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Viewpoint by Enoch Godongwana


The ANC's National General Council (NGC) meeting in October this year comes at a time of renewed global economic instability - plunging stock markets in China and elsewhere, ongoing ructions in the European Union, low commodity prices and emerging market currency volatility to name just some of the key symptoms.

Viewpoint by Naledi Pandor


One of the few times a common emotional reaction occurs in South Africans is a World Cup victory (rugby or cricket thus far), a rousing rendition of the national anthem, reminders of President Nelson Mandela or reference to the Constitution's visionary ideal of a nation united in diversity.

Viewpoint by Zamani Saul


This article is not intended to provide a thorough, detailed and complete reflection on the topic. Rather, it is intended as an overview that will furnish the reader with a rudimentary understanding of a very complex topic in comparative politics, and prepare the reader for a more in-depth consideration of select themes on factionalism discussed in subsequent subheadings.




ANC Economic Policy - Growth, jobs and investment in times of instability

Comrade Enoch Godongwana is a member of the ANC NEC Member and Chair of the ANC's Economic Transformation Committee

The ANC's National General Council (NGC) meeting in October this year comes at a time of renewed global economic instability - plunging stock markets in China and elsewhere, ongoing ructions in the European Union, low commodity prices and emerging market currency volatility to name just some of the key symptoms.

Partly due to international developments, but also due to specific domestic weaknesses, the South African economy too is facing a number of problems. In addition to inherited structural problems, such as, persistent unemployment and inequality, inadequate skills levels and low domestic savings, the current period comes with the threat of jobs losses in mining, metals and other sectors, an ongoing shortage of electricity, low levels of growth and invest, low levels of business confidence, severe drought conditions, reduced fiscal capacity and a growing risk of stagflation.

The ANC is deeply concerned about the dangers posed by the current, unfavourable economic environment. The timing of the NGC meeting provides an important opportunity for the ANC to review a wide range of policy interventions and where necessary strengthen and recalibrate such interventions to improve South Africa's economic performance.

The ANC's economic policy interventions are necessarily informed by our movement's historic mission to overcome South Africa's triple challenge of unemployment, poverty and inequality. As such, our economic policy interventions have been built on a number of key pillars.

Firstly, the need to change the structure of opportunity in South Africa informs a wide range of our interventions. Broad-based black economic empowerment aims to transform the racialised nature of business ownership and participation. Land redistribution and transformative urban planning are required to overcome the spatial inheritance of apartheid. Widening access to basic and higher education creates opportunity for children from poor communities.

Secondly, the need to significantly expand, upgrade and maintain economic and social infrastructure is key to economic growth and development as much as it has been important to begin to provide services and infrastructure to communities that have not previously had access to adequate housing, electricity, and water and sanitation services.

Thirdly, the transformation of South Africa's labour laws and the codification of fair labour practices have been essential to improving the lives of working people in South Africa.

Fourthly, post the apartheid sanctions era, the ANC has sought increased integration with the global economy through fostering international trade and investment with a diverse range of countries and blocs, including with other countries on the African continent, the BRICS countries, the EU and via AGOA with the United States.

The ANC-led government's National Development Plan (NDP) is the overarching policy for lifting South Africa's medium to long-term growth potential. The various Phakisa initiatives into the ocean economy and into mining allow policy makers to drill down deeply in order to resolve sector specific challenges and create new dynamism. Similarly, the ongoing iterations of South Africa's industrial policy plan assist in promoting investment in key economic sectors.

A key ingredient that has been missing in South Africa's economic policy making has been sufficient dialogue and cooperation among representatives of business, labour and government. Internationally the evidence is clear, that where business, labour and government are able to unite around an agenda of common interests, national development is enhanced.

Signals are mixed, but there are some signs that a new era of cooperation may be dawning in South Africa. The recent coming together of business, labour and government to try and strengthen and sustain South Africa's ailing steel industry offers a hint of the kind of co-operation that is required.

The ANC is very clear on the kind of economy that South Africa needs. Inclusive reconstruction and development requires a vibrant mixed economy in which both the public and private sectors are strong and effective.

The public sector's role is to drive infrastructure programmes and expand access to services so as to open up new economic opportunities and change the economy's inherited racialised patterns. Such a programme of public infrastructure expansion also assists in stimulating demand in the short-run and has the potential to modernise the South African economy and make it more internationally competitive in the medium- to long-run.

