Treading a tightrope: A rhetorical study of the tension between the executive and collective leadership of the African National Congress (ANC): From Nelson Mandela to Thabo Mbeki

Doctoral Thesis


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University of Cape Town

This thesis endeavours to look at the rhetorical techniques or tropes employed by Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki in their capacities both as the Presidents of the African National Congress (ANC) and South Africa. In this regard, the speeches of the respective former Presidents are analysed from a rhetorical perspective. Not all their speeches are studied, but those that have a bearing on the study. One of the hallmarks of the ANC has been the reference to "collective leadership" and the party maintains that when it comes to decision-making, "collective leadership" is of paramount. It should also be borne in mind that the ANC is in alliance, known as the Tripartite Alliance (Alliance), with the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU). The study then seeks to ascertain how an ANC President - who is equally South Africa's President - strikes a balance, if any, between the dictates of "collective leadership" and upholding the constitutional obligation of ensuring that the interests of all South Africans are safeguarded. The thesis attempts to examine how the relations within the Alliance have played themselves out as the ANC metamorphosed from a liberation movement into a ruling party. What is the role of the Tripartite Alliance in the formulation of the policies pertaining to the country's social, economic and political transformation? Is there any role played by the alliance partners (SACP and COSATU) that are "technically" outside Government in this process or is this role the exclusive preserve of the ANC? Where there is an engagement between Government (ANC) and the Alliance partners or where there are disagreements, how are they handled or managed and what rhetorical arguments are advanced? On the part of the ANC, who is in charge or has the final say? Is it the ANC National Executive Committee? Is it the President or the "top six" (the ANC National Working Committee and the most politically influential leadership collective in the country, comprising the ANC President, Deputy President, Secretary-General, Deputy Secretary-General, National Chairperson and Treasurer-General)? Can one talk about "collective leadership" without a leader of the "collective"? The rhetorical study of the speeches of both Mandela and Mbeki reveals that there is a concerted effort on the part of the ANC Presidents to ensure or, at least, to create the impression that there is "collective leadership" within the ruling party or the Alliance. Equally, there have been instances where there was a deviation from "collective leadership".

Includes bibliographical references.