ANC 1997

ANC Strategy and Tactics
As amended at the 50th National Conference, December 1997


South Africa enters the new millennium having achieved her formal political liberation. The struggles of the people, supported by the international community, brought to an end the abhorrent system of apartheid colonialism and ushered in a new era of democracy, peace and justice. The foundation has been laid for our society to develop into a truly united, non-racial and non-sexist nation.

These developments take place in a world in which the system of capitalism enjoys dominant sway over virtually the entire globe. But it is a world too in which the agenda of the working people and developing nations can find creative expression in pursuit of a humane, just and equitable world order. At the same time as the new technological revolution and globalisation of economic relations narrow the time and space among nations, so too do the realities of inequality, poverty and under-development become the more obvious and demanding of joint international efforts. It is an international epoch in which Africa enjoys the unique opportunity to extricate herself from the vicious cycle of these scourges, and to strike forth in a continental renaissance.

We have only started along a long road towards justice and true equity. The new constitutional order and the government based on the will of the people express both the immediate and long-term interests of the overwhelming majority of South Africans. They accord with the world trend towards democratic, open and accountable government. But the balance of forces both within South Africa and internationally is such that these interests can be subverted by capitalism’s rapacious license. In this sense therefore, the basic framework of our democratic achievement in South Africa is irreversible: but it can be derailed, leaving us with a shell of political rights without real social content.


The struggle for freedom and democracy in South Africa was essentially an anti-colonial struggle. Beginning in 1652, Dutch and British colonialists waged wars of conquest against the indigenous population, to usurp their land and its riches and to establish an outpost which would act as a source of natural resources, as a terrain of expansion and settlement, and as a market for their goods. Great Britain finally established its colonial authority over the full extent of South Africa at the end of the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902.

African communities from the Cape to the Limpopo waged heroic resistance to colonial occupation. Despite being out-gunned, they showed rare stoicism in many battles spanning over two-and-half centuries. However, their resistance was fragmented among and within various ethnic groups, and it could not stand the tide of superior armed force backed by a developed economic and political base of the imperial powers. The defeat of the Bambatha Rebellion in 1906 marked the end of the wars of resistance.

Colonial authorities also imported slaves and indentured labour from Asia. These communities became part of South African colonial society, essentially denied constitutional rights and subjected to varying degrees of oppression. Most of the white settlers resolved to make this country their home and, in their world view, an “independent” extension of the colonial metropolis. This found formal expression in the establishment of the Union of South Africa in 1910, when Britain ceded political power to the white settler minority. This gave rise to a situation in which both the “colonial power” and the colonised shared the same territory, characterised by the liberation movement as “colonialism of a special type.”

For both the reproduction of the colonial state and the reproduction of the homestead, the productive role of women was vital. As such, one feature of the evolution of the colonial system was the coincidence of patriarchal controls embedded in customary laws and practices, with the objectives of the colonial state to restrict women to inferior roles in society, including their access to employment and their movement out of the homestead.

It is thus in the very intersection between colonialism, capitalism and traditional authority that the added oppression of women became embedded, and assumed various forms with the development of colonial society. The manner in which patriarchy asserted itself, within both the coloniser and oppressed communities, also depended on the different classes, races, religions and cultures to which women belonged.

As colonialism took new forms, so did new forms of resistance start to emerge. The African National Congress (ANC) was founded in 1912 with the purpose of uniting the African majority against the colonial Union in pursuit of non-racial democracy. A product of the local and international historical period, the ANC developed over the years to forge fighting alliances with organisations of the Coloured and Indian communities, as well as white democrats. Industrialisation also meant the emergence of a working class from traditional communities, as well as their proletarian organisations in the form of the Communist Party of South Africa and the trade union movement. All these organisations coalesced into a national democratic alliance against colonial domination.

From 1912 until 1961, the ANC pursued peaceful forms of struggle in the form of petitions, demonstrations, strikes and boycotts. Hand-in-hand with its allies, the movement developed to place mass involvement in struggle as a central plank of its programme. As the South African economy developed and urban life started to assert its pre-eminence, the working class became central to the mass resistance, and the liberation movement acknowledged the leading role of this class as an essential part of its approach to struggle.

From the early stages of colonialism, women resisted the new evolving relations of patriarchy directly, including oppressive traditional practices, as part of the struggle against class and national oppression. Over many decades, their resilient struggles against colonial and gender oppression helped entrench the cause of gender equality as an essential element of the liberation struggle, be it in mass and armed action, underground and international work, or negotiations.

After it was banned in 1960, the ANC mobilised from the underground for a popular uprising against apartheid colonialism. Apartheid repression had intensified, and by 1961, it had become manifest that peaceful mass resistance on its own would not shake the resolve of the colonial rulers to use armed force to defend apartheid. The ANC thus decided to adopt the armed struggle as part of its arsenal of resistance. This led, over time, to the adoption of a strategy which combined four basic pillars:

Within these pillars of struggle and sometimes unacknowledged, was the activism of women who saw national freedom as but one aspect of overall freedom. By the seventies, the intersection of class, national and gender oppression was firmly identified and simultaneous struggle against each of these were intensified. These activities influenced and were themselves impacted upon by the international gender struggles.

