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Impatient South Africa

NEW YORK – The African National Congress, which has governed South Africa since the end of apartheid, is in serious trouble. Unfortunately, the country may not be far behind.

In 1994, the ANC – widely credited with ending decades of white minority rule – came to power with a near-monopoly on political legitimacy among the country’s black majority. Together with President Nelson Mandela’s moral authority, this status helped the party to accommodate a wide range of interests and establish a stable economic order without losing the support of poor black voters, many of whom fell outside that order. Although supporters’ expectations were high, so was their patience – a dynamic reinforced by the ANC’s liberation mythology and early successes in expanding housing, electricity, and social grants.