Sandile Memela
Sandile Memela

The ANC may not be ready for a white president in a 100 years

The ANC’s commitment to non-racialism is unquestionable but it may need another 100 years to deliver a white president. This is not a problem of the organisation’s principles and ideals per se. Instead, it is the legacy of colonialism and apartheid.

Of course, when it first started out in 1912, the ANC was an exclusive African liberation movement. Its primary purpose was the total liberation of African people. So, whoever joined the organisation later was required to put the interests of African people, first.

What that means is that if you were Indian, coloured or white who joined the ANC, you accepted that you were part of the family because you truly believed that Africans had a right to self-determination, especially the leadership of their own indigenous organisation.

Significantly, in the late 1950s, the ANC experienced an ideological split when Robert Sobukwe suspected that non-Africans exerted too much influence and thus were taking over the leadership of the ANC. According to him, this compromised the rights of Africans to fight for the return of their land and for political self-determination. As far as Sobukwe was concerned, this South Africa was, essentially, a black man’s country and whoever chose to live and die here would do so under the terms of African people.

In the 1950s the ANC would not budge from non-racialism and thus Sobukwe was allowed to leave with those who did not buy into the notion of non-racialism. Thus in 1959 the PAC was launched.

The ANC survived it first major split and grew stronger because of its unwavering commitment to non-racialism. In fact, it was African nationalists in the ANC who suggested that Indians, coloureds and whites should organise themselves (along racial lines,) first, to join what later became known as the Congress Alliance. But this was a partnership that would, primarily, work towards African liberation and political liberation.

Non-African leaders, if you like, like Yusuf Dadoo, Reg September and Bram Fischer had no problem with this understanding and interpretation of non-racialism or vision of the ANC. They were part of a collective leadership that was led by the African leadership in the ANC.

It is important to understand this background, simple as it is, because it forms the premise why South Africa may not have a non-African president anytime soon despite the fact that ANC is committed to non-racialism. Well, with Barrack Obama’s emergence as the first black president of a white country, people are curious to know when South Africa or ANC will deliver a white or any other non-African president.

In the light of the organisations’ commitment to non-racialism, it is a pertinent question, especially 15 years into constitutionalism non-racialism of these times.
But we need to understand that the ANC is, essentially, an African party now, whose primary purpose is to ensure that the aspirations and hopes of the majority are fully satisfied before anyone else can be considered.

If you think about it, there have been Indians, coloureds and whites who have, traditionally, been part of the collective leadership of the ANC and have even been members of its national executive committee. This was part of a new, non-racial culture that started in 1985. But less than 25 years later, the number of non-Africans in the top leadership structures has suddenly diminished to insignificance.

So, what does it mean for the ANC’s rank and file to specifically elect Africans to the top leadership without making an effort for it to reflect non-racialism? Of course, on a superficial level, it would not be entirely incorrect for anyone to suggest that the ANC is now failing to reflect non-racialism, which it enshrined in the constitution. Instead, Africans are overwhelmingly dominant and seen to be too keen to tighten their grip on political power and leadership of the party, government and country.

The current ANC leadership profile makes non-Africans feel left out, abandoned and irrelevant. Already, there are whisperings that there is nobody to articulate the concerns and views of the minorities in the top structures of the ANC. Well, there are almost 40-million Africans in South Africa with the other minorities making up slightly over eight-million.

Ironically, Africans – who include the African bourgeoisie – are silently but painfully aware that they neither own the land nor its wealth. It would seem that Africans will continue to want to hold onto political power and thus have an African president until they are convinced that they have made enough strides to return their land and own its wealth.

If you think about it, it may take yet another 100 years before Africans — who elect the leadership of the ANC — are ready to elect a white or any other non-African president.
Even now after 15 years, when you raise the prospect of a white or any other non-African president, it would seem that the rank and file may not yet be ready.

