pressure is put on the ANC by the difficult economic and social situation in South Africa. But the ruling party is also facing four internal challenges. First, money is playing a way too important role in the country politics; the pursuit of political office within the ANC is a way to control resources, which in turn enable to secure office. The obscure financing of the ANC through private donations is another aspect of this unhealthy link between money and politics. Secondly, the ANC is an “umbrella organization”, encompassing almost all the classes of the society; this situation integrates social conflicts within the ANC and represent a threat for its coherence on the medium term. Thirdly, certain confusion in the state decision-making, and in particular around economic policies, makes it unclear for voters what direction the ANC is taking on the long term. Finally, even though global membership to the ANC has grown and is likely to reach 2 million in the coming years, the composition of these members is not solid, in terms of competing provinces of origin, voters’ political maturity and commitment to the ANC founding values, etc. Nevertheless, the ANC’s electoral prospects are rather good, due among others to the lack of a strong opposition, the party’s capacity to “buy votes” and to present well-structured branches in every corner of the country. Moreover, Zuma is a fantastic campaigner and will make sure to put forward its religious positions and respect to traditions to maintain his position. The local elections in three years may represent a bigger challenge than these General Elections.

vidéo butler


The Tripartite Alliance under trade union pressure
By Raphaël Botiveau, University of Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne, Paris

Raphaël Botiveau started from the strike wave in the mining sector in 2012 and the massacre of 34 strikers in Marikana to describe the state of trade unions in South Africa. The Congress of South Africa Trade Union (COSATU) is the main federation of unions and belongs to the Tripartite Alliance along with the ANC and the communist party. The National Union of Mine workers (NUM) used to be its largest member but faces a sharp decline, conceding the first rank to the National Union of Metal Workers in South Africa (NUMSA, around 300 000 members). However, NUM is still strong in terms of quality (as three ruling Secretary General of the ANC came from its ranks) and financial stability. A more recent and more militant trade union rose and organized the 2012 strikes: the Association of Mine workers and Construction Union (AMCU, around 150 000 members). Although the AMCU labels itself as apolitical and dedicated to the workplace, it is in a process of institutionalization and has to participate in the formal system of negotiation it rejected during the mobilization movements. The strikers indeed had two main demands: an increase in wages and the rejection of NUM intermediation between workers and management. The strike mostly touched the platinium sector (South Africa has around 90% of the world reserves) and spread to the gold sector. On the political level, the transformation of the mining sector is a recurring debate and was part of Zuma’s campaign promises, but it still fails to be translated politically and on the ground, leading to a general dissatisfaction with the ANC. Within the COSATU itself, divisions crystallize on the opposition between its President Sdumo Dlamini, supported by the NUM and the communist party (SACP), and the General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, supported by NUMSA. A future split of the COSATU is likely and the current crisis will certainly have long term consequences for South Africa mining sector and ruling power.

SeerajThe South African economy during 20 years of democracy
By Seeraj Mohamed, Director of Corporate Strategy and Industrial Development  and Senior Lecturer, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg

Seeraj Mohamed portrayed South Africa economic situation during the apartheid, underlying the high levels of unemployment, inequality and poverty. Based on the colonial model, the state was playing a central role in the domestic economy, even after the creation of the Union of South Africa in 1910. In the 1980s, the apartheid government’s isolation and the changing international environment led to the progressive adoption of a more neo-liberal economic programme, through financial liberalization, policies dedicated to fight inflation, privatization and outsourcing of public services. In the 1990s, the ANC continued this economic approach, along with the black empowerment ideology, which mostly benefited to a newly formed elite. Some had expected that the ANC would adopt more developmentalist and social policies but neo-liberalism was the path chosen to face recurrent economic crises and achieve a so-called macroeconomic relative stability. Since the 1990s, social progress was clearly made, in the fields of education or access to water and electricity for example. But racial and geographic inequalities are still extremely high, as well as poverty. Today, the large domestic corporations are internationalized. Household’s consumption rely mainly on credit, even if their savings are higher and higher. The tertiary sector exploded, while primary and secondary sectors shares of employment fell sharply.

Download the full report here

Coming soon: synthesis of rountables 2
Read here the report of the opening session