Roundtable Discussion with Dr. Frans Cronjé

On Thursday, September 1, the Africa Center hosted a roundtable discussion with Dr. Frans Cronjé, CEO of the South African Institute of Race Relations (IRR), for a discussion on the future of the African National Congress (ANC) political party.

Africa Center Director Dr. J. Peter Pham welcomed participants and introduced Cronjé. Following Cronjé’s remarks, Africa Center Visiting Fellow Chloë McGrath moderated the discussion.

Cronjé’s remarks situated the ANC’s recent electoral loss in the broader economic history of South Africa. He noted that the party has demonstrated a capacity for both ruthless violence and pragmatic economic management at different times since the end of Apartheid. He argued that the party’s legitimacy stems from the country’s economic performance and, as the South African economy has slowed over recent years, the party has consistently lost support.

Citing independent IRR and other polls, Cronjé noted that South Africa’s youth are increasing looking beyond the ANC, or refusing to vote at all. This trend, coupled with the extreme factionalized nature of the ANC’s political elite, has contributed to the recent rise in support for opposition parties that have begun to threaten the ANC’s historical dominance at the ballot box. Looking forward, Cronjé presented two possible scenarios for the political trajectory of the ANC and South Africa.

Other participants in the event included the Honorable William Bellamy, Warburg professor of international relations at Simmons College and former US ambassador to Kenya; the Honorable John Campbell, Ralph Bunche senior fellow for Africa policy studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and former US ambassador to Nigeria; and the Honorable James Moore, Jr., executive director of the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University and former assistant secretary of commerce for trade development; as well as other foreign officials and representatives of think tanks and non-governmental organizations.