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South Africa's first democratic election of 1994 provided the basis for the African National Congress (ANC) to replace the formerly ruling National Party (NP) as the country's dominant party. The new dominance was initially established by the ANC's majority position within the post-election coalition Government of National Unity. Since the election, however, the ANC's dominance has begun to be extended by a centralization of control exercised through the machinery of state, notably through four processes: the rewriting of the transitional interim constitution and the promulgation of a new constitution which, inter alia, abolishes the necessity for coalition government after the next election; the attempted containment of autonomy of the ANC's structures which have been established at the level of the new provinces; the exercise of party discipline within parliament and some curtailment of the government's accountability to parliament; and, fourthly, the imposition of administrative and financial discipline upon the provinces. These processes have taken place within a context of a fragmentation and fissure of Opposition party forces, which in the immediate future will only further enhance the ANC's dominance, despite some indication that that party is itself faced by a declining level of popular support.

SOUTH AFRICA is now routinely regarded as a `new democracy', yet there is an equally wide recognition that it faces major problems of democratic consolidation: for instance, are the institutions of the transition capable of managing political conflict in a highly divided society? Are the social conditions underlying the transition capable of underpinning democracy in the longer term? To what extent is a successful consolidation dependent upon the attainment of sustained economic growth?(1) These, and a multiplicity of other questions, underline the uncertainty of consolidation and stress that a continued democratic future for South Africa cannot be guaranteed.(2)

The particular focus of this article is upon the implications for democratic consolidation of changes already taking place within South Africa's restructured dominant party system. This is of particular importance as the key challenge posed by dominance is that it simultaneously offends the notion that democracy is about the rotation of rulers whilst often providing the opportunity for rulers to entrench themselves in power.(3) The issue then becomes not just the degree to which domination of a particular political system genuinely reflects popular opinion whilst permitting the articulation and representation of minority interests,(4) but also the extent to which it provides for, or facilitates, the wider societal conditions that reproduce that party's hegemony over the long term.

It will be argued here that developments are taking place within the South African polity that are entrenching the dominance of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) despite something of a lessening in that party's popular support, and despite the emergence of a tendential fracturing of its `tripartite alliance' with the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU). In particular, it is proposed that a bid by the ANC national government to centralize power is being accompanied by a further fragmentation of the political opposition. Whilst for the moment at least this does not jeopardize South Africa's status as a democracy, it does raise questions concerning the quality and depth of that democracy in the future.

The election of 1994 provided the basis for the African National Congress (ANC) to emerge as the dominant force within a coalition Government of National Unity (GNU), itself the outcome of an extended process of negotiation between contending forces, notably a popular alliance (led by the ANC and its allies) on the one hand, and the formerly ruling National Party (NP) and a motley group of its associates on the other. However, given the momentous changes wrought by the transition from apartheid to democracy, and given too that the new government initially drew its authority from an interim constitution which committed Parliament, acting as a Constituent Assembly (CA), to replace it by a new one, it was to be expected that the immediate transformation should be followed by a reshaping of the political arena. That latter process is now in full swing as, within a transitional context of remarkable fluidity, political and social forces seek to regroups not least with a view to the next election, expected in 1999.

The ANC as a newly dominant party

The 1994 election, which featured concurrent contests for Parliament and the Assemblies of nine newly demarcated provinces, was conducted under the party list system of proportional representation. The ANC won 62.6 percent of the national vote and an outright majority in six of the provinces, and effective control in a seventh. In contrast, the NP took 20.4 percent of the vote nationally and victory in but one province, (the Western Cape), whilst the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), the Zulu ethnic-nationalist amalgam led by former homeland leader Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, took 10.4 percent and a bare majority in Kwazulu-Natal. This outcome provided the basis for these three parties to take proportionate shares within the GNU, which the interim constitution envisaged as guiding South Africa through the first five years of its new democracy. However, the ANC's control of the Presidency and its majority position within the cabinet resulted in its domination of the government's agenda and process. Even worse, from the point of view of the minority parties was that, for a host of reasons to do with race, region, class and history, there seemed minimal prospect of the electoral dominance of the ANC, the party of liberation, being dislodged at successive elections in the foreseeable future,(5) That dominance is now being further entrenched by a growing centralization of control.

The centralization of control

Nelson Mandela was sworn in as South Africa's first democratically elected President on 10 May 1994. To say that the inheritance of the new government was a difficult one is an understatement. The country had just stepped back from the brink of outright civil war; the ANC, representative of the large majority of the black population, was confronted by a white dominated power structure in state and society; the economy was at last registering modest growth, but against a background of relative decline over the last decade (and more), massive inequalities, and structural deficiencies (huge unemployment, skills shortages, constraints on productivity, a heavily protected manufacturing sector, and so on); the need to integrate the former South African Defence Force with the various armies of liberation (notably Umkhonto We Sizwe) and of the former homelands was paramount; the transitional era was accompanied by a massive rise of crime on the streets in key centres, much of it extremely violent; the nine new provinces (which were being carved out of the four former provinces and ten African homelands) existed initially only on paper; and so on.(6) In addition to all this, the government--composed of former enemies which had sharply differing agendas--was charged with guiding the continuing process of constitutional transformation. It was against this background that the ANC element within the national government sought, and is still working, to transform its electoral dominance into actual control over state and society.

Four particular processes can be identified. First, the success which the ANC enjoyed in the re-writing of the constitution; second, the attempted containment of provincial autonomy within the party; third, the imposition of party discipline and the curtailment of parliamentary accountability; and fourth, the imposition of administrative and financial discipline upon the provincial governments.

The rewriting of the constitution: The transitional constitution, which was drawn up by unelected political actors, stipulated that a democratically elected Constitutional Assembly (CA) (the 400 members of parliament and the 90 senators sitting together) should draft a new constitution within two years of the post-apartheid parliament first meeting. Failure of a text to obtain the approval of a two-thirds majority within the CA would allow various deadlock breaking mechanisms to be invoked, but even then any revised text would have to be certified by a newly-established Constitutional Court as complying with the 34 principles underlying the transitional constitution.(7)

In the event, the remaking of the constitution proved a troublesome exercise. Inter alia, there were major points of contention between the ANC and the NP over, particularly, key provisions in the Bill of Rights, whilst the IFP withdrew entirely from the CA in April 1995 after, in its view, the ANC failed to honour a promise, allegedly made in early 1994 (to persuade its rival to participate in the election), to subject outstanding disagreements between the two parties to international mediation. Initially, too, the Constitutional Court declined to ratify a first draft text which obtained more than the necessary majority in the CA in May 1996, forcing the Assembly to reconvene and renegotiate over notably, the extent of powers and functions of the provinces and of local government, and the level of protection given to the Bill of Rights against amendment. Suffice it to say here that the Constitutional Court finally approved a revised text on 4 December 1996. The enabling Act was signed six days later, and came into general effect in early February 1997.(8)

The IFP rejected the new constitution as `Orwellian', as likely to lead to a one-party state; the minute African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) rejected it as unchristian, not least because it provided for abortion; and the right-wing Freedom Front (FF) remained unhappy that it failed to make adequate provision for Afrikaner `self-determination'. Otherwise, for all that they remained at odds with various aspects, the NP leadership and the small, liberal Democratic Party (DP), joined the ANC and a host of commentators in hailing the constitution as one of the most enlightened such documents in the world.

For all that the new constitution represents the triumph of democracy, its passage provides a basis for the firmer control over the machinery of state by the ANC. For a start, following the initial passing of the draft text by the CA in June, the NP opted to leave the GNU. The ostensible reason given by its leader, former President F. W. De Klerk, was that the time was ripe: having helped ease South Africa through its difficult transition, the time had come for the NP to become an Opposition `to ensure proper and true multiparty democracy'.(9) In reality, the decision by the NP to leave government, after nearly half a century at the helm, would seem to have reflected acute discontent amongst its more right-wing elements on the backbenches and in the provinces (notably the Western Cape) with what was deemed to be its top leadership's failure to stand up to the ANC within both the Cabinet and the CA. Whatever the case, although a proportionate share of the posts which it had occupied in government were now reallocated to the IFP, the latter remained very much defined as the junior partner, whilst to all intents and purposes the ANC was confirmed as the ruling party.