All these forms of struggle developed over the years to dovetail in skilful combination. As the decade of the 1980s drew to a close, it became more and more difficult for the regime to rule, as the people acted en masse to make the system unworkable and the country ungovernable, and as the cumulative pressures of all-round struggle started to isolate the ruling clique even from elements in its own mass base. The liberation movement’s strategic objective of the popular seizure of power had been placed firmly on the agenda.


In this period, elements within the South African ruling class and its international allies started to weigh the implications of continuing popular revolt — and its culmination in the overthrow of the regime — on their interests within the country and the region. On the part of the liberation movement, while it had always accepted the human and material cost of protracted struggle, it had, as a matter of abiding principle, sought a more humane resolution of the conflict without compromising the basic objectives of struggle. Combined with the end of the Cold War, these factors set the stage for the beginning of negotiations.

What then was the balance of forces when the ban on political organisations was lifted in 1990? How did this balance change over the period of negotiations? These questions are critical in understanding the final outcome of the negotiations process; the opportunities and constraints that the ANC and its allies faced at the instance of victory in the democratic elections of April 1994; and the form, if not part of the content, of the transformation which we are now undertaking.

The ANC entered negotiations with the aim of attaining its strategic objective of a united, non-racial, non-sexist and democratic South Africa. These principles were elaborated in what became known as the OAU Harare Declaration, with the fundamental understanding that negotiations were not about a compromise between democracy and apartheid, but about the process towards attaining universally accepted principles of justice and human rights.

The regime sought to use negotiations to retain as much of white minority rule and privilege as possible. Under the guise of so-called minority rights, federalism and orderly transition, it pursued an outcome in which whites would have the right of veto over both the content and the process of change.

Negotiations however entailed compromises on the path to be followed to the final objective. This was influenced by the prevailing balance of forces. In the first instance, at the beginning of negotiations, neither the liberation movement nor the forces of apartheid had emerged as an outright victor.

On the one hand, the liberation movement enjoyed the support of a people in political motion, ready to sacrifice for the attainment of freedom. Its objectives enjoyed the support of virtually the entire world. And it had the capacity to intensify all forms of struggle.

On the other hand, the apartheid regime commanded huge resources — military, economic and otherwise — to delay its demise at huge cost to the country. While its mass base was somewhat divided, many of its supporters and particularly the direct beneficiaries of apartheid still had the capacity to support resistance to change.

Internationally, there were powerful elements who were prepared, at least secretly, to assist the regime in preventing an insurrectionary take-over.

Negotiations were therefore as much a platform to find a resolution to the conflict, as a terrain of struggle to shift the balance of forces. The liberation movement continued to mobilise the people and the international community to this end. On the other hand, the regime used its state power to frustrate the negotiations process, seek to prolong it as much as possible, and, in the meanwhile, regain lost ground through security force violence, propaganda and other means.

As a result of the work of the liberation movement, and at the same time as the regime made tactical blunders, the resolve of the mass of the people and the ground-swell of local and international public opinion shifted decisively in favour of a speedy resolution of the conflict. In the end, the regime conceded the basic outlines of a democratic settlement that accorded with universal principles of democracy, including gender equality.

The adoption of the interim constitution, the first democratic elections in April 1994, and the establishment of a new government led by the ANC were major landmarks in this process. And so was the work of the elected Constitutional Assembly which adopted the new constitution based on the principles of democratic majority rule.


April 1994 was therefore a historic breakthrough in the struggle for democracy. A consequence of active support to the course of democracy by the mass of the people, and a cumulative result of decades of struggle, this victory signified a decisive departure from a colonial system spanning over three centuries. The accession of the ANC to government was therefore not merely a change of parties in political office. The interim constitution and the formation of a government based on the will of the people was a revolutionary break with the past. A qualitative element of the National Democratic Revolution (NDR) had been accomplished.

We use the words “element of the NDR” guardedly, precisely because the balance of forces that we referred to earlier dictated that the path to full transfer of power, let alone the strategic objective of a united, non-racial, non-sexist and democratic society, would be protracted and tortuous.

When the new government was formed, the extra-parliamentary power of the democratic movement was strategically complemented by the attainment of elements of state power. In this sense, it represented a strategic defeat for the forces of white minority rule.

Firstly, the constitution accorded the democratic forces the framework within which to start implementing programmes of transformation. And by assuming the leading position in government, the democratic movement took formal control of the state machinery, with the possibility of starting, in earnest, to transform it to serve the new order.

Secondly, as a national political organisation with a programme for the attainment of peace, democracy, human rights, socio-economic development and lasting security for all South Africans, the ANC enjoyed legitimacy far wider than its mass base.

Thirdly, the mass of the people who fought against apartheid valued this achievement, a victory that was not easy and too soon to attain. They were prepared to reconcile with their erstwhile oppressors, but also to defend this victory with all the means at their disposal. At the same time, there is a sense in which this change was, to the white minority, the lifting of a heavy burden that they had carried for decades.

Lastly, the international community hailed the change-over, both in terms of its relatively peaceful nature as well as its significance for race relations across the globe.

But the victory was itself constrained by the same considerations that coloured the final settlement, some of them codified in the constitution. What were these constraints?

