The election of Jacob Zuma as ANC president at the organisation's fifty-second national conference in Polokwane in 2007 has been described, by sections of the media especially, as a triumph of ordinary members over a leadership that had grown distant, aloof and arrogant under Thabo Mbeki. It has been said that branch members, who made up ninety per cent of the delegates at the conference as per the dictates of the ANC constitution, reclaimed the ANC from a technocratic and self-serving elite and thus reconnected the organisation to its popular base. This article (based on research I undertook as one of the 2009 recipients of a Ruth First fellowship) uses a microscopic study of an ANC branch in Katlehong, a township twenty kilometres east of Johannesburg, to examine the way a branch operates. Using the 'extended case study' method plus 'ethnographic thick description' adopted by Andrea Cornwall in her work on Brazil's health councils, the study examines episodes in the life of the branch in question. It calls into question the valorisation of ANC branches post-Polokwane. It concludes by calling for a more critical appreciation of the gap between assumptions about the democratic and rooted nature of ANC branches, and 'the understandings and practices of the actors' that inhabit those branches.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Cultural Studies
- Sociology and Political Science
- Political Science and International Relations