Beyond this, and of likely more long lasting significance, is that, overall, the new constitution is more favourable than its predecessor to the ANC's centralizing project. Three changes stand out. First, whereas the NP had made an early attempt during the negotiations to extend the practice of `power-sharing' in government, the new constitution makes no provision for enforced coalition. Amongst other things, the provision made by the interim constitution for the leader of the second largest party in parliament to become a Deputy President falls away. Furthermore, whereas the size of the cabinet was formerly restricted to 27 (later, by amendment, 28), it provides the President (normally to be elected by a simple majority of a new National Assembly at its first sitting) with complete discretion to appoint any number of Ministers or Deputy Ministers he or she chooses. Again, whereas in September 1994 special legislation needed to be passed to allow the appointment of a former banker, Chris Leibenberg, to the post of Minister of Finance (following the surprise resignation of the NP's Derek Keys from that post),(10) the new constitution provides for up to two Ministers to be appointed from outside the assembly.(11) In short, so long as a government has a majority in parliament, it can exercise untrammelled `majority rule', albeit within the constraints set by the constitution.

The second change favouring centralization is the introduction of the concept of Cooperative Government, associated with which is the replacement of the Senate by the National Council of Provinces. The debate about federalism was by far the most contested during the negotiation process leading up to the interim constitution. On the one hand, the ANC and its allies favoured the redrawing of South Africa into some nine or ten provinces, but argued that the provincial competencies should be subordinate to national government, as had been the case since 1910. In contrast, the forces opposed to the ANC argued equally strongly for a high degree of autonomy for new provinces, which would be based largely on the then nine functionally defined `development regions' (which spanned both the then four provinces and the self-governing homelands which had been excised from them). For its part, the NP underwent a rapid conversion to federalism in prospect of its ceding national level control to the ANC; the DP had long argued the virtues of federalism as providing important limitations upon the accumulation of powers by national government; and the IFP became obsessed with its pursuit of strong powers for provinces, and special status for the Zulu monarchy, in a bid to construct a bulwark against ANC intrusions around Kwazulu-Natal. Ultimately, however, the balance of forces within the negotiation process was such that, whilst the interim constitution did demarcate nine new provinces, the latter were awarded no exclusive powers. To be sure, their competencies extended over a wide array of spheres, ranging from agriculture through health and police to welfare services, but all these powers were listed as concurrent with Parliament and as subject to uniform norms and standards that might need to be applied throughout the country. Provincial taxation capacity was also rendered dependent upon approval by Parliament, as well as providing for the latter to determine what `equitable' share of national revenues, and other special financial allocations, provinces should receive. In short, if the transitional constitution was federal at all, it was at most proto-federal.(12)

The federalist cause prospered no better after 1994. With all the legitimacy of its massive election victory behind it, the ANC now had the upper hand in negotiations and was determined to loosen the constraints placed upon it during the initial transition. Having resisted the bid by the NP to entrench power-sharing, it similarly set itself against any re-introduction of the debate about federalism. Aided by the decision of the IFP to pull out of the CA, it persuaded the NP to discuss intergovernmental relations in terms of `cooperative government' rather than federalism, thereby reducing the ideological temper of the debate and allowing concentration upon the actual content, details and overriding purpose of provincial powers. Cooperative government was projected as describing a system where the national and provincial governments cooperate, consult and compromise with one another for the common good, rather than competing against each other for individual gain. In contrast, `competitive federalism' was presented as leading to misuse of political energy, political instability and resulting economic cost to the country.(13)

The overall effect of the new constitution is to bring about a definite shift of power to the centre. Thus although--unlike the interim constitution--the final version does allocate what it terms some exclusive functions to the provinces, these are minimal,(14) and in any case, these may be overridden by national legislation in the interests of national security, to maintain economic unity, to secure maintenance of minimal standards, and to prevent `unreasonable action' by a province.(15) Otherwise, although the provinces are allocated a rather wider array of competences than they were in 1994, these are all held concurrently with the national parliament, which retains the right to legislate for the provinces, set minimum standards, and so on. However, it is in the replacement of the Senate by the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) that the idea of `cooperative government' is embodied.

Under the interim constitution, the Senate was composed of ten members elected by each provincial assembly, their party composition determined proportionately by the performance of parties in the provincial election. In contrast, the basis of provincial representation in the NCOP is radically different, being composed of ten `delegates'. Of these, four are special delegates, being the Premier (or a designated alternate) and three others, as required from time to time and according to the nature of the business to be discussed, drawn from members of the provincial assembly. The remaining six delegates are appointed by the provincial assemblies, but cannot retain membership of those bodies if elected. Meanwhile, the composition of both permanent and special delegates must ensure the participation of minority parties `in a manner consistent with democracy'. Furthermore, in normal circumstances, decisions by the NCOP on bills concerning the provinces will by made by the provinces voting as delegations: each province has one vote, which will be cast by the head of its delegation, with questions being decided by a favourable vote of five out of the nine provinces.(16) In sum, given the ANC's firm grip over six out of the nine provinces, the effective working of `cooperative government' will be such as to secure its ultimate control over the NCOP. The latter may well work as a forum for the airing of provincial concerns, but at the end of the day, non-ANC provinces will possess no veto powers, minimal prospects of putting together blocking coalitions, and no ability to push through provincial constitutions which are fundamentally at odds with the wishes of the ANC.

Finally, the fourth change in the constitution which furthers ANC central control is elevation of local government to an independent tier of authority. Broadly speaking, under the interim constitution, local government fell under the aegis of the provinces. Under the new constitution, provinces retain various responsibilities for local government, but the latter has been transformed from a mere extension of the provinces into a constitutionally recognized layer in its own right. `Government', `is constituted as national, provincial and local spheres of government which are distinctive, interdependent and interrelated'.(17) Furthermore, Parliament is now charged with making `equitable' shares of national revenue available to the three levels of government. Along with the grant of powers to municipalities to raise their own revenues through regional service council levies, property taxes, licences and service delivery (water, electricity, refuse removal, etc), local government has been provided with a much greater degree of fiscal autonomy. In practice, this may well underwrite the formation of metropolitan governments in the larger cities, notably Johannesburg and Durban, whose budgets, prominence and functions may come to compete with those of the provinces. At the same time, local governments will be no less subject than the provinces to financial rules and regulations, rendering them subject to national government intervention if they are deemed to be failing in their responsibilities.(18)

For all that the Constitutional Court approved the final text as conforming with the principles underlying the interim constitution, it would seem that the ANC succeeded in reversing proto-federalist tendencies in favour of firmer control by the national government over the provinces, and indeed over public administration as a whole.

The attempted containment of provincial autonomy within the party: The ANC arrived in government as a liberation movement, a nationalist party, the leading element of an alliance with the SACP and the COSATU, as a combination of returned exiles and internal activists, and not least, as the major representative of the South African people. The ANC presented itself to the electorate as a broad church, as a home for all those--black, white or brown--adhering to its non-racial principles. Furthermore, not only was it faced with imposing itself upon a central state machinery long attuned to the needs of apartheid and the NP, but it was also confronted by the daunting challenge of actually having to create the new provinces out of bits and pieces of their white predecessors and the former homelands. Whilst it did all this, and whilst it continued to battle with its opponents over the constitution, it also had to begin to turn around a declining economy, to consolidate its structures internally and to address the numerous needs and expectations of its supporters. It is not surprising that the party leadership should have attempted to impose a semblance of order upon the political landscape by asserting its authority.

