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Political opposition parties in post-1994 South Africa have always had to confront the electoral dominance of the African National Congress (ANC), perpetually sustained as it is, not only by its firm grip on the state machinery but also by the historical memory it evokes among the majority black population as the party of liberation. Opposition parties have themselves come from a variety of political backgrounds – from alternative liberation traditions (such as the Pan-Africanist Congress and the Azanian People's Organisation); from ethnic exclusivism (the Freedom Front and, many would say, the Inkatha Freedom Party); from non-nationalist ideological perspectives (the Democratic Alliance and the African Christian Democratic Party); and from splits from other parties (the United Democratic Movement). But apart from the daunting prospect of overhauling the ANC, opposition parties have had to confront the continuous dangers of disagreement and disunity among themselves as they seek to share about a third of the total popular vote among the fifteen parties which have – at one election or another – gained representation in parliament. With fragmentation of the vote and a multiplicity of opposition parties and perspectives encouraged by the national list proportional representation electoral system, consolidation of the very diverse opposition vote has always been problematic, despite alliances formed at one time or another between various political parties. Nonetheless, the 2009 general election recorded three significant political developments – two of which, as we shall see, were to be confirmed by the results of the 2011 local government elections.
The first development was the further consolidation of the position of the Democratic Alliance (DA), which increased its share of the vote from the mere 1.73 per cent won by its predecessor, the Democratic Party (DP), in 1994 to 16.66 per cent in 2009; the second was confirmation of the eroding political base of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), from 10.54 per cent of the vote in 1994 to a miserable 4.55 per cent in 2009; and the third was the arrival of what many portrayed as a significant new player on the scene, the Congress of the People (Cope).
In this second volume of the New South African Review, the New Growth Path adopted by the South African government in 2010 provides the basis for a dialogue about whether ‘decent work’ is the best solution to South Africa’s problems of low economic growth and high unemployment. There are investigations into rising inequality against the backdrop of the failings of Black Economic Empowerment; ‘greening the economy’, with emphasis on biofuels; the crisis of acid mine drainage on the Witwatersrand; possibilities for participatory forms of government; civil society activism; transformation of the print media and the SABC; the crisis in child care in public hospitals; the relationship between the police and a township community; the problems related to the absence of legislation to govern the powers of traditional authorities over land allocation; and assessments of the state of opposition political parties and the ANC Alliance. Asking whether the New Growth Plan reflects a set of new policies or an attempt to re-dress old (com)promises in new clothes, this volume brings together different voices in debate about possibilities for alternatives to neo-liberal and capitalist development in South Africa.