African National Congress

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Related to African National Congress: apartheid, Nelson Mandela

African National Congress

African National Congress (ANC), the oldest black (now multiracial) political organization in South Africa; founded in 1912. Prominent in its opposition to apartheid, the organization began as a nonviolent civil-rights group. In the 1940s and 50s it joined with other groups in promoting strikes and civil disobedience among the emerging urban black workforce.

The ANC was banned in 1960 and the following year initiated guerrilla attacks. In 1964 its leader, Nelson Mandela, was sentenced to life in prison, and the leadership was forced into exile. Although outlawed, the ANC became the popularly acknowledged vehicle of mass resistance to apartheid in the late 1970s and the 1980s; the training of ANC guerrillas continued in neighboring countries. Following the end of the ban on the ANC and the release of Mandela in 1990, many of its leaders returned from exile, and the ANC negotiated with the government for black enfranchisement and an end to apartheid.

In the early 1990s there were violent clashes between supporters of the ANC and Inkatha (see Buthelezi, Mangosuthu Gatsha). The ANC became a registered political party in 1994 in advance of the first South African elections open to citizens of all races. It won over 60% of the vote in the elections, and Mandela was elected president of South Africa; the ANC has continued to be the dominant party in South African politics in the years since. Thabo Mbeki succeeded Mandela as head of the ANC in 1997 and as president of South Africa in 1999.

Tensions within the ANC, largely as a result of the failure of South Africa's economic growth to benefit poorer South Africans, resulted in Mbeki's loss of the party leadership to Jacob Zuma in 2007 and his resignation as South Africa's president in 2008. ANC deputy leader Kgalema Motlanthe was elected South Africa's interim president. Following Mbeki's resignation as president, some of his ANC supporters left the party and formed the Congress of the People, but these defections and later ones, such as that associated with supporters of Julius Malema, have not affected the ANC's status as the nation's dominant party. Zuma succeeded Motlanthe as South Africa's president in 2009. Zuma's tenure was marked by increasing divisions in the ANC, as his administration faced recurring charges of corruption and growing economic difficulties. In 2017 Cyril Ramaphosa, who had been Mandela's choice as his successor, was elected to succeed Zuma as ANC president.

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

African National Congress


(ANC), the most mass-oriented and influential political organization of the Republic of South Africa. It was founded in 1912, and it unites representatives of all classes and social strata of the indigenous population. Its basic task is the struggle against apartheid and all manifestations of racism; it fights for a democratic social structure. The ANC strives to unite all progressive forces in the country; on more than one occasion it has joined with the Communist Party and other progressive organizations in actions against the racist, antidemocratic policies of the country’s ruling circles. In 1955 it took an active part in conducting the congress in Klip-town (Johannesburg), at which the Congress Alliance, uniting all racial groups of the Republic of South Africa, was created, and a program adopted for the Alliance—the Freedom Charter, which was supported by the South African Communist Party. In 1960 the racist authorities banned the ANC, and its leaders fell victim to repression. Taking into account the intensification of outright terror by the ruling Nationalist Party of South Africa, in 1961 the ANC concluded that violent, as well as peaceful, forms of struggle had to be used against racism. In 1967 the ANC and the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) resolved to combine their efforts in the struggle against the racist regimes in the Republic of South Africa and Southern Rhodesia. United detachments of the ANC and ZAPU engage in joint militant actions.

The press organ of the ANC is the periodical Sechaba (published since 1967). The party’s leader is Oliver Tambo.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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is so much better than the old one." But he sounded an ominous note, warning of an upcoming "struggle for the soul of the [ruling] African National Congress" between Communists and radical trade unions on one hand and liberal Mandelaists on the other.
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Tambo was the leader of the African National Congress during the height of the anti-apartheid struggle in the country, Reuters reported.
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1990: South African President FW de Klerk lifted the 30-year ban on the African National Congress, the South African Communist Party and 30 other anti-apartheid organisations.
Nelson Mandela, who led the military wing of the leading anti-apartheid group, the African National Congress (A.N.C.), was arrested and sent to jail with a life sentence in 1962.

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