Non-racialism and the African National Congress: views from the branch
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South Africa’s ruling party is well known as an organisation that supports the ideal of non-racialism. However, the extent to which the African National Congress (ANC) has defined and instrumentalised the concept of non-racialism is contested. This article looks at the history of non-racialism in the party and more recent interpretations by ANC leadership, before examining how non-racialism is understood, 19 years into democracy, by members of the party. Based on interviews with over 45 ANC branch members, the article describes how members, broadly speaking, have deep-seated concerns with non-racialism in the ANC and in society more generally. There is recognition from ANC branch members that race relations have significantly improved since the ANC moved into government; however, they feel not enough change has taken place and that racial tensions are impeding social cohesion and concomitant growth and progress in the country. There is division among members in regards to the efficacy and impact of the party’s racially based policies such as affirmative action as well as the manner in which race potentially influences leadership opportunities within the party. Furthermore, the article shows that there is lack of definition and direction on the part of the ANC in regards to the instrumentalisation of non-racialism, and this deficiency has negative consequences for racial cohesion in the party. The article concludes by discussing how investigations into party branches through the lens of non-racialism, highlights more deep-seated concerns about local-level party democracy and a party fractured at the grassroots.