In the first instance, the fact that the liberation movement had not achieved an outright victory on the battlefield meant that it had to accept compromises in negotiations which would allow the ruling clique to ease itself out of power without undue resistance. The perspective of the Government of National Unity, and the entrenchment of some of the rights of the existing public service, including the security forces, the judiciary and parastatals, were major elements of this approach.

Secondly, what this also meant is that the democratic movement took over an apartheid state machinery that was intact, orderly within its own rules, and with the majority resolved to continue in their positions. While the constitutional framework allowed the new government to transform this service, this was to be a long drawn-out process which would also meet resistance from within.

Thirdly, the majority of public servants, especially at senior level, the captains of industry, and editorial rooms in most of the media shared the perspectives of the former government or its white opposition, including racial and gender stereotypes — all of them strategically placed to influence the agenda of transformation in favour of the privileged classes.

Lastly, the networks used by the regime, especially in its “dirty war” both within and outside South Africa remained intact, either burrowed within the state machinery, or concealed in front companies and other private enterprises.

In brief, the democratic movement had achieved only elements of power. This gave it immense possibilities to use the new situation as a beach-head to fundamentally transform society. The final settlement, codified in the constitution adopted in 1996, contains the framework for democratic majority rule and the platform to build a truly united, non-racial, non-sexist and democratic society. However, the constraints outlined above have a direct bearing on the pace of transformation; on the route towards the strategic objective, as well as on the extent of the danger of this process being derailed.

A proper understanding of a given balance of forces is critical in defining the tactics that the liberation movement should adopt at each stage of transformation. To ignore this would be to fall victim to voluntarism and a revolutionary militancy that has nothing to do with revolution. Such “populism” can in fact lead to the defeat of the revolution itself. Historic moments are few and far between, where revolutionaries are called upon to throw caution to the wind.

On the other hand, a fixation with balance of forces as an immutable phenomenon results in a malaise of stasis, and it can in fact become the swan-song for indecision, and even reaction, to preach caution where bold action is required. Objective circumstances are not carved in stone. Any balance of forces is dynamic, influenced by changing endogenous and exogenous factors.


The strategic objective of the NDR is the creation of a united, non-racial, non-sexist and democratic society. This, in essence, means the liberation of Africans in particular and black people in general from political and economic bondage. It means uplifting the quality of life of all South Africans, especially the poor, the majority of whom are African and female.

April 1994 constitutes a platform from which to launch this programme of social transformation. What this revolution still has to accomplish, is to overcome the legacy of a social system that was based on the oppression of the black majority. Political freedom constitutes an important part of this mandate. However, without social justice, such freedom will remain hollow, the pastime of those who can make ends meet.

The symbiotic link between capitalism and national oppression in our country, and the stupendous concentration of wealth in the hands of a few monopolies therefore render trite the vainglorious declaration that national oppression and its social consequences can be resolved by formal democracy underpinned by market forces to which all should kneel in the prayer: ‘everyone for himself and the Devil takes the hindmost!’ While formal democracy may present opportunities for some blacks and women to advance, without a systematic national effort, led by the democratic government, to unravel the skewed distribution of wealth and income, the social reality of apartheid will remain.

How then should the strategic objective of the National Democratic Revolution find expression, in broad terms?

A fundamental condition for liberation is democracy and an abiding culture of human rights. All citizens should be guaranteed the right to elect a government of their choice, freedom of expression, freedom from discrimination, and other rights entrenched in the constitution. They should have a government not only formally based on their will, but one that is open and transparent, and one that consults and continually involves the people in policy formulation and implementation.

Consistent with these principles is the task of ensuring equality among the racial, ethnic, language, cultural and religious communities; and equality between women and men: to build a united nation of free individuals with the right to associate with whomever they wish on the basis of equality.

Critical to nation-building is the de-racialisation of South African society and the elimination of patriarchal relations. It means creating a society in which the station that individuals occupy in political, social and other areas of endeavour is not defined on the basis of race, ethnicity, language, gender, religious, cultural or other such considerations. It means integrating communities in residential areas, at the work-place and within the trade union movement, in sports and other areas. It also means a consistent programme of affirmative action to eradicate the disparities created by apartheid.

The ANC recognises that individuals within such a nation will have multiple identities, on the basis of their physiological make-up, cultural life and social upbringing. Such distinctive features will not disappear in the melting-pot of broad South Africanism. Neither does their association on the basis of one social attribute or the other constitute a denial of their other identities. But it is critical that the over-arching identity of being South African is promoted among all those who are indeed South African, as part of the process of building an African nation on the southern tip of the continent. The affirmation of our Africanness as a nation has nothing to do with the domination of one culture or language by another — it is a recognition of a geographic reality and the awakening of a consciousness which colonialism suppressed.

Apartheid colonialism also meant the systematic suppression of the talents, creativity and capacity of women to play their role in the ordering of the nation’s affairs. Much more than any other sector, colonial oppression and a universal patriarchal culture, including socially constructed “gender roles,” conspired to degrade women and treat them as sub-human. These gender roles permeate all spheres of life, beginning with the family, and are entrenched by stereotypes, dominant ideas, cultures, beliefs, traditions and laws.

