ANC is ideologically handicapped

William Saunderson-Meyer |

12 August 2022

William Saunderson-Meyer says our liberation movement has failed to adapt to the world as it actually works


The African National Congress has painted South Africa into a disastrous corner. It’s malice but stupidity. It stems from a failure to adapt to how the world actually works, rather than how one wants it to work. 

Successful democratic governments all function in the same basic way. The governing party has the ability, once in power, to adapt its ideals to reality. That means compromises and a willingness to relax passionately held ideological convictions if they fail to deliver the necessary results. 

In contrast, almost every failure of this government can be traced to its choosing form over substance, posturing over results, and ignoring pressing issues rather than sweating the hard yards.

Take the successive violent waves of xenophobia that periodically sweep the country and are right now simmering close to an explosion. The newest trigger has been the gang rape on the West Rand of eight women, allegedly by a group of men from Lesotho.

 These zama zamas illegally enter South Africa to mine metal and mineral seams that are no longer economically viable for commercial operations. They are controlled by powerful criminal syndicates and the Institute of Security Studies estimates that the approximately 30,000 illegal miners produce R14bn worth of gold per annum.


In response, starting in Gauteng and spreading to other provinces, residents in these communities have formed vigilante gangs to hunt down the zama zamas. At least one has been killed and this week the police rescued another 19 from an angry mob. 

The problem can be traced back to 1994 when the ANC won power. One of its first actions was to switch off the electric fences that discouraged illegal border crossings and deliberately allowed a once-daunting barrier to fall into disrepair. This, it explained, was an act of African solidarity, payback for the sacrifices made by South Africa’s neighbours in hosting ANC guerrilla forces during the liberation struggle.

The result was an explosion in illegal immigration, or “undocumented migrants” as the academics prefer to call them. Many are perfectly decent skilled workers, entrepreneurs and professionals. A large number, however, are criminals, moving with impunity across the borders to commit crimes in South Africa and then escaping with the loot to home sanctuaries.

No one truly knows the numbers involved. In 2011, Stats SA estimated that there were 6.2m foreigners in South Africa. In 2021, it revised this down to 3.95m. Since the total population in 2011 was less than 52m and it is now more than 60m, there’s a lot of justifiable scepticism about the official figures.