After three hundred and forty-two years of colonialism and apartheid, South Africans of all walks of life experienced their first democratic elections in 1994. Now, as the country is at the precipice of the 5th democratic elections, it has known no government other than the African National Congress (ANC). The ANC has had landslide victories at the ballot box and always managed to secure an electoral vote of around 66%. These victories have not been by accident and have been carefully managed through an Alliance Pact with the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU). The nature of the Alliance has infiltrated and influenced the character of contemporary South African public administration.
This study postulates vigorously that an alliance is not a coalition, but rather a partnership of ideological semblance and political decorum. This is most significantly expressed through the National Democratic Revolution (NDR). The study further elucidates the notion that the NDR remains the main political artery of the ANC and is seminal in the policy debates and critical platforms for each of the Alliance Partners.
The study affirms that irrespective of this convergence of ideology, there is periodic divergence on the leadership role of the ANC viz a viz that of the Alliance as the strategic centre for policy and governance issues. However, the ANC has over the years successfully challenged this assertion and through practice, led the Alliance in a politically driven manner that is predicated on consultation, due diligence and functional purpose. However, any member of the SACP or COSATU who desires to be part of parliament or the executive is required to be a member of the ANC. This, the study asserts, is the new formation of a political partnership. The study adumbrates that the SACP (even though it is registered as a political party with the Independent Electoral Commission) and COSATU do not contest elections separately. As part of the agreement, only the ANC contests elections and as such leads the Alliance. While COSATU and the SACP provide advice through Alliance structures on the deployment of cadres in the public service, the deployment committee is an ANC structure and the final decisions in regard to deployment resides with the ANC. This study has reinterpreted the dialogue within the Tripartite Alliance and how this has moulded the political nomenclature of the ANC, and the solidified impact on the way in which public administration is affected and effected in South Africa and vice versa. The study presents with equanimity how the practice, for example, of dual membership of two political organisations (ANC and SACP) enriches the public service and the policy-making process in a developmental state. It furthermore points to the imperative for a clear underlying ideology (as provided for through the NDR) and certainty as to who leads in such an arrangement. This study finds that it is through the Alliance structures that individual leaders within the Governing Party (ANC) are held to account for their actions – and after a hundred years of existence, the ANC and Alliance structures have managed to address the challenges of time, the pressures of political stress and the coalition of a “broad-based political church”. The logic of maintaining this political marriage and developmental triangulation, and also interpreting the essence of consolidating party manifestos to its membership, and further to preserving democratic principles, while at the same time translating this into the action of good governance in South Africa, is complex, yet manageable.