Critical to the NDR is not only the affirmation of gender equality, but also ensuring that it is lived in practice by all South Africans, and finds conscious expression in all the policies and programmes of the nation. Concerted efforts will have to be made to educate citizens to change their attitudes and practices regarding the roles of women and men in society, and to assert an approach to issues of race and class which consistently recognises the gender imprint within and among these races and classes. This includes creating the necessary spiritual and material conditions to facilitate women’s advancement in all spheres of life.

In the same vein, the youth, the disabled and others have borne the brunt of apartheid’s hierarchy of denial, and affording them the requisite conditions for their advancement demands a united national effort.

Addressing these matters is not merely a concern for this or the other “sector” of society. It is in actual fact a matter of principle, an expression of our humane values, without which liberation would be neither genuine nor legitimate.

Democracy and development are intertwined, and one cannot be separated from the other. In particular, the notion that economic progress can be attained through some kind of benevolent dictatorship does not hold any water. It is in fact dangerous for it assumes that some self-declared elite can deliver social liberation from on high to a meek and grateful mass that does not participate in its own advancement. This goes against the grain of the history of struggle, in which the masses were in reality their own liberators. On the other hand, mass participation does not imply paralysis or wilful inaction in the name of endless consultation. Decisive, bold and speedy action should always be pursued, without derogating from the need for the people themselves to facilitate such promptness in meeting their needs.

The new democratic government derives its character from these challenges. These tasks are made the more urgent and the difficulty of implementing them further compounded by the massive social disparities that we have inherited. The apartheid state was set up, and it operated precisely in a manner, to entrench racial disparities. Its bloated, repressive and corrupt bureaucracy was tasked to serve the interests of a minority. Its fiscal expenditure and the operations of its parastatals were structured along apartheid lines, including its war effort against anti-apartheid forces within South Africa and abroad. It incurred huge debt in pursuit of these objectives, together with attempts at creating a buffer, from among the ranks of the oppressed, between the white minority and the revolutionary masses.

Because it was illegal and illegitimate, the apartheid state’s practices eroded the moral fibre of South African society. The state relied more and more on criminal actions to shore up its fortunes and in the process, it pulled the rest of society into a maelstrom of corruption and crime. As such, apartheid political and economic relations were not only a break on the development of the economy, they were also an albatross on the moral sensibilities of society.

The new democratic government is faced with the challenge of changing all this, as part of its strategic task of creating a united, non-racial, non-sexist and democratic society. In the first instance, this government derives its legitimacy and legality from the democratic processes which saw to its birth. However, the state machinery we inherited contains many features of the past. Formally, it is a state based on a democratic constitution, a state which is obliged to serve the aspirations of the majority. However, the emergence of a truly democratic state depends on the transformation of the old machinery, a critical part of the NDR. Such transformation should see the location of the motive forces of the revolution at the helm of the state, as the classes and strata which wield real power.

The challenges that face these forces in this phase is to ensure that the elements of power they have captured are utilised rapidly to transform the state, while at the same time placing it at the centre of the transformation of South Africa’s political, economic and societal relations.

The new South African state is one in which formal expressions of democracy and human rights should be backed up by mass involvement in policy formulation and implementation. It is a state which should mobilise the nation’s resources to expand the wealth base in the form of a growing economy.

It is a state which should continually strive to improve people’s quality of life. Such a state should ensure that all citizens are accorded equal opportunities within the context of correcting the historical injustice.

We seek to create a social order in which the many positive elements of the market dovetail with the obligations of citizens one to the other. Through its elected representatives and other avenues, society should ensure that those who are indigent are accorded a humane and respectable quality of life.

In this sense, such a society is neither a clone of an idealistic capitalist order which is hostage to rampant so-called market forces (particularly in an economy dominated by a few conglomerates), nor an egalitarian utopia of mechanical social parity. Indeed, within the context of a mixed economy, in which market forces have an important role to play, the state has the critical task of ensuring economic growth and development, of meeting people’s social needs and of providing the requisite environment for political stability and the safety and security of citizens.

In carrying out these tasks, the emergent democratic state relies on the formal instruments available to it; but, above all, on the active involvement of members of society in changing their lives for the better. Both as individuals, and organised in political formations and various structures of civil society, the citizens are the bedrock of fundamental change.

We are confident that consistent implementation of these principles will go along way in resolving many of the basic contradictions of South African society. However, we cannot claim that this is a panacea. Nor can we predict all the new challenges that the process of transformation will bring forth. For instance, the creation of a new society will not eliminate the basic antagonism between capital and labour. Neither will it eradicate the disparate and sometimes contradictory interests that some of the motive forces of the NDR pursue. These secondary contradictions among the motive forces are inherent to the NDR, and properly managed, they can serve as a source of its advancement.

Our task as the ANC, the task of the NDR, is to eliminate the basic causes of the national grievance wherever and in whatever form they manifest themselves, and to manage the multitude of contradictions within society in the interest of this objective. Indeed, as we succeed in doing so, new social dynamics will play themselves out, redefining the challenges of the given moment as well as the political permutations that are consonant with these new challenges.


The smooth change-over of government in 1994 was one of the most outstanding achievements of liberation struggles this century. The understandable euphoria that this development occasioned reflected the sense of achievement of a people who had endured centuries of bondage, as well as appreciation by both black and white South Africans that they share a common destiny, and that none would benefit from mutually debilitating conflict. This was reinforced by the deliberate policy of reconciliation adopted by the liberation movement, helping to narrow the space for those forces which might have had plans to subvert this process by violent and other means.