The private sector's role, both big business and small, is to thrive in the space created as the economy's opportunities expand, to deploy new know-how and technologies and to operate efficiently and competitively in such a way as to benefit consumers, employees and the fiscus.

To achieve this vision, a priority is to identify and remove obstacles to increased levels of investment. Among others, the following items should be foremost on the agenda aimed at increasing investment levels in South Africa:

  1. is there broad consensus on the need to lift investment to the NDP's target of 30% of GDP, what is the state's role in this and what is the private sector's role
  2. how can business maximise localisation benefits from South Africa's ongoing public infrastructure expansion
  3. what potential exists for South African business, including black-owned businesses, to become part of global supply chains
  4. how can government and business work together to ensure the maximum success of recently launched Special Economic Zones
  5. how can government and business align themselves more closely in developing trade and investment ties with other countries in Africa and beyond
  6. how can independent power producers be brought into base load power generation, as has been done for renewable energy
  7. what can be done to turn around the precipitous fall in mining output and mining investment
  8. what can be done to assess and unlock South Africa's significant potential as an onshore and offshore gas producer, in a manner that does not compromise the country's environment
  9. how can land reform efforts be accelerated, in such a way as to expand the output and exports of the existing commercial farming sector as well as grow the number of successful black farmers participating effectively in the agricultural economy
  10. how should telecoms competition be facilitated, with the aim of reducing broadband and telecoms prices
  11. how can South Africa secure greater positive economic linkages from its maritime position,
  12. how can the ongoing growth in the tourism sector be facilitated, as this is one of South Africa's key areas of natural comparative advantage in the global economy
  13. more importantly,how can business, government and labour work together to develop a coherent South African message, rather than talking at cross purposes

If consensus, and effective action, can be achieved on such issues, there is no doubt that investment levels in South Africa would rise towards the NDP's target. Such an increase in investment is necessary if the country is to achieve the objective of radically reducing unemployment, poverty and inequality.

The ANC is deeply engaged in driving the economic transformation of South Africa and has been for the past 21 years. Meetings such as the NGC give us the opportunity to review and strengthen our interventions, and to recalibrate our plans, given challenging domestic and international economic conditions. Furthermore, successful economic transformation will require a common effort by all South Africans, and as a result the ANC will, in the build up to the NGC, be holding consultations with a number of social formations to solicit a wider range of views on what is to be done to uplift South Africa's economy.

Viewpoint by Naledi Pandor


Comrade Naledi Pandor is a member of the ANC NEC and Chairperson of the Education and Health Sub-Committee


Nation building and the ideal of unity in diversity in post-apartheid South Africa

One of the few times a common emotional reaction occurs in South Africans is a World Cup victory (rugby or cricket thus far), a rousing rendition of the national anthem, reminders of President Nelson Mandela or reference to the Constitution's visionary ideal of a nation united in diversity.

As we enter this significant month of acknowledging our culture and heritage, we can be so bold as to ask: have we begun to succeed in building a nation? Indeed what makes up a nation and how do you build this notion of nationhood and common belonging?

Post-apartheid South Africa has the unenviable task of reversing the most cruel, yet well-crafted, evil strategy of social engineering ever designed by a serving government. The evil genius of the architects of apartheid was recently referred to in admiring terms by renowned journalist Alister Sparks. Given the continued existence of those who believe apartheid was acceptable alongside those who believe it was an offence to our common humanity, how do we forge a South African nation?

The diagnostic report of the National Planning commission starkly sets out the scars of apartheid - racial profiling, race-based discrimination and their continuing impact in a range of sectors, the triple discrimination experienced by African women and gender inequality in broad terms, the accentuating of ethnicity,  poor education access, joblessness and inadequate wages for labour, the spatial racism of the group-areas policy and low-skill levels among the most vulnerable and general exclusion from meaningful participation in the real economy. All of these led to a confused and abiding culture of feeling aggrieved, entitled and for some, born to privilege. One of the effects of long-term oppression is a terrible feeling of inadequacy while on the other hand long-term dominance results in a sense of superiority and entitlement that is ingrained in those who are beneficiaries of racial discrimination. This is our nation and we need to forge a new inclusive South Africa together. In fact our negotiated settlement means we have agreed a social compact as a nation to create a better future for South Africa. Can this be done given our history and these remaining features of the apartheid legacy?

