Is history repeating itself?


By Fanie Cronje

History has a tendency to repeat itself. This is not necessarily the case now, but one can always benefit from looking at what did happen in history.

The question is whether history is repeating itself in the South African political context? Is the ANC on the same path of destruction as the National Party at the time, with both parties described as “powerful” at their peak.

The fall of the mighty NP

The National Party’s (NP) strategic foundation was the policy of separate development. The policy was initially pure in principle, but later refinement and adaptation to the initial principle policy also led to the destruction of the policy itself and the party.

The idea of ​​the different peoples/cultures on their own territory, with cooperation on a national level (later in the 70s the idea of ​​a confederation of independent states became established), was at that stage (1948-1970) a very acceptable solution for a multicultural society.

The decline began with the “refinement” of the policy towards complete separation – not between peoples, but in the joint areas between races. The result was the policy of apartheid and especially so-called small apartheid, which was later declared by the United Nations as a crime against humanity.

The fragmentation of the “mighty” NP initially began with the breakaway of the Reestablished National Party (HNP) and later especially the major breakaway by the Conservative Party (KP).

There were also events such as the leader of the then Progressive Federal Party (PFP), who decided to continue the fight against the system outside parliament. The partners within the tricameral parliament were also still opposed to the policy, while the international and domestic extra-parliamentary actions (United Democratic Front, Cosatu, a variety of church organizations such as the South African Council of Churches and other civil rights organizations) exerted tremendous pressure for change and eventual takeover of power by the latter.

Is the ANC also splintering?

The ANC is at the helm thanks to the three-party alliance consisting of the ANC, the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the Congress of Trade Unions (Cosatu).

Initially, especially around the issue of black empowerment, this triumvirate worked together excellently as a core policy. It supported the concept of the rainbow nation and at the time of ANC takeover this idea was exceptionally acceptable.

The crumbling of support and the party as a unit also began precisely with disputes surrounding the refinement of the policy of black empowerment (which eventually culminated in the system of transformation or the ultimate cadre favoritism).

The result was the whole state creation mess, especially in the period of the former president Jacob Zuma.

Currently, there are even negative sounds from allied circles about the policy and the accompanying cadre deployment and corruption – especially in relation to tenders that are awarded to the state. The devastating impact on the economy, as is also the case with the policy of apartheid, is currently very divisive.

This in turn initially led to splinter parties breaking away, with their leaders creating their own dunghills to “crow” on. Parties such as the COPE and the UDM appeared on the electoral roll.

The first significant breakaway party, to the radical side, was of course the founding of the EFF by the charismatic Julius Malema, then of the ANC youth league.

However, there is currently also an orchestrated effort on the radical side, consisting of former president Zuma and the MK party. There are also others such as the ATM, individuals such as former ANC Secretary General Ace Magashule and other supporters of the so-called RET policy who are trying to regain their lost political prestige.

The above-mentioned groupings may certainly play a significant role in the disintegration of the once powerful ANC, and even in a new ANC period, emerge as a strong opposition and who knows… maybe form a new coalition government.

Quo Vadis?

Comparatively, the NP had to make a choice for survival (which in any case did not happen) – they had to choose between cooperation or merger with the ANC or the Democratic Party (DP).

The official choice was the ANC (after the establishment of the New National Party (NNP). However, there was also a disintegration and departure of Western Cape NP members in particular, which gave rise to the birth of the DA. The alliance eventually took over the Western Cape government.

The ANC should soon face the same challenge!

The outcome of the 2024 national and provincial elections will be influenced by their chosen or forced cooperation with the so-called RET groupings or with the so-called Multiparty Charter grouping. As happened with the NP, the ANC may also split and cede part of their “hungry cadres” to the RET grouping, while the rest may stick to the multi-party manifesto.


Can one perhaps foresee that the future political landscape will eventually involve a two-group split between the RET and Multiparty Charter? In this connection and the bigger picture, it is essential that the Multiparty Charter overlooks mutual differences and quite possibly, as in the case of Zuma as a unifying figure in the RET grouping, achieves a similar unifying factor.

It will also have to happen quickly, otherwise the playing field could become very uneven.

  • Fanie Cronje is an independent content creator and has already produced and presented two series entitled “Growing Federalism” and “Landbou Allegaartjie” which are available on AfriForumTV. He also hosts programs on Ramkatradio.