South Africa


The ANC’s decline isn’t tragic — it’s normal, says political analyst Ralph Mathekga

The ANC’s decline isn’t tragic — it’s normal, says political analyst Ralph Mathekga
From left: Political analyst Dr Ralph Mathekga and Daily Maverick writer Stephen Grootes. (Photos: Twitter / Supplied)

The decline of the ANC is a normal progression for ruling parties that have been in power for almost three decades, according to political analyst Ralph Mathekga.

“The African National Congress’s decline isn’t tragic, it’s normal,” said political analyst Ralph Mathekga at Daily Maverick’s webinar on his book The ANC’s Last Decade: How the Decline of the Party Will Transform South Africa.

For the past 27 years, South Africa’s ruling party has been the continent’s oldest liberation movement. “The hypothesis [in the book] is that most liberation parties are in power for 30 years and then start to fizzle out,” said Mathekga.

When parties do stay in power for longer than 30 years it’s because they’ve resorted to other measures to stay in power — look at Zanu-PF in Zimbabwe, said Mathekga.

But even if the ANC, which has been beset by rampant corruption, decided to renew itself, “will it be the same ANC of the past 27 years that has held hegemony over South African politics?” asked Mathekga.

The ANC’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, has repeatedly said that the party needs to renew and rebuild amid declining public trust in the party.

This decline saw the party win with a reduced majority of 57.50% in the 2019 national elections, down from 62.15% in the 2014 elections.

Four years ago, when Ramaphosa became ANC president, there were talks that he wouldn’t finish his term, but now the conversation has shifted and people are saying that there isn’t anyone to challenge him for his seat as party president, said Stephen Grootes, who hosted the webinar. 

The party’s secretary-general, Ace Magashule, has been suspended. He is facing charges of corruption, fraud, theft and money laundering over his alleged involvement in a R255-million Free State asbestos audit contract. And David Mabuza, the party’s deputy president, seems to not be in the best physical shape, noted Grootes.

The decline of the ANC works well for Ramaphosa. “A weakened ANC is one that Ramaphosa can manage. I don’t think his leadership style would’ve worked well in a strong ANC,” said Mathekga.

The ANC’s decline had also affected opposition parties, said Mathekga. “The opposition [parties] are not creative, they can’t think outside of the ANC’s frame of thinking.” 

Did the decline of the ANC mean that a coalition party would be able to unseat the ANC nationally? asked an audience member. 

That was possible, but “not all coalitions will advance democracy. It’s about the quality of the opposition parties that get into coalitions,” said Mathekga.

For instance, the Democratic Alliance seemed to be struggling with coalitions, said Mathekga, pointing to Nelson Mandela Bay, Johannesburg and Tshwane. 

But Mathekga believes that coalitions are valuable in stopping rampant corruption, “because the decision-making doesn’t rest with one party”.

“Although coalitions don’t always work best when it comes to handling a crisis, because coalitions take longer to make decisions and South Africans are impatient — they want you to act now — but they’re great for the long term,” said Mathekga.

Mathekga is the author of two other books: When Zuma Goes and Ramaphosa’s Turn. DM 


Comments - Please in order to comment.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted


This article is free to read.

Sign up for free or sign in to continue reading.

Unlike our competitors, we don’t force you to pay to read the news but we do need your email address to make your experience better.

Nearly there! Create a password to finish signing up with us:

Please enter your password or get a sign in link if you’ve forgotten

Open Sesame! Thanks for signing up.

Daily Maverick The Gathering 2024 banner

Daily Maverick has secured an esteemed speaker line-up...

to help make sense of Elections 2024.

Trevor Manuel, Prof Thuli Madonsela and Minister Ronald Lamola are among the latest panellists confirmed for Daily Maverick The Gathering Twenty Twenty-Four.

Join us, on Thurs 14 March 2024 at CTICC Cape Town or online wherever you are, for an event that will put the election in perspective.

Make your taxes work for you

Donate to Daily Maverick’s non-profit arm, the Scorpio Investigative Unit, by 29 February 2024 and you’ll qualify for a tax break.

We issue Section 18A tax certificates for all donations made to Daily Maverick. These can be presented to SARS for tax relief.

Make your donation today

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options

Otsile Nkadimeng - photo by Thom Pierce

A new community Actionist every week.

Meet the South Africans making a difference. Get Maverick Citizen in your inbox.