The African National Congress (ANC) is a pivotal political party in South Africa, with a rich history that dates to its founding in 1912. Initially established to fight for the rights of the black South African majority and to challenge the segregationist policies of the ruling white minority, the ANC has evolved over the decades to become the dominant political force in the country, especially after the end of apartheid in 1994. Here’s a comprehensive overview of the ANC for the electorate of South Africa:

    The African National Congress – Historical Context

    • Founding and Early Years: The ANC was founded as the South African Native National Congress (SANNC) in 1912, with the primary aim of increasing the rights of black South Africans within the existing political framework. It was renamed the African National Congress in 1923.
    • Anti-Apartheid Struggle: The ANC became the leading organisation in the struggle against apartheid, employing a variety of strategies including peaceful protests, strikes, and, eventually, armed resistance through its military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe, co-founded by Nelson Mandela in 1961.
    • Banning and Exile: The South African government banned the ANC in 1960, forcing it to operate underground and leading many of its leaders to continue their work in exile.
    • Transition to Democracy: The ANC played a crucial role in negotiations to end apartheid, leading to Nelson Mandela’s release from prison in 1990 and the eventual democratic elections of 1994, in which Mandela became South Africa’s first black president.

    Political Ideology and Policies

    • Ideology: The ANC’s ideology has evolved over the years, incorporating elements of African nationalism, socialism, and social democracy. Its primary focus has been on addressing the racial injustices of apartheid, promoting racial harmony, and implementing policies aimed at redressing economic disparities.
    • Policies: Key policies have included affirmative action programs, land reform, and social welfare initiatives. The ANC has also focused on improving access to healthcare, education, and basic services, although its tenure has been marked by challenges in these areas.

    Governance and Challenges

    • Electoral Dominance: Since the end of apartheid, the ANC has been the dominant party in South African politics, winning every national election from 1994 to the present. Its leadership has included figures like Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki, Jacob Zuma, and Cyril Ramaphosa.
    • Challenges: The ANC’s governance has not been without controversy, including allegations of corruption, inefficiency, and failure to adequately address issues such as load-shedding, unemployment, poverty, and inequality. The party has also faced internal divisions and public protests over its policies and leadership.

    Current Status and Future Outlook

    • Leadership and Reform: Now in the sixth administration under the leadership of Cyril Ramaphosa, who became party leader in 2017 and president in 2018, the ANC has pledged to tackle corruption and implement reforms to stimulate economic growth and improve public services.
    • Electoral Performance: While the ANC remains the most powerful party in South Africa, its electoral margin has been decreasing in recent years, reflecting growing public dissatisfaction with its performance and the rise of opposition parties.

    Related: A Fiery Recap of the State of the Nation Address Debate.


    The role of the African National Congress in South African politics is monumental, having transitioned from a liberation movement to the governing party in a democratic South Africa. Despite its achievements in ending apartheid and establishing a democratic society, the party faces significant challenges in governance, economic policy, and maintaining its electoral dominance. The future of the ANC will likely depend on its ability to address these challenges and meet the expectations of South Africa’s diverse electorate.