Social characteristics among the political elite (2022)

There is not one typical profile of the political elite in KwaZulu Natal. The social characteristics1 of race, gender, age, regional identification, family and lineage ties, religious affiliation, education, occupational background and com-munity activities among the political elite in KwaZulu-Natal reveal clusters of elites that share specific characteristics. These clusters are not always specific to a political party.

Racial composition

Despite a diverse racial composition in the Provincial Parliament of KwaZulu-Natal, it is not representative of the racial composition of the provincial popu-lation. Of the total number of MPPs who served in the provincial legislature at any point in time from 1994-2004, my analysis of interviews show that 63.2% were black, 27.0% were white and 9.8% were asian2.

In contrast to the political elite, black South Africans comprised 82.7% of the total population of KwaZulu-Natal in 1995, with asians the second largest group at 9.2% (Republic of South Africa 1997). The provincial population in 2001 was constituted by 84.9% black South Africans, 8.5% asians and 5.1% whites (Republic of South Africa 2001b). Simply put, racial representivity in parliament is not commensurate with the racial demographics in KwaZulu-Natal, with whites overrepresented and blacks underrepresented. These figures illustrate a pattern typical of pacted transitions. There is substantial continuity in elites from the period before transition. In this case, a large percentage of the white MPPs who served in the first democratic parliament had prior experience

1 There are no records of legislative members in KwaZulu-Natal by the social charac-

teristics discussed in this chapter. The data illustrated in this chapter is constructed from my analysis of personal interviews with the MPPs concerned.

2 The category “asian” reflects a broader geographical identification to those so de-

scribed than the term “Indian” which refers to a person identifying with the nation-state of India or racially categorised as Indian by the apartheid state.

as elected representatives in the apartheid period. In some instances, white MPPs left their apartheid-era parties and joined the newly dominant IFP and ANC. In addition, continuity is further evident in the presence of some black MPPs who formerly served in the KLA.3 One of the key features of the African elite in the post-colonial period is their ‘reciprocal assimilation’ (Bayart 1993: 150-179). Plurality is often expressed through a reintegration of the elite. This is certainly a feature of the transformation of the state in Africa. In former Zaire, as Bayart shows, old politicians from the first republic were reinserted in government and in Ivory Coast there was the reintegration of radical nationalists who were previously purged (Bayart 1993: 166).

Some continuity in elites is a feature of all countries in transition. Despite the dominance of the approaches to the study of elites in Eastern Europe during transition – as characterisiing either reproduction or circulation (cf. Szelenyi & Szelenyi 1995: 615-638 and 697-722; Frane & Tomsic 2002: 435-454) – there are features of both reproduction and circulation in all transitions. Hence we should rather see the political elite in transitions as transformed simultaneously by both continuity and change, and not continuity or change as the end product of a transition. Transition provides an opportunity for the synthesis of hetero-geneity within the state.

In the post-apartheid period, race has remained a significant organising factor in KwaZulu-Natal in the transformation of the political elite, not least in the party affiliation of elites. Graph 3.1 shows the percentage of MPPs that have served in parliament at any time during the first two terms of the provincial parliament, by race and political party.

As illustrated in Graph 3.1, the IFP has been the most diverse of the parties in its racial make up, with more asian and white members than any of the others, and the IFP has accounted for more white MPPs than both the DP and NNP together.4 The prevalence of black MPPs is greatest in parties that occupy the most parliamentary seats. Among the smaller parties, the DP shows similar levels of diversity to the two dominant parties, but with representation skewed heavily to whites. The ACDP is equally divided between black and white. The other minority parties have selected MPPs from one racial group only. Indeed,

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3 For a full discussion of this see Chapter 4.

4 The Democratic Alliance was formed in mid-2000 out of the Democratic Party, the

New National Party and the Federal Alliance to contest the December 2000 local government elections. Because of the anti-defection clause in the 1996 Constitution parties could not legally merge between elections. As a consequence, in the Kwa-Zulu-Natal Provincial Legislature, the DP and NNP remained separate parties and received separate allocations, but operated as one entity in terms of voting together and attending one caucus.

Graph 3.1 Percentage of MPPs by race and party, 1994-2004

for the MF husband and wife team,5 race has been a defining feature of the public image. Referring to himself as ‘the Bengal Tiger’ (Natal Mercury, 1994), MF MPP Amichand Rajbansi’s6 successful candidacy has been based on his ability to harness asian fears of black domination and present the MF as spokes-person for asians in the formerly “Indian” classified townships in the provincial metropole of Durban. Amichand Rajbansi combines this ethno-racial appeal with a finely calculated commitment to the overall goals of nation-building and transformation as well as keen tactical awareness of when to collaborate with the ANC.

More than 70% of DP and NNP provincial representatives since 1994 have been white (see Graph 3.1). This clearly indicates significant racial continuity and a failure by each party to break out of its former white racial support base. Significantly, all of these white MPPs have had experience in politics as either politicians or civil servants in the pre-1994 period.7 This is not, however, where

5 MPP Shireen Thakur is the second wife of MPP Rajbansi and together they occupy

the two seats for the Minority Front in the KwaZulu Natal Provincial Legislature. MPP Rajbansi was formerly married to Asha Devi who defected from the MF to the IFP.