However, the notion that South Africans embraced and made up, and thus erased the root causes of previous conflict, is thoroughly misleading. April 1994 was neither the beginning nor the end of history. The essential contradictions spawned by the system of apartheid colonialism were as much prevalent the day after the inauguration of the new government as they were the day before.

The fact that the ideas and influence of the previous ruling classes still predominated in the civil service, in the security forces, in the economic sector and in the media — primary centres of power in any social formation — meant that the capacity of the democratic movement was in many respects circumscribed. This was further aggravated by the compromises that were made to ensure a smooth transition. All this presented opportunities for those fundamentally opposed to change to mobilise against it.

Are there active counter-revolutionary forces in South Africa?

Over the past years in government, we have learnt that we should not be blinded by form: the fact that blacks are, for the first time, occupying the highest political offices in the land; as distinct from content: the reality that colonial relations in some centres of power remain largely unchanged.

However, in examining the forces bent on undermining transformation, a word of caution is necessary. It is always tempting for revolutionary organisations in political office to characterise all opposition to their programmes as acts of counter-revolution. In general terms, an opposition that pays allegiance to the constitution and the country’s laws and seeks to modify the programmes of transformation or even to express a retrogressive school of thought shared by a given constituency, is a legitimate actor in the contradictory process of change. Indeed, such forces should be treated as legitimate expressions of the country’s social contradictions.

The new constitution and its various institutions provide the framework within which individuals should exercise their democratic rights. They afford parties with requisite support to attain representation in parliament, there to pursue the interests of their constituents. Our democracy would have been shallow and incomplete if, in the legislatures and even in the streets, the forces which benefited from the system of apartheid did not seek to express their disappointment or genuine apprehension with the process of change.

Both with regard to these political forces and the mass base they exploit, the overriding aim will be to derail or reverse change so as to end up with a system in which the social privileges of apartheid are retained in a somewhat modified form. As long as this is carried out within the parameters of the constitution and the law, it is a legal and robust (though, broadly-speaking, counter-revolutionary) expression of the real contradictions within society.

These political forces consist, in the main, of those elements which collectively constituted the white ruling bloc and its black appendages.

However, the fact that they represent views of a given constituency does not subtract from the counter-revolutionary content of their programmes. The defining character of the public platform of most opposition parties is to entrench the social relations of black poverty and white opulence _ however modified — that were engendered by the system of apartheid. To achieve this, they seek to imprison the erstwhile beneficiaries of apartheid in that time warp when white and might were right. They strive to maintain cohesion within a former ruling group now facing disintegration. In this sense, these forces are, broadly-speaking, counter-revolutionary.

Further, the overwhelming moral and political legitimacy of the new order, and of the ANC in particular, does draw some of these parties and other elements — who have no hope in the near future of assuming political office — towards finding clandestine and sometimes innocuous ways of subverting transformation.

In the narrow sense, counter-revolution can be defined as a combination of aims and forms of action that are mainly unconstitutional and illegal, to subvert transformation. These include setting up intelligence and armed networks parallel to and within the state to sabotage change through direct political activity or aggravation of such social problems as crime. They also entail underground efforts to undermine the country’s economy, including investor confidence and the currency; deliberate acts of corruption driven not merely by greed; sabotage of the programme for delivery; wrecking the government’s information systems; illegal and malicious acts of capital flight and so on.

Such efforts can be supplemented by open forms of mobilisation, not least through legislatures and networks in the judiciary, the economy, the media and other centres of power.

Uppermost in the immediate objectives of these counter-revolutionary forces is to disorganise, weaken and destroy the ANC, the vanguard of the NDR, both from within and from outside its ranks. It is in the interest of these elements that the masses of the people should be left leaderless and rudderless, and thus open to manipulation against their own interests.

In this sense, therefore, the democratic movement will be committing a monumental blunder — a historical error of great proportions — to lull itself into a false sense of security. Maximum vigilance is required. But even more critical, the revolutionary movement needs to act with resolution in transforming the state machinery. It needs to use those centres of power in which it has a foothold to widen and deepen popular power. The nature of our transition also means that, rather than rely mainly on revolutionary force (in a situation in which the instruments of force themselves require fundamental transformation), the democratic movement should creatively employ the weapons of transparency and openness to expose the machinations of counter-revolution and root out their networks. It should ensure that the agenda in the battle of ideas is not set by counter-revolution.

In addressing these challenges, the ANC will do well to remember the adage of its own campaigns: “attack the enemy on all fronts.” Counter-revolutionary mobilisation can only take root if there are real grievances to exploit, whether these grievances are deliberately engineered or not. The democratic movement itself needs at all times to be vigilant that its own actions and omissions do not assist such mobilisation

These then are the challenges we face in changing the balance of forces in the interest of fundamental transformation. In the final analysis, the best antidote to counter-revolution is confidence in the mass of the people, mobilised always to be in political motion. They are the sure guarantee to the advancement and defence of the cause of national liberation.

Who are these masses and what is the character of the organisations required to lead their efforts?