The particular mechanism used by the leadership has been that of `deployment and redeployment'. Basically, this approach views the highest levels of the state and the party machinery, and the different levels of government, as but one employment matrix. Prior to the 1994 election, the ANC was faced with drawing up party lists for the National and Provincial Assemblies, as well as bringing about a transformation of the public service--to render it more representative in terms of race and gender, and simultaneously willing to implement the new government's agenda. One result has been the movement of its personnel by the ANC from one sphere or level to another according to the dictates of the moment. Another has been a blurring of the distinction between politics and administration, notably whereby some high profile newly appointed civil servants are intimately connected to their ministers.

All this has been facilitated by the list system of representation as adopted by the interim constitution, and which has been retained for the election of 1999 (at least). This allows for the free movement of personnel from one sphere to another: any member of the National Assembly, Provincial Assembly, or the NCOP (and previously the Senate) can resign from that body and be replaced by another representative of his/her party, without any reference to the electorate. (Some 70-80 MPs have moved on from parliament already since the last election). The ANC leadership has made particular use of this practice to rein in attempts by its new provincial organs to establish their autonomy, most notably by trying to ensure its choice of provincial premiers and/or leaders. Some prime examples may suffice to illustrate this trend.

The Free State leadership: Patrick `Terror' Lekota earned the initial resentment of certain ANC elements within the Free State when he was deployed to lead that province by the national leadership in 1994. He became Premier, but subsequently lost the vote for the leadership of the provincial party organization later in the year (contrary to the wish of the national ANC which wished to see the provincial government and party leaderships combined). Subsequently, in May 1996, when Lekota reshuffled his cabinet, his shift of Ace Magashule from his post of Member of Executive Council (MEC) for Economic Affairs to Transport signalled the outbreak of battle. Magashule resigned (but claimed he was dismissed), the faction supporting him insisted that Lekota should first have consulted the party leadership, and after an initial attempt by the national ANC to mediate, Lekota publicly accused Magashule and other provincial party leaders of corruption. The ANC National Executive Committee (NEC) now sought to resolve the situation by forcing both Lekota and Magashule to resign from the provincial assembly, and by redeploying the former to the Senate (where he was lined up to become chairperson of the NCOP) and the latter to the National Assembly. Dr Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri was simultaneously moved from the chairpersonship of the South African Broadcasting Corporation to become Premier. Ironically, however, supporters of Lekota denied Casaburri victory in the subsequent contest for the leadership of the provincial leadership of the ANC, securing the election of Finance and Economic Affairs MEC Zingile Dingane instead. For all the NEC's efforts, therefore, the provincial state and party leadership remained split.(19)

The Eastern Cape leadership: In December 1996 Robben Island stalwart Raymond Mhlaba announced that he would resign his position as Premier and party leader of the Eastern Cape. Despite his insistence that he was going because of his old age (76), there was general agreement that his resignation was secured by the national leadership on account of his not being up to running a province whose administration, following its absorption of the former Transkei and Ciskei, was blatantly chaotic, incompetent and corrupt. Mhlaba was replaced by the Rev Arnold Stofile, who was redeployed from the post of ANC national treasurer. He was sworn in as Premier in February 1997 having dutifully been elected provincial leader a week earlier.(20)

The leadership struggle in Guateng: Tokyo Sexwale, a highly popular former close associate of Chris Hani (the SACP leader assassinated by white rightists in 1993), surprised commentators when in early 1997 he announced that he intended to resign from the Premiership and party leadership of Guateng, and go into business. Sexwale, himself, remained discreet, but it was generally accepted that his resignation was precipitated by the failure of his bid to garner sufficient support to challenge Thabo Mbeki for the leadership of the ANC after Mandela's eventual retirement. It was subsequently announced that his resignation would take effect from January 1998, with his successor being elected in August, this providing for a period of overlap to smooth the transition.

The resulting leadership contest initially featured two major candidates: MEC for Health Amos Masondo, backed by the provincial leadership and officials of Cosatu and the SACP, and Mathole Motshekga, backed by most ANC branches and grass roots organizations in Guateng. When, in August 1997, the provincial leadership declined to allow the province's general council of the ANC, supposedly the highest organ of the party within Guateng, to have a free vote, insisting instead that the Alliance partners should have an equal voice in determining the nomination, the process deadlocked. Facing the prospect that Masondo would be defeated if the wider provincial party had its way, the provincial leadership now reopened the field to other nominations. With the support of the ANC's national leaders, who reportedly viewed Motshekga as a populist, they now switched their support to the Rev Frank Chikane, a widely respected anti-apartheid campaigner and now Director-General in Thabo Mbeki's office. Yet all this proved to no avail, for when the contest did revert to the general council, the party membership delivered a resounding defeat to Chikane in favour of Motshekga, who subsequently assumed the premiership following Sexwale's departure.(21)

Before the 1994 election, before the creation of the nine new provinces, and before the subsequent formation by the ANC of nine new provincial organizations, the party had little choice and much responsibility to place its personnel in the places where it deemed fit. Nor did the other major parties act substantially differently. But following the election, the landscape has begun to change. The national leadership may have successfully redeployed personnel to secure election of provincial leadership of its choice in Free State and the Eastern Cape, but has failed to control the outcome of events in Guateng. The question now will be the extent to which it is able to tolerate any significant growth of party-provincial autonomy.

Party discipline and the curtailment of parliamentary accountability: One of the immense virtues of the transition was the dramatic change brought to the committee system in parliament. Before 1994, under the NP, the proceedings of all committees were kept secret. Legislation was tabled behind closed doors, and MPs were forbidden to talk about what went on. Most legalisation found its way on to the statute book without amendment. Without the lonely objections by the liberal DP and its predecessor parties, even draconian measures would have passed through the House without proper debate. In contrast, after 1994, parliamentary committees were thrown open to the public, and more particularly, to a new breed of MPs who were alive to the need to call the Executive to account.

The early signs were good, with various measures--such as the original Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Bill--being torn to shreds in committee, and sent back to the Minister for redrafting. In numerous other spheres, too, notably Foreign Affairs and Defence, the Executive and senior civil servants were subject to unparalleled scrutiny, as the oversight role was carried through in a relatively non-partisan fashion. However, there are now signs that the momentum towards open government is slowing down. One reason, almost certainly, is that it is some of the more able backbench ANC MPs who are leaving parliament, frustrated by their relative powerlessness and inactivity after years of activism. In turn, they are replaced by successors who did not make the parliamentary list in the first place.(22) But more worrying are indications that in some cases, pressure is being placed upon MPs by the ANC to save Ministers and their projects embarrassment. A key example is the Health committee, where it was left to Opposition MPs to take the Minister to task over the financial scandal of `Sarafina 2' (involving the grossly extravagant funding of a play to combat AIDS), with ANC members of the committee proving uncharacteristically mute. Worse, perhaps, are other signs that Ministers themselves are attempting to steamroller committees: Mineral and Energy Affairs Minister Penuell Maduna announced a whole string of issues to do with the fuel industry of which the parliamentary committee had never heard; Intelligence committee members are complaining that although they do have to sign an oath of secrecy, they are being denied information; and similarly, it took an embarrassingly public protest by Tony Yengeni, an ANC member of the defence committee, to force the Defence Ministry to provide a proper run-down on the Defence budget and its implications (and even then, Deputy Minister Ronnie Kasrils persuaded the committee to keep the information confidential). There are also multiple complaints that ANC Ministers are failing to make themselves available in the Assembly. Answers to some hundreds of questions reportedly remain outstanding.(23)

Not least of the reasons why the new drive for parliamentary accountability may be faltering is the determination of the leadership to make the parliamentary party toe the line. MPs, perhaps especially those with no ready alternative source of income to turn too, are more than a little aware that expulsion from the party means expulsion from parliament. If they had not read the constitution, this was made explicit by the treatment meted out to former Transkei military leader Bantu Holomisa, who had earned the gratitude of the ANC in the latter years of apartheid for making his homeland available as a base for Umkhonto we Sizwe.