There is reason to believe that Africans will continue to assert their political power and tighten their grip on ANC leadership until they have got what they want. What the ANC members, supporters and followers want is not necessarily a black or white president but a country that inspires pride and confidence in the knowledge that South Africa is an African country.

Is it right to claim that the ANC is a racist organisation because its majority membership are Africans who want to boost their confidence and self love? Perhaps the answer for the ANC to have a non-African president depends on what Indians, coloureds and whites are willing to do to show their loyalty and allegiance to the African majority. Above all, non-Africans must be willing to accept that Africans have every right to call the shots in the land of their fore-fathers.
Ignoring that the greatest causes of division among the people of this country are the land issue, racism and wealth monopoly is going to make it difficult for non-racialism to take place in this country. In fact, there will be no white or any other non-African president until these issues are resolved.

The ANC may need another 100 years to deliver a white president.

  • spaghetti

    Naturally, the ANC will deliver the heads of state of this country until then!

  • Robin Grant

    I presume that you are talking about a non black president for the ANC.
    If you are talking about the ANC existing in a 100 years as a political force strong enough to put forward a white president for the republic, i would suggest that this thought has no basis in any form of logical analytical thinking.

  • anton kleinschmidt

    Sandile……you say

    “Perhaps the answer for the ANC to have a non-African president depends on what Indians, coloureds and whites are willing to do to show their loyalty and allegiance to the African majority.”

    Have you considered the possibility that the political alliance in the Western Cape can convincingly demonstate their “loyalty and allegiance” by simply doing what the ANC is failing to do. Delivering essential services to the poor black majority.

    First the Western Cape ……then the rest of South Africa because when the black majority has functioning schools, houses, hospitals, etc they will vote for the leaders that can DELIVER

  • Oscar

    ‘Instead, it is the legacy of colonialism and apartheid.’

    You cannot be serious….this is a ‘leading thought’??? I predict that in ten years time you will still be singing this sorry hymn.

  • oli

    If Trevor Manuel was black, he would be president

  • Mike Atkins

    Is the ANC today an orgabisation devoted to the purpose of advancing (solely) the interests of “black” (or “African”) people? (I have no quibble with how they started.)

    Just asking, but actually was the ANC not until recently aimed at advancing the interests of Xhosas? And is it now not aimed at advancing Zulus? Sorry, but it is hard to stop thinking of other divisions than just black / white.

    The problem lies with the term, “call the shots”. The problem before was that some people wanted power so that they could benefit themselves and their own.

    The solution was to have leaders of any description) who would advance the interests of all, irrespective of who they were.

    Are we going backwards…

  • Avishkar Govender

    ok…. but why isnt there any chance of a coloured or indian person from the congress movement being in a senior leadership position… surely thats just insulting to the charous and bruinous who supported the congress movement during the liberation struggle?

  • Douglas Scott

    “Africans who want to boost their confidence and self love?”
    That is not what many people are worried about, what is of concern is how that desire is carried out.

    This article also seems to be based on the assumpting that wealth is just inheriently there (a very pre-industrial theory on wealth) when it is infact constently created through people’s hard work and creativity.

    Also, the term ‘African’ in this article is used in a devisive way that courts contraversy. It should not be used in this way as it excludes minorities from the idea that they are African in the same way that an American is an American regardless of race or creed.

  • John Bond

    Traditionally, once a Freedom Movement starts to lose their following, they slide into oblivion fairly quickly. There is a strong probability that the ANC won’t have a white president in 100 years, they may no longer exist in 30.

    Loose 20% of the vote next year and the ANC is in deep trouble…

    Eish Sandile, Eish. Whee will you be then?

  • PeterH

    It’s amazing, hey. Despite 50 years of Apartheid telling us blacks were stupid… despite 400 years of colonialism telling us blacks were unevolved… we all united and supported a black president in 1994.

    But after 14 years of trying its “best” to eradicate racism, the ANC still can’t stomach the idea of being led by a white person.

    Sandile, “African” means “person coming from Africa”. It does not mean – as you assume it does – “black person”. If only you could accept this, then the President could just be an African (of any colour) and we would be able to move on.