In South Africa, where political oppression was so closely linked to economic exploitation, where the social position that individuals occupied in life was defined by writ in racial terms, it is critical to examine the motive forces of change from both these angles.

The system of national oppression meant that the African majority and blacks in general became, from their own experiences and actions, the main motive forces of the struggle. At the same time, within the white community, individuals of rare foresight and integrity did realise that all the people of our country shared a common future, and therefore made common cause with the national liberation movement. This is the array of national forces on whom the ANC relies for the continuing struggle to rid South Africa of the legacy of apartheid.

They are made up of the African majority who were the main victims of the apartheid system and who bore the brunt of the heroic struggle against it; the Coloured and Indian communities, who, though accorded bigger crumbs from the masters’ table, were essentially excluded from the court of the privileged, and themselves played a critical role in the struggle; and white democrats. This hierarchy of oppression was devised as a tool of divide-and-rule, as an expression of the warped minds of the white racist ruling clique and as a tactic to buttress the forces which would have a stake in the system of apartheid to defend.

The African people were themselves nudged and coerced to develop an ethnic consciousness that the system of colonial capitalism had undermined. Some among them were rewarded with bogus positions of status in apartheid institutions.

The combination of all these factors does emphasise the critical importance of building national consciousness as part of the process of social transformation.

In class terms, apartheid ensured that blacks occupy the lowest rungs of the ladder of colonial capitalism: as the unemployed and landless rural masses; as unskilled and semi-skilled workers; as professionals squashed between the rock of poverty and the glass ceiling of job reservation; and as petty business operators confined to spaza retail trade and a disorganised mini-bus sector...but never at the heart of the country’s industry. Ranged against them, and yet feeding on their condition was the collection of white classes and strata: workers, the middle strata, small business and, particularly, the monopoly capitalists.

South African capitalism gave birth to a collective of black workers whose class position and social existence placed it at the head of the struggle for freedom. By dint of its activism and organisation, this class won the respect of all the other motive forces as the leader of the NDR. Along with the poor rural masses, the working class stands to gain most from the success of transformation. Because of its organisation and role, and objectively because of its numbers and position in the production process, the working class is critical to this process.

The formation of a democratic government has also set in motion a rapid process of breaking the glass ceiling that blocked propertied and professional sections of the black community from advancement.

Over time, the policies of government and the tactical sensibilities of some white monopolists, have precipitated a situation in which some of the black propertied classes are expanding their positions withinimportant sectors of the economy. At the same time, the policies of government have opened up a wide array of opportunities for small and medium enterprises. Other sections of the black middle strata are also benefiting directly and indirectly from opportunities created by government. Indeed, the rapid advance of these sections constitutes one of the most immediate and most visible consequences of democracy.

Precisely because their progress is contingent upon the achievement of democracy, these forces continue to share an interest in the success of social transformation. Their interests coincide with those of the other sectors previously denied political rights. Yet this cannot be assumed.

In some instances what is hailed in the private sector as “black empowerment” is symbolic and devoid of real substance. There are possibilities that some of these forces are dictated to by foreign or local big capital on whom they rely for their advancement. There are possibilities too, that the path to riches for some can be directly via public office, sometimes through corrupt practices. Though such instances may be an exception to the norm, experience in other countries has taught us that, without vigilance, elements of these new capitalist classes can become witting or unwitting tools of monopoly interests, or parasites who thrive on corruption in public office.

However, in the overall, the rising black bourgeoisie and middle strata are objectively important motive forces of transformation whose interests coincide with at least the immediate interests of the majority. They are, in this sense and in this phase, part of the motive forces of fundamental change.

Yet, like with all other classes, their contribution to transformation, as distinct from the gains they derive from it, is contingent upon their mobilisation to pursue the interests of reconstruction and development, on such issues as the strategic employment of investment capital, labour relations, workplace democracy, style of management and so on.

Indeed, it is critical for the ANC and the government to help guide these and other owners of capital to promote social transformation mindful of the fact that such transformation will serve at least their long-term interests and those of society as a whole. This applies as much to local financial, manufacturing, mining, agricultural and other entrepreneurs as it does to foreign direct investors.

The occupation of positions of power by individuals from the black majority, and the material possibilities this offers, does create some “social distance” between these individuals and constituencies they represent. It should not be ruled out that this could render elements in the revolutionary movement progressively lethargic to the conditions of the poor. This is not a distant and theoretical possibility, but a danger always lurking as we pursue fundamental change from the vantage point of political office. Preventing it is not a small appendage to the tasks of the NDR. It is central to the all-round vigilance that we should continue to exercise.

Examples abound in many former colonies of massive disparities in the distribution of wealth and income between the new elite and the mass of the people. In South Africa, this potential danger is made the more acute by the fact that, at the end of the day, this class permutation will in substance reflect previous racial disparities and gender inequality, with a coterie of mainly black men co-opted into the white courtyard of privilege. This will then be a continuing potential source of instability and insecurity for all of society, deriving from the same social grievances that underpinned the anti-apartheid struggle.

While the majority within the white community harboured misconceptions about democratic majority rule, experience since April 1994 is showing that, loss of ill-gotten privilege aside, the new system affords them the kind of freedom and security which is legitimate, long-term and therefore more meaningful. This is a far cry from the fear and psychological coercion that the autocratic and securocratic system of apartheid engendered. Even the white owners of large corporations enjoy opportunities both within and outside South Africa that apartheid could not afford them.