Holomisa was appointed Deputy Minister of Environmental Affairs in 1994, but his moving into a populist alliance with Winnie Madikizela-Mandela (dismissed for indiscipline from her own government post in April 1995) marked him out as a maverick. Matters came to a head in mid 1996 when Holomisa gave testimony to the Truth and Reconciliation Committee in which he alleged that Public Enterprises Minister Stella Sicgau, herself Prime Minister of Transkei for a short period in late 1986, had taken a R50,000 cut of a bribe paid by casino magnate Sol Kerzner to George Matanzima when he was Prime Minister of the homeland. This notorious affair was well aired in the press at the time, and the accusation was not new, but the ANC was manifestly unimpressed about the matter being recycled. It complained that Holomisa should not have accused a fellow member of the party without first raising it within party structures. Subsequently, it was even further unimpressed when Holomisa went on to allege that Sol Kerzner had made a donation to ANC coffers in the run up to the election. This forced Mandela into a confession that he had accepted Kerzner's money on his own responsibility, but the ANC went on to vigorously refute further charges made by Holomisa that Kerzner had dispensed other favours to government ministers, not least Vice-President Mbeki. The upshot was that Holomisa was subjected to the disciplinary processes of the ANC, and after appeal, was dismissed from the party, and hence from parliament in September 1996 for bringing the party into disrepute.(24) The nature of Holomisa's dismissal, and that the ANC seemed more concerned with disloyalty than investigating possible corruption within its ranks, reportedly left many MPs unnerved and worried about a drift to authoritarian leadership.(25)

The imposition of administrative and financial discipline upon Provincial Governments: The creation of the :nine new provinces by South Africa's constitutional negotiators may have been forced by the need to placate the IFP and NP, but increasingly there are doubts that the provincial system of government is viable.(26) There is immediately an inherent inequality in capacity between those provinces (Guateng, Western Cape and Free State) which inherited functioning administrations from the former white provinces, and those (the rest) which were required to merge from the former homelands administrations into greater or lesser fragments of former white bureaucracies.(27) These latter are now struggling with the need to rationalize `workshy, poorly trained and bloated homeland administrations', their problems exacerbated by an exodus of experienced (white) officials who have taken advantage of a generous voluntary redundancy scheme designed to ease the transition.(28) The immediate outcome is that in almost every province there appear to be mounting difficulties in managing central state financial allocations within budget, and in controlling waste and corruption. The government is responding by tightening financial and administrative discipline, and by warning it will not contemplate bail-outs.

The reality is that the provinces are overwhelmingly dependent financially upon the central government. Indeed, in 1997-98, transfers to provinces are due to account for some 45 percent of the national budget, but overall, the central exchequer will provide fully 95 percent of provincial income.(29) Basically, the constitution lays down that Parliament must provide for the allocation of equitable divisions of revenue to the provinces, these to be sufficient to allow the latter to provide the services and perform the functions allotted to them. As subsequently elaborated by the Financial and Fiscal Commission (an independent body charged with devising principles to parliament concerning financial matters), a provincial revenue sharing formula should include: a national minimum standards grant (to enable provinces to meet nationally established standards in delivery of services); a fiscal capacity equalization grant to compensate provinces with a smaller tax base; an institutional grant to cover basic legislative and administrative costs; and a basic grant based on population, with an additional weighting in favour of people living in rural areas. In addition, the FFC has also proposed that provinces receive a share of basic income tax determined as a proportion of the personal income tax collected in that province, such a formula to be phased in over six years.(30)

There are now moves afoot to allocate up to 7 percent of South African's personal tax to the provincial government.(31) For the moment, however, what is rather more significant is that the constitution demands that parliament prescribe the manner in. which budgets are laid out, and in particular how proposed expenditure will comply with national legislation. In particular, the central government has the power (with due safeguards to prevent abuse) to stop transfer of funds to the provinces if the latter are deemed to be in material breach laid down by accounting practice and treasury norms, and is similarly empowered to intervene in provincial affairs where a province is failing to fulfil its constitutional and legal obligations. These include the need to meet essential national standards in delivery of services and to maintain national economic unity.(32) These are early days, but there is every indication that the ANC national government does not take these responsibilities lightly.

As laid out by its basic macro-economic document, Growth, Employment and Redistribution (GEAR), issued in June 1996, the government is aiming at a budget deficit target of 3 percent GDP by 2000. This is to be met, in part, by ensuring that official expenditure does not exceed revenue and ensuring that the tax burden does not move beyond its present level. The objective, inter alia, is to bring down the cost of financing the national debt, which increased from 3.65 in 1987-88 to 6.5 percent (or over 21 percent of the national budget expenditure) in 1997-98.(33) However, present indications are that the government is not meeting its target, and that to some considerable extent, the provinces are to blame. The response by the government has become an increasingly and insistent warning that erring provinces will face budgetary discipline and national intervention.

The causes of overspending by the provinces are varied. In the Western Cape, the NP-led administration has sought to challenge the national government by budgeting for a deficit of R247 million in 1997-98, even though provinces are constitutionally denied the right to do so. Complaining that its financial allocation from central government was insufficient and that it was facing a reduction of its income in real terms from 1996-97, the Western Cape government indicated that it would look for ways to bridge the loan, even though the powers it had to raise its own revenue were severely limited. The ANC, in contrast, insisted that the NP was refusing to change the priorities of its budget and confront historical racial inequalities, and should be cutting back on administrative and personnel costs, rather than imposing cuts on health and education. Having had budget deficits covered by the national government in previous years, the NP was now trying to stage-manage a financial crisis.(34)

Other provinces may not be similarly motivated, but they too are experiencing major fiscal difficulties. In Northern Province, the government has insisted that it is not budgeting for a deficit, but has warned that it may overspend significantly on education and that it has insufficient funding to meet its capital expenditure needs.(35) In contrast, an auditor-general's report has indicted that North-West Province has overspent by R367 million in 1995-96, bringing the accumulated total debt to nearly R1 billion. There were major inadequacies in the internal control and recorded system, and overall there was minimal compliance with treasury instructions and provincial fiscal regulations.(36) The auditor-general of Kwazulu-Natal found similar deficiencies, noting that the provincial housing, local government and health departments, as well as the Natal Parks Board--had lost millions of Rands through shortcomings in management procedures.(37) But the most spectacularly uncontrollable of the provinces have been Mpumalanga and the Eastern Cape.

Mpumalanga (previously Eastern Transvaal), which absorbed Kwangwane, KwaNdebele and districts of Bophuthatswana, but which delivered an 80 percent vote for the ANC at provincial level in 1994 has proved a major embarrassment to the now effectively ruling party. Dubbed `the province where graft is rewarded'(38) after a series of high profile financial scandals,(39) Mpumalanga has also received adverse attention concerning a highly controversial multi-million Rand deal between the province's parks board and the shady, Dubai-based Dolphin group which would give the latter exclusive rights to `develop' and administer game parks and holiday resorts in the province for the next twenty-five years. The national government responded by demanding its right to veto the deal.(40) Meanwhile, after having announced that it expected a deficit of R940 million unless it were granted additional national funds, the provincial government subsequently announced a reordering of the budget to ensure that there would be no deficit, but declined to indicate how this would be achieved without staff cuts or abandoning infrastructure projects.(41) Alongside this, the Eastern Cape, which has inherited the financial chaos which characterized the Ciskei and Transkei homelands, remains in thorough disarray, challenged by overspending, acknowledged corruption, and a serious incapacity to manage its finances. Despite an acknowledged crisis in health care, welfare and education, the central government has made it explicit that the province must learn to manage within its means--although when faced by an administrative debacle in early 1998 which saw the province unable to pay old age and disability pensions, it had little choice but to provide an R800 million bail out.(42)