    You need to be stronger than the legacy of Apartheid, otherwise you will be doomed to repeat the mistakes of organised racism for the rest of your life.

  • Human Race

    Why should race ever be an issue?

  • Luci

    Its too soon, white president for black peole still spells white dominance. You cant blame them for being afrid to relinquish political control to anybody whose not black. Just looking @responses show racism still runs deep & strong among those who belive themselves about the black man. As for coloured and Indians they still believe themselves second class citizens behind the white. SO untill all our attitudes change not just balck people who must accespt apartheid is over we’ll never have a non-racial society. If only adults would keep their poisonous thoughts to themselves then today’s children could have a chance at becoming adults of a truly inclusive socitey. It’s those who spew nothing but bile who open their mouth first.

  • ZXP

    This article is enough evidence that Black pepole are as inherently racist as all those others that they accuse of it. The writer and his own are AFRICAN, everyone else is an outsider, living by the grace of the AFRICAN. in order to achieve democracy, the USA has had two civil wars and two hundred years and this in the birth place of modern democracy. 100 years may be too soon

  • jazzman

    “You cant blame them for being afrid to relinquish political control to anybody whose not black”

    what loads of political incorrect speech. i think it’s overly ambitious for any white person to harbor dreams of becoming this nations top citizen. the odds are just against such a prospect. besides them being in the almost extinct minority, whitey just doesn’t have enough political acumen to lead this fragile country of. this is evinced by the absolute impotence of the DA. how can they manage a country successfully if they cann’t oppose successfully?

  • GS van Zyl


    I know the past have been unfair and unjust towards blacks, I know that they need to be in control politically and need to benefit from policies like Affirmative Action.

    (That is only the one side of the coin – The rise of the black middle class will ensure economic survival for other race groups and increased security for the whole country.)

    So my cunning plan was to go through life with the best of intentions towards everybody, work hard, pay taxes, and be a good law abiding citizen of this country. While doing this I thought it may also be great if I could be especially nice to black people in an attempt to heal some wounds from the past. Sounds like a good plan….

    But you say that is not enough. According to you I (as a white person) must show my “loyalty and allegiance” to black people.

    It sounds like you want whites to behave like pets.

    Well brother, I am not your pet, I am able of independent thought – and that makes the type of “loyalty and allegiance” you expect from me very difficult to give. I am loyal to South Africa and its government (thus also to the people chosen in elections to lead us, no matter their race) and to the idea of non-racialism and democracy. But I also expect leaders to listen to ideas from anybody and debate issues with anyone, no matter their race.

    A warning to those “non-blacks” that want to appease Sandile. Even if you humble yourself before him and show the proper “loyalty and allegiance” he will never accept you as an African. In his eyes whites will never “redeem” themselves and blacks will always be entitled to what the whites are selfishly keeping for themselves. It seems he wants revenge and will humiliate you if he can, and then humiliate your some more.

  • BenzoL

    Hundred years from now the ANC will no longer exist. This debate is superfluous.

  • Belle

    At this point in time we urgently need a leader of great talent and ability. The BEST we can get.

    Helen Zille is arguably the best talent on offer right now. Sadly we will have to forgo her skills and capacities because of our racist past.

    What an effing waste! Will our children ever forgive us?

  • Joe

    Maybe we can start by including whites in the term “African”. Maybe then they will feel like they’re not out on their asses.

  • Jon

    The ANC only admitted non-blacks as full members in the late 1950s. Even at the signing of the Freedom Charter did whites have to belong to proxy organisations like the Congress of Democrats and Indians to the SA Indian Congress.

    The ANC rank and file are as racist now as they were then. So, you’re right. It’ll take at least 100 years before these racists will accept a white leader. In fact, it’ll take even longer. Try never.

    Racists are like that, you know?

  • anton kleinschmidt

    @ jazzman…..I will rise to the bait.

