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A century of the African National Congress

Whatever one thinks of the current incarnation of the ANC as a ruling party, its history is inspirational and transcends present conflicts in South Africa. The passing of 100 years since its conception is something to celebrate. Opposition parties are complaining about the money that will be spent on the festivities, but frankly, it might do the country quite a bit of good if the country’s current leaders take some time to reflect upon the organization’s history and get back in touch with its core values. The nature of the celebration is bringing elder statesmen such as Tutu back into the fold, even if temporarily, as the history unites more than recent policies and actions have divided. At least for the moment, the political rhetoric has returned to that of the early Mandela years — of reconciliation, non-racial nation-building, and an emphasis on “the will of all people.”

Does this kind of nation-building rhetoric matter at all? Or should governments just focus on efficient service delivery? Much of my own research has led me to believe that the former can really have an impact on the latter. Whether President Zuma’s statements at internationally-observed events will actually manifest themselves into policy and practice in the coming months and years is a different story.

About Evan Lieberman

I am a Professor of Political Science at MIT, and I conduct research, write, and teach about development, ethnic politics, and research methods.

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