Indeed, many of these and other sectors of society who benefited from apartheid harbour a positive ambivalence or even critical support towards the process of change. These sectors, and indeed the white community as such, are therefore not an exclusive terrain of parties opposed to change. It is the task of the democratic movement to try and liberate them and, where possible, their political representatives, from the prison of fear, hatred and antipathy towards the process of transformation. The benefits they enjoy deriving from the new order, and the new sense of proud belonging they nurture, are among the elements that should be harnessed.


The ANC is a product of a given historical period, formed to unite the African people in the struggle for equality. Over the years, it developed to embrace non-racialism both as a principle and as a guide to its composition and day-to-day practice. Driving its approach to struggle was the fundamental national contradiction represented by the oppression of black people. Combined with the evolution of South African capitalism, and the ANC’s interaction with liberation and other progressive movements over the world, all these factors helped shape the character of the ANC as a truly progressive national liberation movement.

The primary mission of the ANC was, and remains, to mobilise all the classes and strata that objectively stand to gain from the success of the cause of social change. Indeed, the fact that a particular group, class or stratum stands to benefit from such transformation does not necessarily mean that it will automatically be aware of it. Thus, the task of education, organisation and mobilisation is critical at all stages. This is as important in this period as it was in the past; for, in as much as the people were their own liberators, success today is contingent upon transformation being people-centred and people-driven.

The ANC is also called upon to win over to its side those who previously benefited from the system of apartheid: to persuade them to appreciate that their long-term security and comfort are closely tied up with the security and comfort of society as a whole. In this sense therefore, the ANC is not a leader of itself, nor just of its supporters. History has bequeathed on it the mission to lead South African society as a whole in the quest for a truly non-racial, non-sexist and democratic nation.

Given the common interests that various classes and strata have in the success of the NDR, it is the task of the ANC to channel the energies of these forces towards that goal. It should be able to identify those common interests and unite the motive forces and others in joint action.

Yet among these forces, each sector promotes its own narrow interests. Even within the African majority, the object of vicious racist policies, their stratification then, and even more so now, dictates that they will hold differing views on critical matters of transformation. On the factory-floor, a black employer and a worker will not be immune to the class contradictions that the capitalist system of social organisation engenders.

The nature of democracy that the ANC pursues leans towards the poor. This arises from its experience in struggle, from its humane and progressive outlook, and from the on-going contribution of the various class forces to change. The ANC recognises the central and leading role of the working class in the project of social transformation. Its approach to democracy is also informed by the principle of consistent equality which not only recognises unequal gender relations, but also acknowledges that the overwhelming majority of the poor are African women, especially in the rural areas.

The ANC is therefore a broad multi-class, mass organisation, uniting the motive forces on the basis of a programme for transformation. It must strive to remain a broad democratic movement by accepting into its ranks all those who accept and abide by its policies and objectives. This character of the ANC derives from its strategic tasks in the current phase.

While at this stage we define ourselves as a liberation movement, it is trite to counter-pose this to being “a party” in the broad sense or as understood by adherents of formal bourgeois democracy. It is our strategic objectives, the motive forces of the revolution and the character of the terrain in which we operate such as mass work, parliament and government as a whole which are central in defining our organisational character, irrespective of the formal label attached to it.

Transformation will only have real meaning if it addresses the plight of triple oppression suffered by women. The ANC must lead the efforts aimed at eradicating these oppressive power relations in our society. Within its own ranks, it must entrench gender awareness and appropriate practices.

The ANC Women’s League (ANCWL) is tasked with the responsibility of helping the ANC to broaden its mass base, as it champions the aspirations of a section of our society which over the decades, has been oppressed and exploited as “a nation,” as a class and as women. It should continue to be the voice of ANC women members, but it should also be at the cutting edge of the Broad Women’s Movement, spearheading gender transformation and the advancement of a women’s agenda.

The ANC Youth League (ANCYL) is a critical tool of South Africa’s youth in pursuit of a better life for all. It should continue to function as an organisational and political preparatory school of young activists of our movement. The organisational autonomy of the ANCYL always provides organisational vibrancy and the youthful political debate imperative to a revolutionary organisation. It should continually broaden its base and deepen its political and organisational strength. It must strive to galvanise, and place itself at the centre of, the broadest spectrum of youth organisations for reconstruction and development.

The ANC has the responsibility to link up with various political, community, sectoral and other formations that share its strategic objective, and contribute to their orientation with regard to the major national questions of the day.

Among these forces are the organisations of the working class — the South African Communist Party and the progressive trade union movement, represented by COSATU, in particular. These organisations are committed to a united, non-racial, non-sexist and democratic South Africa, and a system which pays particular attention to the improvement of the conditions of especially the poor. They themselves took part in defining this strategic objective, and, to the extent that the struggle to reach this goal remains in place, they will always have a close partnership with the ANC.

This Tripartite Alliance is therefore not a matter of sentiment, but an organisational expression of the common purpose and unity in action that these forces share, and continue jointly to define and redefine in the course of undertaking the tasks of the NDR.