Finance Minister Trevor Manuel has indicated firmly that overspending provinces will not be assisted out of their difficulties by national government.(43) Meanwhile, a report by the Director-General of Public Services, Paseka Ncholo, has argued that administration in most provinces is chaotic, and that it is likely that it will take at least ten years to provide the necessary skill base. He `personally' now thinks that the provincial setup is `not affordable and needs a rethink', and that the provinces should be more closely brought under central financial control.(44) A further report, by the Presidential Review Commission headed by Dr. Vincent Maphai, has gone even further and proposed that the central government should take over the running of Eastern Cape and Northern Province--both `riddled with corruption and maladministration'--in their entirety.(45)

The government is now increasingly committing itself to securing external funds to bring about public sector reform and build administrative capacity in the provinces. In the meantime, it is imposing stricter limits upon provincial budgets, and sooner or later these will result in programme cutbacks and retrenchments. For the government, this is an uncomfortable position to be in, but it clearly feels (and not without reason) that unless it imposes strict financial constraints upon the provinces, it will lose control over the economy, and that its wider objectives will be lost.

The fragmentation of contending forces

Recent opinion survey's have recorded a marked decline in support for the ANC, from nearly 63 percent in April 1994 to around 55 percent two to three years later. However, this drain of support does not seem to have been diverted to any other party. Indeed, in mid-1996, the electorate as a whole displayed a relatively high level of alienation, with some 12 percent of ANC and 20 percent of NP supporters admitting to potentially supporting another party.(46) Yet there was no major alternative political home for voters to go to, and apparently no real prospect in sight of a realignment of political forces to attract them. `What is hampering the cause of realignment', noted Silke,
   is the powerful role of the majority party. Not only in terms of its solid
   hegemonic base, but also in terms of its increasing ability to extend power
   and patronage to a hungry bureaucracy. Even if the ANC had to shed a
   million voters to an alternative political home, its power would be more
   dented than damaged.(47)

Recent developments confirm the analysis, and need but cursory elaboration. In short, parties in opposition to the ANC face a choice between the three strategies of: regionalization, reorientation or realignment.

Regionalization: With the ANC apparently able to ride a reduction in its support, and with the near certainty that it will confirm its domination in an election in 1999, the strategy of subordinating national prospects in order to secure their regional base appeals to significant elements within the IFP and the NP. In point of fact, regionalization seems the most likely immediate option for the IFP. By the time it arrived at the election of 1994, Chief Buthelezi's aspirations for national leadership had long been shattered by extensive media exposures of the IFP's extensive and intimate collaboration with apartheid security forces, the release of Mandela, and its abandonment by the NP as a potential ally mid-way during the negotiations.(48) Subsequently, its status as a regional force was confirmed by the result: it received 10.4 percent of the vote nationally, but this vote was located almost exclusively in Kwazulu-Natal. Similarly, it obtained (a notional) 50.3 percent of the vote in the provincial election in Kwazulu-Natal, but elsewhere its proportion never exceeded the 1.5 percent it received in Eastern Transvaal (now Mpumalanga).

The IFP's decision to participate in the GNU, with Buthelezi receiving the important post of Home Affairs (and on occasion having been asked to serve as Acting President when both Mbeki and Mandela have been away), may have maintained something of a national profile for both the party and its leader. Yet it has done little to prevent the erosion of the IFP's base outside its home province. The party's strident espousal of federalism, its own constitution, and a special status for Kwazulu-Natal were widely viewed as special pleading and antagonistic to the spirit of the renewed constitution-making process. Its withdrawal from the CA served only to isolate it.

Meanwhile, in its day-to-day role at national level, Inkatha has had to wrestle with the ambiguities of its status as a member of the GNU: under the circumstances of ANC domination, both the NP and IFP traded freedom in opposition for very little in the way of influence. Indeed, criticism of aspects of government policy they disliked earned them accusations of disloyalty. Furthermore, as noted by Johnstone, the IFP is unlikely to make electoral inroads into ANC support by promoting either federalist ideology or claims to superior managerial ability: better therefore, and more in tune with the predilections of its leadership, if it espouses an `heroic political culture' which transforms the conflict with the ANC into a moral drama and bonds its supporters around Zulu culture, history and self-determination.(49) Even then, for the IFP to retain its hold upon Kwazulu-Natal--where it performed badly in local government elections in 1996--it has to move beyond its largely rural and peri-urban constituency and begin to appeal to urban voters. In contrast, the democratization of state structures has decreased the patronage and power in the hands of the former bantustan elite, and encouraged so-called `moderates' within the party who favour a politics of development over unremitting conflict with the ANC.(50)

The numerous tensions within the IFP have been greatly exacerbated by these post-apartheid dilemmas. Those who have sought to promote democracy within the party, rendering it more attractive to urban black voters, have been viewed as threatening Buthelezi's leadership. This has seen a loss of influence in particular of Ziba Jiyane, secretary-general until his post was abolished in early 1997 and one of the most prominent `modernizers', and his replacement at the head of the party administration by Zakhele Khumalo, whose loyalty to his chief is unquestioning.(51) Most importantly, the failure of the IFP to secure significant concessions from the CA and to establish a firm platform for regional autonomy, has collapsed the position of the clutch of white advisors around Buthelezi who spearheaded the ideological thrust of the party in constitutional negotiations. The recent defection to the ANC of Walter Felgate, widely perceived as the most hard-line of the IFP's ideologues and renowned for his espousal of federalism and the role of traditional leaders, symbolizes as nothing else the narrowing options left to the IFP and its ever declining attraction to political opportunists.(52) `If Felgate can defect to the ANC then anyone else can.'(53) In short, the IFP remains in no doubt that the key to whatever influence at national level it may seek to obtain is its holding on to control at provincial level in 1999.

A rather different choice faces the NP, which although similarly controlling a single provincial base, with limited chance of increasing that score, does enjoy significant support at the national level, albeit primarily amongst whites and coloureds.(54) So long as the party was engaged in the continuing process of constitutional negotiation, and so long as its participation in the GNU symbolized its commitment to national reconciliation, the dilemma could lay dormant. But once the new constitution had been promulgated, and De Klerk had chosen to lead the party into unambiguous opposition (for the first time in nearly fifty years), tensions within the party became manifest.

The major fault-line within the NP was generally taken to divide a more progressive faction, led by secretary-general Roelf Meyer (who had headed that party's negotiations during the transition and in the CA), and the conservatives, led by Western Cape Premier Hemus Kriel. The latter element was said to be highly critical of Meyer for having given too much away during negotiations, and in particular for having failed to secure guarantees of minority rights. In contrast, Meyer insisted that the NP had no future unless it broke out of its racial redoubt and began to attract black voters.

Matters came to a head when, after the withdrawal from the GNU, De Klerk first removed Meyer as secretary-general before appointing him head of a special task team to consider the party's future. One option, it was said, was for the NP to continue to exist as part of a wider movement. The other was for it to dissolve itself alongside other elements into a new party with wide appeal.(55) However, for all his efforts, Meyer failed to obtain any significant support for a radical restructuring of the party, and ultimately failed to secure the backing of a single provincial leader at the NP's federal council. The upshot was that he resigned from the party in May 1997, and announced his intention to forge a new political movement, drawing on South Africans from all backgrounds, to oppose the ANC. Over the weeks that followed, a significant number of his supporters in provincial legislatures and local councils followed him, projecting the image of the NP as the party on the slippery slope to terminal decline.(56)

The problem was more than Kriel versus Meyer, for whereas the latter was insisting that changing demographics indicated that the NP could not expect to hang on to the Western Cape indefinitely, Kriel was arguing that the NP should seek the cover of some umbrella body (such as a coalition with other opposition parties at national level) whilst it maintain its identity in its base province, at least until after 1999. The debate, it was said, was as much about timing and strategy, as it was about basic direction.(57) Yet this is highly debateable, precisely because the NP's appeal in the Western Cape is projected upon continuing racial protectionism, designed to shore up continuing de facto white privilege in that region, whilst mobilizing coloureds against the `swart gevaar'. Indeed, indications in early 1998 were that, in contemplating retirement, Kriel was keen to hand over to a Coloured as premier, having by now excluded the ANC (and thereby all blacks) from the Western Cape cabinet following the promulgation of that province's own constitution.(58) In short, no less than that of the IFP, the basis of the NP's bid for provincial power is directly contradictory to any serious challenge for office at national level.