    Presumably a good example of the “absolute impotence” of the DA is the manner in which they have taken control of the City of Cape Town and have exposed the incompetence of the previous ANC administration in the process.

  • Craig

    I grew up in a poor white area. I turned 18 in 1996. My father was an alcoholic who regularly beat my mother. There was hardly ever money for food or clothes. I never benefited from Apartheid. But I studied hard and passed matric with 5 A’s. I graduated with a BCom(hons) and now just qualified as a CA. I paid for every cent of my studies by getting part time jobs. If you really want something, and if you work hard, you’ll get it.

    I started an company a year ago, quotes are lower than average and I deliver superior service, but struggle to get contracts because I’m not BEE compliant. In the end the BEE companies get the contract at inflated prices and deliver sub-standard work. I’ve seen many examples where this has happened.

    I’ve now had enough and am emmigrating the first chance I get. This country will go down the tubes just like every other African country. I’m out of here

  • Jon

    Sorry, the so-called “non-racial” ANC only opened its doors to ALL races as recently as April 1969!

  • Tobias James

    ” Instead, it is the legacy of colonialism and apartheid.”

    Bob has played this card for the last 3 decades.
    Surely it’s not going to take the ANC a 100 years to get over this – unless they’re playing poker as well.

  • Thandile Kona

    “In the 1950s the ANC would not budge from non-racialism and thus Sobukwe was allowed to leave with those who did not buy into the notion of non-racialism. Thus in 1959 the PAC was launched.”

    Sandile(forgive me for calling you by your first name, we haven’t been introduced), I have great respect for you, but please get your facts straight. Sobukwe left the ANC essentially because he believed in non-racialism as opposed to the multi-racialism that the ANC believed in then and was its policy. The ANC embraced non-racialism only later. The PAC’s non-racialism is encapsulated in the following statement,made by Sobukwe, ” We believe in only one race, the human race.” The truth is Sobukwe left because the ANC would not budge from multi-racialism. The ANC only saw the light later and adopted non-racialism.

    So, Mr. Memela please don’t peddle lies.

  • Garg Unzola

    South Africa will never be a non-racialist society as long as there are ignoramuses who say things like ‘first African president’ or ‘are we ready for a white president?’ or as long as white South Africans are somehow not considered African.

  • owem


    1. Land only has value / wealth IF it is developed. Since when did indigenous africans develop the land????? Even now farms handed back to indidenous africans go straight back to being undeveloped and so of less worth. Land in black hands generally depreciates – prove me wrong.

    2. Obama is a leader and people recognise that, so he got elected some 6 times over by white folk. If South Africa produces an exceptional leadere, that person will rise to the top as all good leaders do and guess what people will vote for the person. Maybe not the ANC but then a good leader can easily replace the ANC with a new party.

    3. We, the voters of SA, never get to elect our president so we are forced to accept a poor ANC selection process. JZ is a flawed leader and unless he rigs the next election will see the ANC with reduced support.

  • Michael Francis

    You stated: “Well, with Barrack Obama’s emergence as the first black president of a white country, people are curious to know when South Africa or ANC will deliver a white or any other non-African president…”

    What rubbish, the USA is not a white country it is a multi-racial and multi-ethnic state. Obama’s election signals a recognition of this diversity.

    This crude racial analysis is typical of South African leaders. To pigeon-hole a nation in such crude terms limits the discourses possible about it. The re-racialisation of South Africa is shameful and disgusting. You claim right up front “The ANC’s commitment to non-racialism is unquestionable but it may need another 100 years to deliver a white president”. In that statement you reify race as a salient way of organising society. Is it not time to move ahead and away from this level of analysis?

  • spaghetti


    Forgive me for being pedantic. The USA the birthplace of modern democracy? Gee, I don’t know. More than 100 years before their revolution (the US’, that is), the Brits had already revolted against their monarchy (a king lost his head as a result). They endured a dictatorship (Cromwell’s) briefly, before settling on a democratic parliament.