The African National Congress, as leader of society and the majority party in government for more than four terms, has the unenviable duty of being the leading actor in forging this new united nation, in helping shepherd the emergence of the South Africaness many desire. To do this it must eschew racism, chauvinist ethnicity, gender oppression, and worker exploitation in its policies and practices. It has to lead the way in showing the nation there are principles that bind us and the residues of our past cannot be the measure of our future. This is a tough challenge, but the ANC cannot neglect it. Of course all of us have an obligation to support the ANC in this the biggest, most challenging, national priority.

Since 1994 South  Africa's people and government have bravely sought to address social challenges - education access has been expanded; health, housing, water and electricity provision are being addressed; and millions today enjoy a better life.

While important, these changes and democratic successes cannot be regarded as the full sum of what must be done to build a new nation. We need to appropriate national symbols and activities larger than ourselves to fully support the commitment to that bond that asserts united and South African, yet still deeply appreciative of our diversity. Our flag, our anthem, our schools and universities, our national days, our languages, could be powerful signs of unity if we could all agree to recognise them in this way.

Attaching the unifying symbol of nationhood to these examples could help promote a still to be achieved social cohesion in South Africa. Thus far our country has not fully achieved cohesion. I suspect that fault may lie with our political and institutional leaders. We are all not doing as much as we should to promote national unity and democratic pride in South Africaness.

Our polity and national discourse continues to bear the imprint of our divisive past rather than our common future. Consensus is still viewed as compromise and unity of purpose is not prized. Moreover, the overwhelming influence of government under apartheid has left us a legacy that social change and the building of new ties must be the business of the governing party solely and whoever governs. Those who occupy positions of economic power regard redress as  governments job. So despite their control of capital they remain on the sidelines when it comes to building a new transformed nation. They will  not celebrate our diverse colourful heritage on Heritage Day - that is governments job. They will not pay a living wage and create the prospects for a prosperous society - that is for the former oppressed. It is the ANC that must do that. These are matters of social cohesion that cannot be left to government and government bureaucracy.

The government is somewhat at fault here too. National events have somewhat of a partisan flavour and appear to exclude when they should be premier occasions for social cohesion. It may be necessary to draw on civil society in the preparation of such events and the mandate would be national inclusion and promotion of belonging and national symbols.

We, the people, must lead in creating this new free nation. Free to redefine ourselves as uniquely committed to diversity, freely appreciative of religious freedom as a force for peace, alert that race is a factor in our daily busy lives, but aware that it is not the sole factor as respect for and promotion of human dignity should go beyond race. We, the people, are the motive force that must give shape and meaning to a united South Africa. The task is urgent as we cannot allow time to entrench division and separation.

The Freedom Charter and our Constitution refer to what must be addressed. Both call for a South Africa that belongs to all who live in it, black and white. They affirm a nation united in diversity. This appears to be an ideal that most South Africans embrace. We are somewhat unique in this affirmation of diversity.

A nation united in purpose needs much more than unity in diversity to build bonds that genuinely bind us as South Africans. There are many who suggest we will only make progress when we fully implement the spirit and intent of our Constitution. The Freedom Charter outlines what must be done. Access to land must be provided to those without land and they should be assisted to generate a decent income from working the land. All workers must enjoy access to basic human rights and be treated with dignity in every workplace. The rule of law must apply to all and not be a blunt sword against the most vulnerable. The promise of opportunity has to be available to the rural poor in equal measure to the urban resident.

However, to truly confront the legacy we must begin our efforts very early, by ensuring our schools are places where values that are in harmony with our Constitution are taught and promoted, places where character is built and shaped positively. This implies schools, colleges, and universities should not reinforce racism, ethnicity and patriarchy. They should be places of robust intellectual rigour where young people acquire knowledge of our past and learn how to live successfully in a non-sexist, non-racial, democratic society united in its diversity.

One of the most important guarantees of our Constitution is the protection of the rule of law. It's a protection that assures all the people of this country that they will never again be victims of arbitrary governance as was the case under apartheid. Never will their property be arbitrarily seized by illegal means, never again the offence of ethnic chauvinism and exploitation. Never again the unfair discrimination of job reservation and unequal wages.

A nation and state that will practically assure its residents, citizen and  non-citizen, these basic rights may have the makings of a united nation.

South Africa has  founding documents that lay the basis for creating such a nation, but we must devote greater energy to ensuring that we implement them fully.

Viewpoint by Zamani Saul


Comrade Zamani Saul is the ANC Provincial Secretary of Northern Cape


The anatomy of a faction: a negative tendency

“One form of struggle which we consider to be fundamental is the struggle against our own weaknesses” (Amilcar Cabral, 1966).