Reorientation: Whatever the contending logics of its regional and national strategies, the NP remains formally committed to repositioning itself to broaden its appeal. Yet how can the party which gave South Africa apartheid slough off its past and convince black voters--who form the overwhelming majority of the population (72 percent)--that it is devoted to non-racialism and democracy?

The resignation of De Klerk as leader of the party in September 1997 only rendered its dilemma more acute. For a start, if Kriel, now by far the most powerful figure in the party, had chosen to run for the post, he would have risked exchanging the reality of provincial power for the dubious advantages of leadership in opposition. In consequence, he declined to compete, claiming that the party needed a new leader drawn from a younger generation which could not be identified with apartheid. In the event, the mantle fell upon Martinus van Schalkwyk, the NP's Guateng leader, who talks the same non-racial rhetoric as Meyer but who comes without his baggage of `betrayal'. Yet whatever his virtues, Van Schalkwyk enjoys neither the remaining appeal of De Klerk (as past President who dismantled apartheid), nor any serious prospect of outrunning Roelf Meyer, who is increasingly attracting the more forward-looking Nationalists. Instead, the new leader seems likely to be left with an increasingly conservative rump, a parliamentary party worried that any progressive change will cost them their jobs, and a belief that a serious shift to the centre would alienate white and coloured votes.(59)

In contrast, the IFP may have a future which could go beyond regionalism if it chooses to follow the model of the Mugabe-Nkomo pact in Zimbabwe, whereby the dominant party effectively absorbs its major rival in exchange for accepting a subordinate position but with a share of state resources and patronage. As elaborated by Johnstone, there are limits to the parallel. To be sure, the rivalry between the ANC and IFP over tactics and strategy during the liberation struggle has given way to a post-minority rule `war of succession' in Kwazulu-Natal which matches the post-independence split between ZANU and ZAPU. Against this, the ANC has had neither the inclination, the capacity nor the opportunity to pacify `dissident' territory in the way that ZANU deployed North Korean led punitive expeditions against the Matabele in the early 1980s. In any case, the ANC generally prefers `cooption to confrontation in its dealings with potentially destabilising rivals', notwithstanding a preference amongst some of its structures in Kwazulu-Natal for `crushing' the IFP.(60)

Moves towards peace in the province--which have included the expulsion of major warlords from both parties (Sifiso Nkabinde from the ANC and Mandla Shabalala from the IFP)--have raised hope of a lasting detente,(61) which could presage a formal merger at some point in the future. Certainly there have been major moves behind the scenes spearheaded by Mbeki, with suggestions for instance that Buthelezi might be offered a Vice-Presidency.(62) In return the IFP response has varied from the cautiously interested to outright repudiation.(63) Given IFP repudiation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and its determination not to cooperate with that body, the prospects for a lasting deal are probably postponed until after the next election. Yet by far the most important development, and the one which could provide the basis for unity, is that the ANC is now disposed to the IFP as a legitimate alternative expression of African nationalism, whilst in contrast `Africanists' within the IFP are said to be embracing a pro-ANC view based on the parties enjoying shared African values and a division of black electoral spoils.

The defection of Felgate, the arch-ideologue, to the ANC suggests that if the terms are right, the ideological gap between the parties can be bridged. In contrast, linking up with the NP, which is viewed as appealing to a decreasing constituency, seems to have ever less to offer.

The regionalist option for the NP appears to preclude successful reorientation at national level. In contrast, victory at the provincial polls by the IFP in 1999 could provide the basis for its bartering its way into a re-forged ruling alliance, perhaps eventually as a wing or tendency of the ANC. In the latter case, this would be nearer to a major realignment.

Realignment: In contrast to reorientation whereby opposition parties would seek to reposition themselves ideologically, either to appeal to a wider spectrum of voters and/or to link up with other parties in coalition, realignment implies dissolution of former party structures and identities into a united formation to confront the ANC.

Meyer's project in leaving the NP--and forming what he termed a `New Movement Process' (NMP)--was to find the basis for such an organization. His argument was that, whilst the election of 1994 had as its central objective the elimination of racism, historical ideological differences and the racial divide still provide the basis for the existing parties. No party has yet transcended the largely racial support base it had in 1994, and none is likely to whilst it carries baggage from a bygone era. The danger therefore is that South Africa will fall back into racial conflict. Consequently, there exists a vacancy for a truly non-racial party which represents the ideals and beliefs of most South Africans, irrespective of language, cultural, and religious backgrounds:
   Such a political organisation will not represent a melting pot. On the
   contrary, it is the diversity within its ranks thai will provide strength.
   What will bind its members is the commonality of being South African, with
   cultural and religious diversity cultivated and managed to enrich the

Such a party will aim at the political centre, because that is where the market place is, and its policies will be based on `proven, pragmatic, well-researched positions that have the capacity to deliver the goods'. There are now no major differences between the major parties on economics, for `global experience (now) dictates the outlines of what works and what doesn't'. The variation between parties in the future will therefore have less to do with policy than they will with managerial competence and packaging.(64)

Meyer's early move was to form a committee with the National Consultative Forum (NCF), created by Bantu Holomisa after his expulsion from the ANC.(65) The latter body drew its support from various constituencies which no longer saw their interests represented by the ANC, notably squatters, the very poor and not surprisingly, former Transkei civil servants who had lost out in the scramble for jobs and influence in the new Eastern Province.(66)

The two new groupings subsequently came together in September 1997 to form the United Democratic Movement (UDM) with a view to fighting the next election.(67) However, for all its ambition, the new party is already beginning to look like a collection of misfits and undesirables. The attraction to its banner of Sifiso Nkabinde, the Kwazulu-Natal warlord, whom the ANC has chosen to expel, and Lucas Mangope, former President of the Bophuthatswana homeland,(68) suggests immediately that it risks becoming little more than a home for those left behind by the political transition. Nor is there any sense that a new party, structured around Meyer's notion of pragmatic centrism and `cultural diversity' (which sounds dangerously close to an updated Nationalist mantra) can provide the vision or momentum needed to break into the current political scene. The `new movement' seems little more than an aggregation of discontents, which could make inroads into the ANC vote, yet not sufficiently to constitute a major challenge.(69)

No other conceivable alignment presently seems on the cards. In this at least, Meyer seems correct: South Africa's opposition parties remain divided by the past. The NP is still identified with apartheid and the politics of racial protection; the DP, seems unable to break out of its suburban whiteness; and the IFP remains regionalist and `tribalist'. There is no obvious glue of commonality to bind them together.

For the moment, South African politics awaits the major fracture which might bring about a realignment and reshaping of the party system. Most observers predict that that could only come from within the ANC, if--in particular--strains around economic policy cause a rupture of the Tripartite Alliance, and the articulation by COSATU and the SACP of an alternative economic programme. Such a challenge has been hinted at in the report of the September Commission, established by COSATU to examine its strategy for the future.(70) But neither the conditions nor momentum exist for such a transformation before the election of 1999.


