Cadres, Capitalists, Elites and Coalitions | by Jo-Ansie van Wyk

by Aug 6, 2012All Articles

The ANC, Business and Development in South Africa


Cadres, Capitalists, Elites and Coalitions presents a clear and well-grounded analysis of the South African transition from apartheid white minority to black majority democratic rule, based on elite bargaining and pacting. Framed in the context of South Africa’s history in the past two decades, particularly the trade-off between the injustices and inequalities of the apartheid era and the broadening of the political space to allow for black majority rule, it explores the factors and actors behind the political settlement among three elite groups and leaderships: the National Party (NP), the African National Congress (ANC) and the South African white capitalist class.

Elite pacting and democracy are therefore addressed as modalities of conflict resolution and sustainable peace building in South Africa. The monograph provides a compelling analysis of the successful political transition and a lesssuccessful economic transition, which though opening up business ownership to a black minority, has yet to address the wide gap between the largely white capitalist class and the majority black African citizenry that has largely remained poor. Exploring political elite pacting ­ racial, political and economic ­ the author also draws attention to the economic pact involving the ANC, the NP elite and leadership and the white business class, including an analysis of the factors behind the decision of the ANC elite and leadership to abandon its radical socialist rhetoric in favour of pro-business/market policies.

The analysis also shows how the ANC managed its relations with its alliance partners, the South African Communist Party (SACP) and Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), which were opposed to most of the neoliberal policies of the ANC-led government, on the one hand and its political elite and business partners on the other. The author shows that far from being an ideological or policy somersault on the part of the ANC elites, its shift in rhetoric and policies have been contested every step of the way by elements within the party, and by its alliance partners, including the SACP and COSATU.

Also relevant in the push towards neoliberal reforms by the ANC-led government was the role of the white business class, allied to global capital, in opening up business ownership to blacks ­ including those connected to the ruling party. Also of note was the role of the International Financial Institutions, particularly the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, in influencing the character of, and policies directed at rebuilding and expanding South African capital. By undertaking an analysis of the recent shifts within the ANC, which is currently refocusing its alliance on developmental and redistributive agendas but without abandoning its business partners, the author starts a necessary conversation on the prospects for the emergence of a democratic developmental state and a non-racial and non-sexist egalitarian society in South Africa. Its depth, analytical and empirical rigour recommend it to scholars, policy makers and other critical audiences that seek a clearer and nuanced understanding of South Africa’s recent past, its politics, the centrality of the state to the national project and the likely prospects of overcoming the legacy of deep inequalities, divisions and poverty from a traumatic past. Cyril I. Obi Leader Research Cluster on Conflict, Displacement and Transformation The Nordic Africa Institute

Executive summary

The transition from apartheid to democracy in South Africa is widely regarded as an exemplary case of an elite political settlement. Moreover, South Africa’s political history in the last two decades can certainly be understood in terms of the way old, new, political and economic elites interacted in different domains and sectors to resolve major collective problems and produce institutional solutions that would work ­ even if some of these solutions appeared contentious ­ and cater to broad interests. The political settlement achieved by opposing elites produced a unique democratic pact. However, less attention has been paid to the economic pact achieved by these elites.

As a liberation movement, the African National Congress (ANC) advocated nationalisation to undo the socioeconomic legacies of apartheid, but once the political transition had commenced, it discarded nationalisation. Instead, ANC elites opted for pro-business/market policies, which stabilised the economy and attracted much needed foreign direct investment. Their decision was partly attributable to the negotiated political and economic pacts that they concluded with National Party elites and ‘white’ capital. With the political or democratic pact in place, the negotiation and consolidation of the economic pact was achieved with the formation of numerous formal and informal coalitions with first ‘white’ and later ‘black’ capital to undo the economic legacies of apartheid. Not only did the pact result led to a stable political transition, it also in political and economic transformation. More importantly, early signs are now evident of a developmental pact that may result in a successful developmental state capable of achieving equality and equity for all in post-apartheid South Africa.

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