This article is not intended to provide a thorough, detailed and complete reflection on the topic. Rather, it is intended as an overview that will furnish the reader with a rudimentary understanding of a very complex topic in comparative politics, and prepare the reader for a more in-depth consideration of select themes on factionalism discussed in subsequent subheadings. To have effective discussions on this topic, two binary extremes must be avoided. The first extreme is the denialist perspective. This perspective might dismiss the importance of a systematic discussion on factionalism as the ANC is regarded as a monolithic party, integrated by ideology and organisation, maintained by discipline and a strong leadership.

The second extreme is the alarmist perspective, whereby some ANC members might regard such discussions as absolutely necessary because the contemporary ANC is colonised and engulfed by factions. Approaching the discussion from either of the extremes may stifle, pollute and weaken the discourse on factionalism. This article suggests that the plausible approach for such discussions is the moderate perspective, which is premised on the acceptance that the ANC, like any other political party in a modern democracy, is not insulated from factionalism as factions are pathology of modern politics and are a negative tendency that must be understood.


In a letter from prison to the Kabwe Consultative Conference in 1985, Nelson Mandela describes unity in the ANC as "the bedrock upon which the ANC was founded.” This statement underscores the high premium the ANC places on party unity and internal cohesion and is emphatically reinforced in the Organizational Renewal (2012) document, which states that,“ the unity of the ANC is sacrosanct.” The ANC has an extensive history of emphasising unity over internal divisions. In the mid-20th century the ANC adopted policy practices such as democratic centralism and collective leadership with which to strengthen internal party cohesion and homogeneity. These practices were institutionalised to discourage factionalism. Notwithstanding these practices, the disconcerting reality is that party unity has been constantly subjected to factional strains; particularly in the run-up to elective conferences.

Since its inception, the ANC has convened 53 National Conferences and there have been twelve presidents. In 1960, the ANC was banned by the apartheid regime and after thirty years, in 1990, it was unbanned. Since then, six National Elective Conferences have been held. Before 1990, there was little broad interest in the elective conferences of the ANC other than among its members and active supporters. However, the Durban 1991 National Conference generated significant interest just a year after the unbanning of South African liberation movements. The attention thus garnered derived from the recognition of the ANC as the leading political force in the country. Observers and supporters alike knew that whoever emerged as the President of the ANC in 1991 would most likely also be the first President of a democratic South Africa.

Since then, the levels of interest in ANC conferences have increased exponentially. Whenever the ANC convenes a National Conference there is widespread interest in the leadership and policy changes that are being signalled. This heightened level of interest arises because leaders elected in ANC conferences soon assume state leadership positions and policies adopted by the ANC get translated into state policies. Disconcertingly, however, each time the ANC approaches conferences, particularly in the post-1994 political milieu, there are widespread accusations that factions in the ANC are holding the country to ransom.

In 2012, comrade Gwede Mantashe, the Secretary General of the ANC, asserted that “the vibrant and robust engagements by ANC members on leadership and policy matters should not be construed as factions" because this is normal in an open and democratic organisation like the ANC (Sunday Times, 18 November). In the same vein he rebuked members of the ANC who engaged in “widespread” unorthodox forms of intra-party political participation such as threats, violence, dispensing of patronage, and manipulation of members and organisational processes.

It has become customary for ANC leaders to bemoan factionalism and the negative impact it has on party unity. Both the ANC President and the Secretary General in the reports presented to the 2012 National Conference attributed the divisions in the ANC mainly to the work of factions. The policy document titled Organisational Renewal (2012) forthrightly states that “... the political life of the organisation revolves around permanent internal strife and factional battles for power. This is a silent retreat from mass-line to palace politics of factionalism and perpetual infighting”. This policy document infers that factionalism is an informal custom in the ANC.

The ANC is a hierarchical, ethnically and ideologically diverse organisation and contestation for positions is a long held tradition. Before 1994 the process of electing leaders was substantially less complex. In the post-1994 dispensation the election process involves an elaborate and intricate process of branch and provincial nominations culminating in National Conferences. The process towards and indeed during conferences is characterised by fierce leadership and policy contestations, which in some instances escalates into factional activities.

It would be disingenuous not to mention that all ANC leaders, without exception, condemn factional activities as articulated in the timeless assertion by comrade OR Tambo that “Be vigilant comrades. The enemy is vigilant. Beware the wedge-driver. Men who creep from ear to ear driving wedges among us; who go around creating splits and divisions. Beware the wedge-driver, watch his poisonous tongue” (1969, Morogoro Consultative Conference). This was a direct reference to factional activities. Despite the many efforts made over time, the influence of factionalism is a much remarked upon phenomenon in the ANC, but it remains little understood and analysed.