This article has argued that the electoral dominance of the ANC, established at the election in 1994, is being consolidated by the centralization of authority within parliament, party and state. In contrast, the external challenge posed to the ANC is becoming increasingly fragmented, with no prospect in sight that the existing parties in opposition have enough in common to pose a significant threat. Meanwhile even opposition-dominated provincial governments are being brought more closely to heel by constitutional and financial restraints.

A variety of explanations might be employed to interpret these developments. One might be that the ANC is simply following the wider continental trend whereby incumbent African governments have trampled roughshod over democracy. Another might be that the ANC's drive for tighter control is an outcome of its alliance with the SACP, and their combined ideological commitment to centralization.(71) If used cautiously and with appropriate nuance, any such interpretations may contribute to our understanding. They might assist, for example, in explaining the ANC's growing petulance with censure in parliament and from the press. However, it is suggested here that rather than our seeking an explanation for the drift towards centralization in terms of perceived proto-dictatorial tendencies within the ANC, an emphasis upon two other factors might be rather more illuminating. Following Sisk, these are first, that centripetal tendencies are stronger within the South African polity than centrifugal ones; and second, that a fundamental tension exists between what are the inherently inefficient political institutions that arose from the transition and the need for efficient decision-making to make painful economic choices.(72)

The negotiation process that moulded South Africa's transition was fraught with troubles and tribulation, as the various actors and parties involved pursued their different agendas. But as Sisk notes, rather than being about the unresolvable differences between primordial identities and separate nations, the negotiation process which moulded the transition turned out to be primarily concerned with `the distribution of goods among interdependent groups within a common political system'.(73) In other words, given the situation that prevailed (the NP's inability to hang on to control of the state by force and the ANC's matching inability to capture it by armed struggle), `the overriding dynamic of South Africa's transition was one of convergence': rather than seeing the country collapse into anarchy and war, even the ethnic nationalists (notably the white right and the IFP) were drawn into the embrace of power-sharing and compromise.

There is no dispute here that the transition was secured by a convergence: for instance, the wider international situation, which saw the collapse of the Soviet Union and the discrediting of the state socialist model, undoubtedly rendered the ANC a partner with which the rabidly anti-communist NP could respectably negotiate, for all that its opponent remained steadfast in its alliance to the SACP and never disavowed its commitment to populist-cum-socialist ends. Nonetheless, it would be erroneous to suggest that the convergence implies that South Africa's political parties have moved wholly beyond the politics of identity, for they clearly have not. To be sure, the resort to homing calls issued to the electorate upon grounds of race or ethnicity offer only limited returns to the minority parties. Even so, in the cases of the NP and the IFP particularly (not to mention the far white right, for which racial protection remains the raison d'etre), it nonetheless offers some prospect of immediate advantage, even if that is merely the retention of present shares of the national vote and control of their 'home base' provinces. Against this, increasingly vocal support within and by the ANC for 'affirmative action' and strategies of `black empowerment' seem likely to solidify rather than dissolve its majority status.

The dilemma for the opposition parties is therefore cast as follows: on the one hand, pursuit of identity politics may secure present positions but will allow for no effective advance which would challenge the ANC's hegemony. On the other hand, whilst the government's effective conversion to neo-liberalism via GEAR has undercut much of the potential for opposition to the ANC upon ideological grounds,(74) the resort to criticism based upon pragmatic grounds--challenging lack of overall performance, failure to deliver services, a reluctance to recognise and root out corruption etc--offers only limited opportunity for coalescence by the opposition around a common platform. For the moment, at least, the attempt to straddle the horns of this dilemma by the UDM seems heavily constrained by its becoming little more than a new home for flotsam and jetsam who have lost out in the transition to democracy.

If the character of the transition has left the opposition fragmented, it has simultaneously presented huge dilemmas for an ANC government which is bent upon realising goals of growth, redistribution and development. In broad terms, the loyalty of the ANC to the democratic ideals and institutions which the new order entrenches cannot be faulted. Against this, the fact that the constitution remains a document founded upon the transitional compromise implies that elements of that commitment are bound to be less than whole-hearted. In practice, this has informed the drive of the ANC at national government level for centralization.

This push has been motivated, in part, by recognition of the chronic incapacity of different provincial ANC-led governments--most notably those of the Eastern Cape and Northern Province--to deliver on their programmes. There is also fear that opposition-held territory will seek to undermine national economic policy and the project of a united South Africa. But above all, perhaps, there is a concern about the possible emergence of provincial empires within the party itself. If, as seems not unlikely, these were to become intertwined with webs of patronage and corruption centred upon local capitals, the very basis for the continuing dominance of the ANC could be threatened. Not surprisingly, therefore, there is a growing mood in central government that sees the future in terms of a further reining in of the provinces, and perhaps even their reduction in effect to organs of regional administration. In this case, the requirements of good government could well complement the needs of party unity.

Alongside what Opposition parties and many commentators construe as an increasing reluctance to accept criticism, the national leadership is struggling to impose itself over a still unformed, perhaps inappropriate political system. The danger is that in the process, the ANC's dominance will become increasingly authoritarian and less friendly to the democracy ushered in by the political transition and the election of 1994.

(1.) For one recent review see Jan-Erik Lane and Svante Ersson, `The probability of democratic success in South Africa', Democratization, 4, 4 (1997), pp. 1-15.

(2.) Willem Van Vuuren, `Transition politics and the prospects of democratic consolidation in South Africa', Politikon, 22, 1 (1995), 5-23.

(3.) Van Vuuren, `Transition politics', p 8.

(4.) The obvious problem with rotation of parties in power as an indicator of democratic consolidation is that, even in conditions where the conduct of elections is free and fair, voters may choose to return the same party to power in one contest after another, even if that entrenches something of a culture of intolerance. See Kenneth Good, `Authoritarian Liberalism: A defining characteristic of Botswana', Journal of Contemporary African Studies, 14, 1 (1996), pp. 29-52.

(5.) Roger Southall, `The South African Elections of 1994: The remaking of a dominant party state', The Journal of Modern African Studies, 32, 4 (1994), pp. 629-655.

(6.) The literature on post-apartheid challenges is endless. For one useful collection concerning policy options, see Robert Schrire ed., Wealth or Poverty? Critical choices for South Africa (Oxford University Press, Cape Town, 1992).

(7.) Republic of South Africa (RSA), Government Gazette 15466, 28 January 1994, Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1993.

(8.) South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR), South Africa Survey 1996-97, pp. 520-23.

(9.) The Sunday Independent, 23 June 1996.

(10.) SAIRR, Race Relations Survey 1994-95, p. 337.

(11.) Republic of South Africa, Government Gazette 17678, 18 December 1996, Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 Chapters 2 and 3.

(12.) For one survey, see Richard Humphries, Thabo Rapoo and Steven Friedman, `The shape of the country: Negotiating regional government', in Steven Friedman and Doreen Atkinson, eds., The Small Miracle: South Africa's negotiated settlement (Ravan Press, Johannesburg, 1994), pp. 148-81.

(13.) Mail & Guardian, 21-27 June 1997, p. 10.

(14.) Abattoirs; Ambulance services; non-national archives, libraries, and museums; an array of local government matters; provincial planning, cultural matters, recreation, sport, roads and traffic; and veterinary services, excluding regulation of the profession. RSA, Constitution of the Republic of South Africa 1996, schedule 5.

(15.) RSA, Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, para. 44.

(16.) Voting by delegation is replaced by delegates voting as individuals only after a Bill affecting the provinces is passed by the NCOP only in an amended form (or if a Bill originating in the Council itself is returned by the Assembly in an amended form) and has thereafter gone through a complex process of mediation between the two houses. For Bills amending the constitution, amendments must be passed by at least 75 percent of Assembly members and the support of six rather than five provinces. RSA, Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996: paras 74-6.

(17.) RSA, Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, para 4.

(18.) RSA, Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, chapter 13. Business Day, 1 August 1997.

(19.) SAIRR, South Africa Survey 1996-97, pp. 557-58; Mail & Guardian, 24-30 January 1997; Business Day, 17 February 1997.

