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South Africa's Civic Association Movement: ANC's Ally or Society's “Watchdog”? Shifting Social Movement-Political Party Relations

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 May 2014

Extract

In April 1994, South Africans of all racial and cultural groups abandoned the dehumanizing experiment in physical, economic and political separation of races, apartheid, by conferring political power and authority on their new democratically elected government. The constitutional, institutional and legal changes to the South African state which brought the African National Congress (ANC) to power constitute the most extensive and closely watched example of the many efforts at democratic reform in Africa in the 1990s. While South Africa's new legal structure and peaceful transition of power via a popular election may encourage many to simply eagerly pronounce South Africa a “democracy,” much Africanist literature encourages caution before such a judgment. Africa's and Latin America's attempts at democratization are replete with abandoned constitutions, resurrected careers of corrupt discredited politicians, political parties which grow authoritarian and chop off their popular roots, military leaders who overthrow civilian regimes and reformist governments which quickly repeat the sins of their predecessors. Consequently, many scholars look skeptically on constitutional reforms (Decalo 1992) and mere “cracks in the edifice of autocracy” (Bratton and van de Walle 1992, 421) to suggest that the institutionalization of legitimate and accountable political leadership requires a vehicle through which citizens can participate in policy-making debates—a vibrant civil society.

This article probes one vital feature of South Africa's civil society—the relationship between the ANC and the Civic Association Movement, which was one social movement central to the insurrectionary liberation struggle carried out within South Africa. The ANC owes its current political power, in large part, to the sacrifices and dedicated efforts of members of the Civic Association Movement who mobilized black township residents to demand political reform and rectification of the misdeeds perpetrated against them by the white administration.


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Copyright © African Studies Association 1995

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