The broad focus of this article is to examine the conceptually contested definition of factions and also to discuss how factionalism develops and emerges in modern political parties like the ANC. At a formative level the article examines the structural characteristics and types of factions that are common. The article further highlights some negative characteristics of factions and in the conclusion warns that factions have the potential to reverse revolutionary gains and retard progress on any programme of social transformation. The overall objective of the article is to create awareness and functional understanding of factions.

Definition and structural characteristics of factions

In everyday engagement in ANC party politics reference is made to factions. Explicit in these references is the fact that there is a diverse understanding within the ANC of what constitutes a faction. Leading up to conferences and Biannual Branch General Meetings there is intra-party reorganisation that takes place, as those who share the same leadership and policy perspectives put measures in place to ensure a degree of coordination and collaboration. Such intra-party groupings are normally called lobby-groups, cores, tendencies, cliques or factions. In most instances these terms are used interchangeably. This subsection seeks to explain that lobby groups, cores, tendencies and cliques are different genres of intra-party groupings than factions. However, it is critical to note that any form of intra-party grouping can be a precursor to a faction.

In general terms there are two basic views with regard to factions in the political science. In this article, for the sake of the discussion, these views are categorised as the proto-party and the sub-party perspective. From the proto-party perspective, factions are forms of party organisation, which are precursors to more developed modern parties. Factions are perceived here as being characteristic of early stages of the so-called modernisation process in which individuals and groups have broken with traditional patterns of political behaviour, but the degree of political participation and institutionalisation is very low.

The sub-party perspective is found in the vast majority of studies and portrays a faction as a subgroup within a political party. There are, however, nearly as many views of such subgroups within a political party. In the past there have been attempts made to approach the topic in a more systematic way. In particular, typologies of factions have been developed which focuses on various kinds of factional structures and functions. Studies have also arrived at quite divergent findings about the causes of factionalism and its consequences for political parties.

Beller and Belloni (1978:419) define factions as being “any relatively organised group that exists within the context of some other group and which competes with rivals for power advantages within the larger group of which it is part”. Friedrich (1972) accepts this definition and further asserts that factionalism is an ambivalent phenomenon. The combined argument is that factionalism is caused by a conflictual relationship between formal and informal structures of a political party, when an informal structure tries to colonise or undermine the formal structure.

Rose (1964) distinguishes lobby group from factional tendencies as “adhocstable sets of attitudes rather than organised stable groups of politicians”. For Rose, lobby groups are adhoc defined in terms of time and are weakly institutionalised. In contrast, factions persist through time and “are self-consciously organised as a body, with a measure of discipline and cohesion”. Lobby groups, which are genuine interactions among the like-minded towards conferences, survive for a very short period because recruitment of members is not strictly coordinated. Leadership of lobby groups, if it exists at all, functions largely on an adhoc basis because the common interest is mostly confined to one issue. In contrast, factions are stable, regimented groupings with an organisational structure and are strongly, even if not openly, institutionalised.

This article conceptualises a faction as a relatively organised group within a party with defined interests and it contests for power. This renders factions hidden hierarchies because they work clandestinely and operate parallel to the elected organisational structures. A faction exhibits the following characteristics:

  • durability or semi-permanent existence;
  • an organisational backbone;
  • a discernible network;
  • a common group-consciousness;
  • a pursuit of political goals; and
  • a discernible grouping within the party.

Types of factions

From the preliminary literature review on the categorisation of factions there is predominantly a two-dimension typology, which is influenced by the tradition of classification of sub-groups within a party by David Hume (1877). The basic distinction here is between “spoils factions” and “ideological factions”. Spoils factionsare generally understood to be self-seeking groups, primarily concerned with accumulation and distribution of selective and divisible goods, such as party posts, funds, government appointments, and contracts. In contrast, ideologicalfactions are concerned primarily with policy or agenda-setting. Giannetti and Laver (2005) assert that during the formative stages of political parties there tends to be ideological factions as the new parties are grappling with agenda-setting and consolidating their ideological outlook. The ANC is 102-year-old liberation movement and during the formative stages it experienced a fair share of ideological splits as it was moulding its ideological outlook, which are:

  • Firstly, in the early 1950s, Richard Selope Thema led a group of Africans out of the ANC who were opposed to the interracial alliance of the ANC with Indians, coloureds and whites. They referred to the leadership of the ANC as paid agents of the Indian Merchants. Thema was expelled from the ANC and subsequently joined the Moral Rearmament Movement (Lodge, 1983);
  • Secondly, the nature of the differences within the ANC that led to the establishment of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) in the late 1950s after the adoption by the ANC of the Freedom Charter as the basic policy document; and
  • Thirdly, the Group of Eight in the early 1970s as an ideological faction that opposed some permutation of the 1969 Strategy and Tactics and the opening up of ANC membership to “non-Africans”.

