ANC activists hang flags on lamp post near the Vilakazi Street home of Nelson Mandela. (Getty Images)
Mandela devoted his life not only to ending apartheid and promoting reconciliation, he also devoted attention to building the African National Congress, now nearly 102 years old. He served as president of its youth league, president of the ANC in the Transvaal region, deputy national president and ANC president. In the first post-apartheid elections, the ANC won 62.65 percent of the vote.
But even before Mandela’s death, the ANC began suffering from internal strains and it could fracture before the next elections.
In April 2012, the ANC expelled its youth league leader Julius Malema, who has formed a new party called the Economic Freedom Fighters. He hopes to tap the young and disenfranchised. An article in the South African publication Business Day notes that 20 percent of voters in 2014 could be young, first-time voters. Someone born the day Mandela was released would now be 22 years old.
The ANC will probably put forward its deputy president, Cyril Ramaphosa, a lawyer who was formidable head of the mineworkers union when I was in South Africa in the 1980s. After being passed over by Mandela for the spot of deputy president, he made a fortune in the business world before returning to the ANC. Now it isn’t clear whether people will rally behind him given the lucrative business deals he’s made and a position he held on the board of a company that owned a mine where strikers were killed in a confrontation with police.
Another party lining up support is the centrist Democratic Alliance, whose lineage goes back to the progressive white opposition party in the apartheid-era parliament. It is led by former journalist and anti-apartheid activist Helen Zille. As mayor of Cape Town, she tackled crime, drug abuse and unemployment. She is premier of the Western Cape province.
Meanwhile Mamphela Ramphele, a prominent economist and former World Bank official, has founded a new party called Agang. (Mamphele bore two children with Steve Biko, the Black Consciousness Movement leader and physician who was tortured to death in police custody in 1977.) “The ruling African National Congress (ANC) appears formidable … but is like a rotten tree,” she said last month. She’s building an organization, but her poll numbers are low for now.