The main hall was barely half-full when Matt Hancock arrived on stage to give his conference speech and even emptier by the time he had finished. Under the circumstances, a kindness to everyone involved. Not least the health secretary himself. The past 24 hours have not been kind to Hancock. The Man-Boy has built his entire life on never taking a position he can’t later reverse. Often within weeks, if not days. But now he had finally made the potentially career-ending mistake of saying he believed Charlotte Edwardes to be an entirely reliable witness, without first considering the prime minister’s exemplary record with women.
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This article examines the rise of gatekeeper politics within the ANC, drawing on an analysis of ANC discussion documents, key informant interviews with senior party officials, and interviews and observations from the ANC’s centenary policy conference. On the basis of this material, I identify the symptoms and consequences of gatekeeper politics, including the growth of patronage networks, crony capitalism, and bitter factional struggles within the party. Rather than resembling some uniquely “African” form of political aberration and breakdown, gatekeeper politics should be viewed within a broader spectrum of patronage politics evident elsewhere in the world, because it is intrinsically bound up with the development of capitalism. Political leaders who occupy positions of authority in the party or public service act as gatekeepers by regulating access to the resources and opportunities that they control. A volatile politics of inclusion and exclusion emerges and provokes bitter factional struggles within the ANC as rival elites compete for power. The rise of gatekeeper politics undermines both the organizational integrity of the ANC and its capacity to deliver on its electoral mandate. It can also depoliticize social injustice in post-apartheid South Africa by co-opting popular struggles over access to resources that might otherwise challenge the political status quo.BACK TO TOP