After more than a century of existence the ideological outlook of the ANC is consolidated andwell defined, there is clarity of purpose that stretches beyond immediate ANC members and its constituency. This is accentuated by the centenary message to the ANC by Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary General of the UN. Ban Ki-moon could clearly and in simple way articulate the character and thehistoric mission of the ANC and further remarked that, “the power of the ANC lies not just in numbers of people who vote for it, but the vision for which it stands. This has always been the movement’s strength’.The consolidation of the ideological outlook of the ANC over the years was through inclusive, democratic and transparent processes. These processes negate the emergence of ideological factions within the ANC. Any faction that purports to have anideological permutation is subversive and counter-revolutionary as it seeks to subvert the ANC internal democratic processes on policy formulation.

The study of factions elicits that the ascendancy to state power mainly leads tospoil factions or what is more commonly known as factions of patronage. These factions are very degenerative as their battle is about distribution of resources such as posts, tenders, contracts and other spoils of government. In this very same context, some loose tendencies towards some ANC Conferences could also be explained. Factions may acquire different faces in different parties at different times but remain a negative tendency.

The negative characteristics of factions

The ANC, like many other political parties, is not a monolithic structure but a collective entity drawing together diverse groupings of people that cut across racial, ethnic, class, gender, cultural and religious lines. It is, therefore, hardly surprising that variances of opinion and political position is to be found when important questions of party policy and the election of leaders arise. Inside of these variances it is commonplace to find sub-groupings that coalesce around competing views of policy or those that support alternative candidates for election into leadership positions. These variances can at times be characterised by intense divisions, which have the added weight of creating internal pressures. In some cases the activities of sub-groupings have a real potential to degenerate into factions.

When the organisational backbone and the network of a sub-group, such as a lobby group, go beyond a conference, the lobby group metamorphoses into a faction. Factions become reinforced in the aftermath of conferences if the common consciousness of members of a sub-group remains intact and distinct from the collective consciousness. Factions seek to colonise the organisation by subordinating the entire organisational machinery and its structures to a factional interest. This danger underscores the call by the ANC for an unrelenting struggle against factionalism. The mostobvious negative characteristics of factions are explained below:

Factions are counter-revolutionary:factions generate unwanted contradictions in an organisation that tend to reverse revolutionary gains, stall and retard progress. The Indian Congress Party (Congress Party) lost elections after 30 continuous years in power between independence in 1947 and its first taste of electoral defeat in 1977. During this period the electoral support of the Congress Party was averaging 73% across several general elections. The primary cause for the 1977 electoral defeat of the Congress Party was attributed to factions. Factions colonised the Congress Party, paralysed its structures and demobilised certain interest groups in the party. As a result it became increasingly difficult for the party structures to manage these factions, as factional lines were often unclear or overlapping and conditioned by shifting rivalries, alliances and expedient tactical considerations.

The Indian Congress case study reinforces Fidel Castro’s (1979) perspective that factions are a “debasement and a blemish to a revolutionary movement” and no self-respecting organisation or cadre can co-exist with factions. Castro goes further in accusing members of his party involved in factionalism of being counter-revolutionaries. Scoundrels of all kinds and actual counter-revolutionaries attach themselves to factions and simply by mimicking the behaviour of factions, get accepted and integrated into factions, while genuine revolutionaries are treated as enemies. The scoundrels aggravate factional activities because it is their only way of legitimising themselves.

Factions compromise organisational and ideological integrity of the party:  if lower organisational structures and members of the party suspect that a decision by the higher structure was generated through a faction they become reluctant to abide by it. The reluctance to abide by the decisions taken by higher structures threatens democratic centralism. Democratic centralism and collective leadership are both principles of democratic decision-making and are meant to reinforce unity and organisational integrity. Democratic centralism requires that all members and lower organisational structures must have confidence in the capacity of higher organisational structures to take grounded and politically sound decisions that are in the best interest of the organisation. When members and lower structures suspect that the best interest of the organisation is relegated to the backyard and factional interest finds pre-eminence they loose confidence in higherstructures and this manifest itself in subtle, sometimes open, revolts against the decisions of higherstructures. This can reach a degenerative state where the organisational integrity of the party hits the dust, as higher structures cannot issue authoritative values.