  • Mark Robertson

    Oh dear, how depressing. All of us who fought on campuses in the late 80’s for democracy, freedom and a non-racial society, who campaigned against the NP’s ugly policies, who belived in a new SA free from racial classification, racial preferencing, group identities trumping the rights and freedom of the individual…were we all deluded? Has the wheel simply come full circle? Do we need a new freedom struggle? Has one elite simply been replaced by another? Is there any hope that SA will ever have a real ‘new dawn’ and become a nation of hope? I appeciate the truth of Sandile’s observation but the inherent sadness of his message is hardly inspiring. SA desparately needs a Barack Obama – of ANY race!

  • Jack D


    I feel your pain – I am from a similar background – in my case I did not even get access to a university (several tries) due to a having had a poor matric (the result of severe domestic “upheaval”) and I never qualified for student loans. Subsequently I self-educated through work and travel.

    Unfortunately the severity of the system of apartheid, and the duration thereof (think about it), and the relative minority of white South Africans who actually openly opposed it while in place, and the fact that every second white South African nowadays claim to have not supported apartheid then, means “no cigar” either for you – or for me. Point is – how does one distinguish or determine who benefited and who didn’t? However, we live in a country where those few who did not benefit, are paying the price for those who did. Tough one.

    No one would blame you for leaving the country if it is out of desperation, (as I have done too in the past) but let me ask you this (because you did not clarify):

    Why not just do, what you have to do, to comply with BEE requirements? What’s the problem exactly? Do you oppose it, or is it practically impossible?

  • Oldfox

    ZXP, spaghetti

    Democracy began in ancient Greece, and evolved over many centuries. The USA version was greatly influenced by John Locke of England, and Jean Jacques Rousseau of France. The modern day judicial branch of the American government evolved from courts established under Feudalism (i.e. not democracy) in Europe.

  • Oldfox


    Very true. Seems like we’re decades away from a non racial society. A pity Mandela did not serve a second term.

  • Colin

    Constitutionally, by law, SA can never have a President that is not African. However, contrary to the writer, the law recognises that we are all South Africans. All African. Where are the mature writers of our country that will write reconciliatory articles instead of this racist drivel.

  • spaghetti


    I meant only to refute ZXP’s assertion that the US is the birthplace of MODERN democracy. Hence I went to the nearest and first example I could think of that served my purpose.


  • Matt

    I really, really hate this guy’s attitude, and I know that he writes these simply to annoy people and force a reaction because he is an attention seeker, but for the love of all things please, PLEASE get a GRIP on reality. Please. South Africa is a country in AFRICA, it is NOT solely an African country. There are many different people here, and it belongs to everyone. Not just you and your cronies.

    The minorities must accept that African’s are superior? Is that was you are suggesting by this line: “Perhaps the answer for the ANC to have a non-African president depends on what Indians, coloureds and whites are willing to do to show their loyalty and allegiance to the African majority.” Kind of like how the Apartheid government wanted Non-whites to show their loyalty to them? No sir.

    I hope COPE wins.

  • mandla

    Long long ago there was a powerful African political organisation called the ANC. It produced many sterling leaders, who were selfless and hardworking. When it was about 96 yrs old, the ANC was headed by a man called Jacob Zuma. This man was a brilliant self-taught leader but his greatest weakness was that he confused loyalty to himself for loyalty to the ANC. He went even further he thought he was the ANC himself.

    In spite of many failings of personal judgement he saw himself as the “must-have” ANC president. All he had to do was to put the interest of the ANC first and he did not do so and after a slow painful protracted death, the ANC dissappeared from South Africa. He insisted right until he died that it was not his fault but the fault of those who did not want to support him. Many said that is the weakness of many Africans ; they cant tell the difference between an organisation and the people who must serve the organisation. Most Africans think the organisation serve its leadership and not the other way round.

    This is one of the most tragic stories of Africa. Many have tried to resuscitate the ANC, but even angels could not bring about the impossible.