A few days backed I linked to a short take from Sasha Polakow-Suransky about the failures of opposition politics in South Africa. He has a longer take in The National that, I think, puts this in an enlightening perspective:
COPE, despite the hopes it inspired, fell flat – taking just under eight per cent of the vote, while the DA took almost 17 per cent and won control of the Western Cape. The fact remains that South Africa has not yet emerged from the era of national liberation politics. The Congress Party, which led the anti-colonial struggle in India, was not seriously challenged nationally for the first 20 years of independence and it did not lose control of the parliament until 1977. It was in the same year, three decades after the establishment of Israel, that voters there shocked the nation’s founding elite by electing the Likud opposition for the first time.
South Africa has not yet reached the stage where, as Johnny Copelyn puts it, “the previous order is so far in the background that it is no longer a compelling explanation for the problems people have”.
That said, there are also a bunch of countries that never emerged from the phase of initial domination by the liberation political party. Thus far, though, despite much hand-wringing related to Jacob Zuma I haven’t seen any real indication that democratic institutions don’t continue to exist in South Africa. The ANC just continues to have an extremely strong grip on the public imagination.