Equally, if leaders serving in an organisational structure suspect that there were factional manoeuvres before the meeting of the structure, they tend to be less keen to abide or implement the decision. Such ambivalent attitude by leaders towards the decisions of the structure threatens collective leadership. Collective leadership presupposes that a decision taken by a structure binds on all those who serve in that structure, simply put, collective ownership of the decision and its consequences. If individual members serving in a structure suspect that factional manoeuvres prompted a particular decision, they tend to be disillusioned with both the decision and the structure they serve in. This disillusionment manifests itself in verbatim media leakages of discussions that took place in structures, inertia with implementation of decisions and a groundswell of conflicting messages by leaders. The media leakages and conflicting messages are only meant to discredit the decisions taken. This destroys the coherent ideological outlook that the party is expected to present.

Factions are degenerative: they subordinate unity and stability in the organisation and always tend to opt for manipulated unity ratherthan organic unity. A state of instability or disunity provides a fertile ground forthe operations of factions. Factions deliberately render fragile the defence line in the organisation in order to create insecurity among members and leadership collectives. In rendering the party vulnerable, factions deliberately impoverish the organisation by isolating and marginalising key cadres of the party. Weakening of the defence line of the party is considered counter-revolutionary.

Factions are arrogant: they lack reason and are very impatient with counter arguments. People who serve in dominant factions have an inflated sense of ego and entitlement. They attempt exclusively to appropriate to themselves the right to think for the organisation. Any difference of opinion, no matter how convincing,becomesvulgarised and the proponents thereof ridiculed and even blackmailed. Arrogance renders factions blind to reality, and the overriding selfish interests of factions become a key-determining factor of any engagements in party structures. This stifles engagements and discourages critical thinking by members and leadership collectives as the matter under discussion ‘ibotshiwe’. The ANC is a collective intellectual organ as it defines the kind of society that it seeks to build. Lack of a culture of disciplined critical engagements by members and structures will dilute the revolutionary character of the movement and also seriously degrade the capacity of the ANC to engage in the battle of ideas.

Factions are corrupt:it is trite politics to state thatfactional interest is resource driven. Factions have a perpetual thirst and insatiable appetite for the public purse. Hence, factions must be serviced at all times. Investment in a faction is like investing in a bottom-less pit. The more you service the interests of a faction, the more demanding it becomes. The law of the dialectics of the passage of quantity into quality do not appear to apply to factions. Individual interests of members of a faction and its strategic agenda tend to mutate. Every faction has benevolent givers or providers and recipients. The benevolent givers are members of a faction in a more advantageous position in relation to resources. The recipients of patronage are not always satisfied with living on hand-outs; but are also keen to migrate closer to the resources. This desire to migrate closer to resources by the recipients of patronage poses a serious challenge and threatens the positions of the benevolent givers. This mobility in the interests of members of a faction generates instability within factions.

Factions replicate and mutate:they always produce other factions. A faction gives rise to anti-faction activities; these in turn degenerate into factions themselves. Members of a faction are inherently politically insecure and associate with factions to compensate for this insecurity. This insecurity also triggers mistrust. Competing self-interests and mistrust of members of a faction predisposes the faction to inherent contradictions that triggers formation of mutated-factions within factions. These mutated-factions in turn degenerate into fully-fledged factions. Therefore a faction reproduces other factions and it is commonplace in politics that the first target of the mutated-faction is the primary-faction. This process replicates and mutates further and goes some way towards explaining why a faction tends to loathes and reviles other factions. What remain at stake between factions is each one’s selfish and narrow interests and, therefore, this arena of interaction is always contentious and potentially destabilising of the party wherein it resides.

Factions are mean-spirited: the manner in which factions deal with the party members is brutal and merciless as though they are dealing with a deadly enemy. To factionalists comradeship does not possess any intrinsic revolutionary value to observe. Factions derive extreme pleasure from the pain and suffering of others. When others are in trouble, factionalists see opportunities to advance; the obvious response is intensification of the problems. More problems for those who are not part of a faction present more opportunities for servicing the vile interests of a faction. The revolutionary ethic of ‘brother-keeper or sister-keeper of each other’ holds little importance for factionalists. This unethical attitude is also directed at those who are part of the faction, because affiliation to a faction is purely incidental to the factional interest.