While maintaining their independence, each component of the Alliance has a responsibility to organise and mobilise its social base and any other forces allied to it, for the implementation of the Reconstruction and Development Programme, the defence of the NDR and the constructive engagement of the people as a whole in the process of fundamental change.

Sectoral formations among the motive forces of transformation pursue the same goals as the ANC, in the measure that they strive for the true interests of these sectors. Among them are to be found student and professional organisations, structures of the religious community, the youth, women, traditional leaders, business associations, structures in rural areas, civic associations and others. These formations are as important to transformation as they were to the heroic struggle against apartheid. It behoves the ANC to work among them and join with them both in sectoral and inter-sectoral campaigns to realise the aims of the NDR.

To the extent that other broader forces share some short- or even long-term goals with the ANC, we should find ways of pooling efforts to achieve those goals. In this period of complex transformation, maximum skill and tact are required to bring the message of the ANC to these forces; not so much to convert them to its world view, but to ensure that the overwhelming majority of South Africans pay allegiance to the constitution and share in the national consensus and programme to build a new society.

The ANC is the vanguard of all these motive forces of the NDR, the leader of the broad movement for transformation. Its leadership has not been decreed, but earned in the crucible of struggle and the battles for social transformation. It should continually strengthen itself as a national political organisation and ensure that it is in touch with the people in their day-to-day life.

The ANC is acutely aware that the overwhelming majority of South Africans, and indeed its own members, adhere to religious beliefs or are people of faith who do not practice any religion. From this point of view, and indeed within the context of the profound moral ethic, empathy towards those in need and human fellowship that most religions preach, the ANC recognises the critical role the religious community can play as a partner in reconstruction and development, nation-building and reconciliation. We shall continue to promote joint efforts with, and sectoral contribution by, the religious community in pursuit of a non-racial, non-sexist and democratic society.

The current phase of the NDR contains many new and complex dynamics and the ANC should itself continue to be a vibrant organisation within whose ranks there is constant exchange of ideas, however different such ideas may be. Its cadre policy should encourage creativity in thought and in practice, and eschew rigid dogma. However, it should exercise maximum discipline among its members, and ensure that, after ideas have been exchanged and decisions taken, all its structures and members pursue the same goal. In the composition of its membership and leadership, the class and national content of the NDR should find broad expression.

The character and strength of the ANC must continue to reside in its mass base. And, as the leading force in government, the ANC should continuously improve its capacity and skill to wield and transform the instruments of power. This includes a systematic approach to parliament as the forum to lay the detailed legal framework for transformation, creative employment of public representatives in organisational work, a cadre policy ensuring that the ANC plays a leading role in all centres of power, and a proper balance in its day-to-day activities between narrow governmental work and organisational tasks.

In all centres of power, particularly in parliament and the executive, ANC representatives must fulfil the mandate of the organisation. They should account to the ANC and seek its broad guidance. As a matter of political principle, and in our structures and our style of operation, we proceed always from the premise that there is one ANC, irrespective of the many and varied sectors in which cadres are deployed.

The fact of being in government has also thrown up challenges which were either not pronounced in, or foreign to, the previous epoch. For instance, the approach to deployment in the current phase cannot ignore mapping out career-paths for, and with, ANC cadres to enable them to play the most effective role, and to advance in a systematic way, in the varied terrain of transformation. This also entails the acquisition of a multiple of political, organisational and technical skills.

Such cadre policy has nothing to do with careerism of the opportunistic variety, which a governing party should always guard against. It also has to be pursued without detracting from the mass character of the movement, with this mass membership itself continually upgraded, and at the same time serving as a pool from which cadres can be developed.

Positions in government also afford the movement and its leaders powerful possibilities for patronage. There is nothing untoward per se in advancing cadres who, by their selfless contribution to the cause, deserve such acknowledgment. Yet this can easily lend itself to corrupt practices, undermining good governance and destroying critical and independent thought and expression, and the vibrancy of a truly revolutionary movement.

In pointing out these dangers, we should not lose sight of the exciting and challenging period that the ANC has entered in its history to realise the ideals that it has cherished since its foundation.

Yet we are also conscious of the fact that a fundamental condition for our success is not merely sound domestic policies and programmes, nor our determination to pursue them. Progress in our country depends on the regional and international environment in which we operate.

How do we characterise this environment and what can the ANC do to help improve it?


The liberation of South Africa was both a local expression of a changing world and part of the catalyst to renewed efforts aimed at attaining international consensus on the most urgent questions facing humanity. Our transition was an element of a dynamic political process of a world redefining itself with the end of the Cold War. To the extent that the new global situation has not resolved the contradictions within and among nations between poverty and opulence; to the extent that ethnic, religious and other tensions continue to ravage parts of the globe; to the extent that some of these contradictions find bold expression in our own society; to this extent and more, the transformation taking place in our country is closely intertwined with the search for a new world order.

The ANC seeks to take active part in shaping this order, both in the context of its relations with other parties and movements, and as the leading organisation in government. In both these areas of operation, it will pursue the same objectives. Yet we do recognise that, in their detail, party-to-party aims will not always translate into inter-state relations. This is not to imply that inter-state relations are devoid of principle. Rather, it is to underline that, in government, the implementation of our principles will be tempered by the realities of world diplomacy and conventions governing inter-state relations.