South Africa has been a democracy for a little more than a decade. The ANC defeated the authoritarian regime of apartheid in 1994. A little more than ten years after the transition, according to the UNDP half of the South African population live beneath the national poverty line. In spite of this, the ANC got 70 percent of the votes in the national election in 2004. The thesis explores the reason for people still giving such a strong support to the ANC. The theoretical background is Linz, Beetham and Weber. The research question of the thesis is “To which extent is the ANC government in South Africa legitimate today? What are the sources of this legitimacy?”
The thesis discusses the delivery of the ANC government through Juan Linz’ terms of efficacy (policy) and effectiveness (outcomes). The thesis argues that the effectiveness of the ANC is not good enough, seeing that the inequality in South Africa is one of the highest in the world. But South Africans still believe in the efficacy of the ANC. The ANC has given them democracy and freedom, and people have a positive view of the future. The thesis argues that the ANC has got some significant characteristics of Weber’s concept of charismatic authority, which are backing up the belief in the ANC’s efficacy. The most significant ones are the ANC’s past as a liberation movement and the personal abilities of the former leader, Nelson Mandela.
A future challenge for the legitimacy of the ANC government is the imbalance in the South African party system. The ANC is very strong and the opposition is weak and fragmented. Juan Linz’ hypothesis of political space is one approach for explaining this. The ANC is mobilizing a big part of the South African constituency, in addition to being in alliance with the main actors on the left side of the political spectrum. This does not leave much room for party opposition. One sign that there is potential for opposition in South Africa is a growth in social movements and mass demonstrations since the late nineties, which focuses on socioeconomic problems. The thesis argues that this development is caused by the available political space in South Africa, there is little space to challenge the power of the ANC, but there is some space for issue-based opposition.
The conclusive discussions are on the routinization of the charismatic authority of the ANC and two variables from Davis Beetham’s dimensions of legitimacy: expressed consent and general interest. The thesis argues that it is crucial for the legitimacy of the ANC government that the source of their authority turns away from being charismatic and towards legal-rational. This implies that the liberation movement ANC must fade, and that the focus must be on position and merit more than on persons and their participation in the struggle against apartheid. Other crucial factors for the legitimacy of the ANC are a change in the socioeconomic situation in the country, and a restructuring of the political parties. As long as the ANC covers the greater part of the political space, there is little chance for a viable alternative in government. A break in the ANC or a break in the alliance on the left is the most probable way of creating a stronger opposition.