Factions are vindictive: factions have a propensity to bear grudges with regard to disagreements and differences of opinions. If a party member differs with a position consolidated by a faction, an avalanche of personal attacks will be unleashed. Factions favour a straightjacket approach. If the faction takes a decision, everybody is expected to conform, including structures and failure to conform can unleash negative consequences, particularly if a faction is in control of structures. Party members are expected to behave in a manner that keeps them in the “good books” of the faction leaders and this situation gives rise to politics of ingratiation. These politics of ingratiation discourages members from thinking and further undermines the centrality of membership and structures in the life of the organisation.

Factions are disrespectful: members serving in a faction feel emboldened, worse if they serve in a dominant faction. Such members derive a sense of magnanimity, which in most cases isfuelled by triumphalism. This generates an agitation that detestsboth organisational processes and the constitution, as these are perceived as impediments to the factional agenda being realised. Factions use organisational policies or the Constitution to disingenuously pursue an agenda that has nothing to do with what the organisation seeks to achieve. For factions there are no rules, it is a “Wild West” engagement. In most instances, factionalists consider members of the organisation who are not part of the faction as ‘impure members’ and targets. Factions strive to exclusively appropriate to themselves the right to take decisions on all strategic matters of the organisation. For them the party is a convenient tool, crudely subjugated to the interests of the faction. 

Factions lack legitimacy: in order to legitimise itself a faction generates a significant incentive scheme driven by patronage to ensure members affiliated to the faction derive direct benefits. Hence, to extricate oneself from the complex web of factional politics isvery difficult. This is due to the fact that factional politics can easily become embedded in one’s life, not only political life, but each and every aspect of life of members affiliated to a faction. When factionalists speak, they speak faction, when they work, they work for the faction, when they eat, they eat through the faction and even when they sleep, they orientate in a factional gradient.

Factions are thus addictive,once entangled; disentanglement is well nigh impossible as negative consequences can be visited on the defector. This introduces the behavioural concept of path dependence. Path dependence expresses the idea that once members of the party venture far down a factional path in dealing with political issues; they are likely to find it difficult to reverse the cause as political alternatives that were once quite plausible may become irretrievably lost. The loss of plausible political alternatives triggers negative feedback mechanisms, which reinforces factionalism as a “historical cure”. This then serves as an ill-begotten justification for the existence of factions.


Factional politics is politics of conflict. In most instances factional politics reflect a leadership crisis and a weak organisation. Factional linkages are cultivated on basis personal ties and this leads to a breakdown of the adopted political processes and required conduct. The political storm generated by factions can blow away the entire party establishment, and at a minimum undermine the facade of its unity.

Factions not only turn policy outcomes into vehicles for their particular interest, but also result in policy inconsistency as each faction tries to shift the adopted policy to its own advantage. This destructive trait of factions becomes more dangerous for governing parties in the post-colonial societies when the governing parties seek to embark on extensive programmes of social transformation to eradicate colonial disfigurements. A strong state, a strong political leadership and a strong political party are indispensible for the success of these wide-ranging programmes of social transformation.  

There is a general view that late industrialisation in India is due to a weak state, weak political leadership and a fragmented Congress Party that was caught up in a web of factional battles. The majority of people met the ascension of the ANC to government in 1994 with huge expectations of a better life. The ANC embarked on extensive programmes of social and economic transformation. The 53rd National Conference resolved to undertake the “second phase of the transition” which entails the eradication of the triple burden of underdevelopment: unemployment, poverty and inequality.

Mobilisation of all sectors of society behind the “second phase of the transition” and strengthening of the capacity of the state to lead and be at the cutting edge of such an extensive programme is crucial. For these objectives to be realised, the country needs strong leadership and a political party. When the party is infested by factions, leaders become lame-duck, the organisation become a convenient object for access to state resources and the state machinery becomes nothing more than a big patronage enterprise. Such a state of affairs generates a great deal of disenchantment that results in extreme changes in the electoral support of the party, the defection of leaders who have influence over a large block of voters and diverts attention from important programmes of social transformation as leaders are preoccupied with strategies to outmanoeuvre each other. The net result of the counter-revolutionary character of factions is paralysis of both the party and the state machinery. Such paralysis sets an ugly stage for dramatic reversal of revolutionary gains and eventually the demise of the political party.


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