The African National Congress (ANC) of South Africa in the period 2016–2018 repositioned itself away from electoral decline that could have taken it to a point of losing an outright electoral majority. In a historical moment it elected a new ANC president and then installed the new ANC president, Cyril Ramaphosa, as president of South Africa. These were normal, rational party political acts in many respects. In the context of the politics that preceded these acts, however, they were extraordinary steps and the transition to a post-Zuma order was achieved against odds of Zuma’s determination not to leave, his calculated strategy to install a proxy candidate instead of Ramaphosa, his capture of large enclaves of state power, and fusion of his faction with state power. Besides extensive campaigning to sway the ANC’s voting delegates at its Nasrec conference of December 2017, the ANC strategy hinged on the knowledge gained from public opinion polls showing that an ongoing top-level Zuma presence would in all likelihood deprive the ANC of an outright majority in the national elections of 2019. This intra-interparty nexus is the focus of the article. Through interview data, reviews of public polling trends, and direct observation of political events, the analysis assesses dimensions of the unfolding ANC repositioning. It compares the intra-interparty nexus in the ANC’s operations with those of liberation movement parties of southern Africa and positions the analysis in relation to the literature on party dominance and electoral authoritarianism.


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pp. 1-26
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