(20.) SAIRR, South Africa Survey 1996-97, p. 556.

(21.) Mail & Guardian, 30 May-5 June; 27 June-3 July; 25-31 July; 15-21, and 22-28 July 1997; Business Day, 30 September 1997; Sunday Independent, 5 October 1997.

(22.) The Mail & Guardian, 4-10 October 1996, observed: `For individual MPs, it throws up questions about their relevance, what they can achieve. They see themselves as ineffective. As a result, many are reviewing their positions. "A lot of people are just treading water, waiting to see what happens.... Others are getting out while they can". Those who can are leaving for new, more secure jobs--in the private sector, like Constitutional Assembly chairman Cyril Ramaphosa, or in the civil service. "The stakes are much higher now--if you get chopped as an MP and you only have a high school qualification what do you do?".'

(23.) Business Day, 30 May, and 6, 29 June 1997.

(24.) SAIRR 1996-97, pp. 1996-97.

(25.) Mail & Guardian, 4-10 October 1996.

(26.) Marion Edmunds, `Who needs the provinces?', Mail & Guardian, 12-18 September 1997.

(27.) Roger Southall, `A deepening of democracy? Establishing provincial government in South Africa'. Africa Insight (forthcoming).

(28.) Business Day, 26 June 1997.

(29.) SAIRR 1996-97, pp. 688-689. Central government has also agreed to absorb some R11bn. of provincial debt; see Business Day, 10 September 1997.

(30.) SAIRR, 1996-97, p.702.

(31.) Business Day, 7 August 1997. But poorer provinces are objecting that such a system would be inequitable; see Eastern Province Herald, 8 October 1997.

(32.) RSA, Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, paras. 100 and 216.

(33.) SAIRR 1996-97, p. 687.

(34.) Business Day, 7 April 1997.

(35.) Business Day, 26 June 1997.

(36.) Business Day, 30 May 1997.

(37.) Business Day, 4 June 1997.

(38.) Mail & Guardian, 27 March-3 April 1997.

(39.) `Instead of being charged or being held publicly accountable for the widespread maladministration which forced the government to dismantle the Mpumalanga Development Corporation, its CEO [Chief Executive Officer], Patrick Mogorosi, was granted a "generous settlement" ... (He) was also allowed to resign from his post instead of being dismissed, despite an independent investigation by Coopers & Lybrand which found that he had abused his financial powers and had routinely intimidated staff into altering accounting records.... Former government consultants Eugene Nyati and Ntsoaki Mohapis were also not charged after investigations ... revealed that they had paid each other up to R15,000 per day while advising the government on how to save money... Provincial director general Frank Mbatha, and senior officials from the province's finance and treasury departments also repeatedly failed to deliver reports to the public accounts committee on government farms which were ceded to four politicians at minimal costs without going through the tender board and without treasury approval ... Mail & Guardian, 27 March-3 April 1997.

(40.) Sunday Independent, 18 May 1997.

(41.) Business Day, 11, 25 and 27 June 1997.

(42.) Eastern Province Herald, 28 March 1997 and 9 July 1997; Business Day, 8 September 1997.

(43.) Business Day, 22 August 1997.

(44.) Business Day, 25 June 1997.

(45.) Daily Despatch, 4 March 1998.

(46.) The first survey was conducted by the Human Sciences Research Council in mid-1996, and reported in Business Day, 9 November 1996; the second was undertaken by the Institute for Democracy in South Africa (IDASA), and reported in Business Day, 7 October 1997.

(47.) Donald Silke, `Is there process to political realignment?', Cape Times, 9 November 1996.

(48.) I refer to the political moment around the signing of the Record of Understanding on 26 September 1992, whereby the ANC and NP government, as well as agreeing upon various security measures, also came to the important agreement that an elected constitution-making body should double up as an interim legislature under an interim constitution. Whereas for its part the government had now unambiguously recognized the ANC as its key partner in managing the transition, the ANC had equally openly signalled its recognition of the necessity of conceding a sharing of power. This essentially represented an abandonment by the NP of the IFP as an ally. See Steven Friedman, `South Africa's Reluctant Transition', Journal of Democracy, 4, 2 (1993), pp. 56-70.

(49.) Alexander Johnstone, `Towards a de facto one party state? Opposition and democratization in South Africa's developing political culture', paper given to the Association of African Political Science (AAPS), 11th Biennial Congress, University of Durban-Westville, 23-26 June 1997.

(50.) Suzanne Berry, `Democratisation and Political Elites in Kwazulu-Natal: An agenda for research', paper given to the AAPS 11th Biennial Congress, University of Durban-Westville, 23-26 June 1997.

(51.) Business Day, 1 August 1996 and 25 July 1997.

(52.) Ironically, although he had done as much as anybody to stifle democracy, he justified his departure from the party on the grounds of the concentration of power under Buthelezi. See Business Day, 15 August 1997.

(53.) Business Day, 15 August 1997.

(54.) The IDASA survey reported that support for the NP in the small Northern Province had increased to 49 percent in June 1997 (compared to 41 percent at the election), whilst support for the ANC had decreased from nearly 50 percent in 1994 to 31 percent. Against this, NP control over Western Province was reported as now at risk, with but 32 percent of that electorate indicating support for that party in June 1997. See Business Day, 7 October 1997.

(55.) Eastern Province Herald, 20 February 1997.

(56.) Business Day, 17 February 1997; Eastern Province Herald, 20 February and 28 June 1997.

(57.) Business Day, 9 May 1997.

(58.) Kuseni Dlamini, `NP, ANC wrangle over coloured vote as 1999 election looms' Business Day, 9 February 1998.

(59.) Patrick Cull, `Grave looms for terminally ill NP', Eastern Province Herald, 28 June 1997.

(60.) Johnstone, `Towards a de facto one party state?'

(61.) Business Day, 27 April 1997.

(62.) The Sunday Independent, 21 July 1996.

(63.) Farouk Chothia, `Awkward alliance may just be possible', Business Day, 8 January 1998; Ben Ngubane, `ANC's talk of a merger with IFP is a gimmick to confuse our members', Sunday Independent, 18 January 1998.

(64.) Roelf Meyer, `Only a new party without baggage can be truly nonracial', Sunday Independent, 8 June 1997.

(65.) Business Day, 26 May 1997.

(66.) Mail & Guardian, 18-24 October 1997.

(67.) Business Day, 29 September 1997.

(68.) Although both were rejected for membership until such time as they might have successfully proved their innocence in criminal proceedings being launched against them.

(69.) Holomisa is making bold claims that the UDM will take 25 percent of the poll in Northern Province, and will also do well in the Eastern Cape, Western Cape, Mpumalanga and Guateng (`where it (will) beat both the National Party and the Freedom Front'). Its threat, it would seem, could well prove greater to the NP than the ANC.

(70.) Deanne Collins and Malcolm Ray, `The September Commission: Confronting the future', South African Labour Bulletin, 21, 5 (1997), pp. 11-16.

(71.) The DP apparently subscribes to the belief that the ANC's drive for control is driven by all three of these factors. See `DP warns against centralisation of power in hands of the state', Business Day, 6 February 1998.

(72.) Sisk `Review article: Perspectives on South Africa's transition: Implications for democratic consolidation', Politikon, 21, 1 (1994), pp. 66-85.

(73.) Sisk, `Review article', p. 69.

(74.) Even if the debate over ideology, or more particularly over GEAR, seems likely to escalate within the ANC-led alliance.

Roger Southall is Professor of Political Studies, Rhodes University, South Africa. He gratefully acknowledges the financial support of Rhodes University Joint Research Committee and the Human Sciences Research Council. Neither body is responsible for the views expressed in this article.
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Publication:African Affairs
Geographic Code:6SOUT
Date:Oct 1, 1998
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