6 Leader of the Minority Front.

7 For example, NNP MPP Valentino Volker was the longest serving representative in

South Africa in 2004, having become a member of the Natal Provincial Council in 1965 for the then National Party.

the racial similarity between the DP and NNP ends. Of the black and asian MPPs in their ranks, all had links to political structures prior to 1994. With the exception of DP MPP Tim Jeebodh, who was placed low on the ANC pro-vincial list in 1994 and was not elected before switching to the DP, all asian MPPs served in the Tricameral Parliament.8 However, fragility in allegiance to the DP and NNP was demonstrated in 2002 when legislation to allow members of parliament to cross the floor and retain their seat9 was introduced at national level and applied equally to the provincial parliament. In the first floor crossing window period, all asian MPPs located in the minority parties crossed the floor to the IFP and ANC. This indicates clearly that continuity in periods of tran-sition accompanies change. This change is in the form of transformation in the position of power that parties occupy in the legislature. Despite their presence, these parties have less power than before so that there is simultaneously accom-modation, but a shift in power. These parties provide a conduit through which the political elite that might be excluded by the shift in power can jump to parties that have increased power.

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Black MPPs who came to parliament with the NNP and DP had prior political links to the IFP. Few of these MPPs, however, formerly served in the KLA.10 The links these MPPs had to the IFP did not afford them the requisite

8 The Tricameral Parliament was established by the Republic of South Africa (1983)

Constitution of the Republic of South Africa (Act No.110 of 1983) in which three

separate Houses were constituted for people classified under the Republic of South Africa (1950) Population Registration Act (Act No. 30 of 1950) as white, coloured and Indian. They were the House of Assembly (Whites), the House of Represent-atives (Coloureds) and the House of Delegates (Indians). Under this system the nu-merical weight of the House of Assembly meant that under no condition could the House of Representatives and House of Delegates outvote the dominant white as-sembly. In addition, the representivity of the two non-white houses was questionable given that voter turnout was often less than 20%. See Venter, A. (1989) ‘The Central Government: Legislative, Executive, Judicial and Administrative Institutions’ in Venter, A., ed., South African Government and Politics (Southern Book Publishers, Johannesburg) pp.45-98.

9 Legislation that facilitated floor-crossing includes the Republic of South Africa

(2002) Constitution of the Republic of South Africa Amendment Act (Act No.18 of 2002); Republic of South Africa (2002) The Local Government Municipal Struc-

tures Amendment Act (Act No. 20 of 2002); Republic of South Africa (2002) Con-

stitution of the Republic of South Africa Second Amendment Act (Act No. 21 of 2002) and the Republic of South Africa (2002) Loss or Retention of Membership of

National and Provincial Legislatures Act (Act No. 22 of 2002). The implications of

this legislation are discussed in later chapters.

10 For example, NNP MPP V.J. Mchunu was an aide to the Chief Minister of KwaZulu

and organiser of the Inkatha Youth Brigade from 1975-1978. NNP MPP Sipho Mkhize is the nephew of Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the President of the IFP. DP MPP

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seniority and credentials to be included in those who came to be on the IFP provincial list in 1994. However, their racial profile (like Jeebodh in the DP) and their conservative political credentials combined to make them useful candidates for the DP and NNP searching for non-white candidates to alter their public images. So while the characteristics of these MPPs gave them no ad-vantage in being chosen for a career as an IFP MPP, they were one of the main factors that led to their recruitment in the formerly exclusively white parties. In this way, plurality in racial terms among the political elite came to be seen during the first ten years of democracy – by these particular parties – as a necessary prerequisite for continued access to power.

As shown in Graph 3.1, the racial profiles of the IFP and ANC, while diverse are not representative of the provincial population. In the IFP there are sig-nificantly more white and fewer black members in comparison to the racial breakdown of the population. Moreover, the 19 white MPPs that have served in the legislature for the IFP since 1994 have been of diverse backgrounds. A substantial proportion of these MPPs were from the white parties whose status had diminished by 1994 and had a long and significant political career.11 Others entered politics for the first time in 1994.12 In the ANC during the same period, there is almost parity in the figures of black MPPs and the black population but numerical under-representation of asian MPPs, and overrepresentation of white MPPs. Hence in KwaZulu-Natal there is the simultaneous racial accommo-dation – albeit reduced – of representatives from the apartheid order and the inclusion of racial heterogeneity to more properly reflect the racial make up of the population. This is demonstrated most clearly by examining the racial com-position of the political elite over time (see Graph 3.2).

While the number of asian MPPs remained relatively constant over the period 1994-2004, the number of white MPPs declined and black MPPs in-creased in number. The most significant periods of change were from the first election in 1994 to the second election in 1999 where a 12% increase in black MPPs was matched by a 12% decrease in white MPPs. Since 1999, these pat-terns continued at a slower rate. This might suggest that the most significant periods of elite replacement in countries undergoing transition occur within the first few years of the founding election – as the new state comes to reflect the population – as a process of rectifying the imbalances and skewed homogeneity among the elite that led to the demise of the old state.

(and MEC) Wilson Ngcobo served in the Mzumba regional authority for the IFP from 1982-1988 and then became a member of the KLA.

11 For example, MPP Patrick Cornell previously served as mayor for Pietermaritzburg

and MPP Charles van Eck served as mayor for Pinetown.

Graph 3.2 Time series of MPPs, 1994-2004

Black 54.32% 66.25% 71.25%

White 35.80% 23.75% 20%

Asian 9.88% 10% 8.75%

A racial reconfiguration of the political elite has occurred in all political parties. However, in the ANC (unlike other parties) the reconfiguration was less accomodationist as it paralleled ideological changes within the provincial party. The reconfiguration was connected to the decline of MPPs who served as trade union representatives in the pre-1994 period and those who were located on the left of the political spectrum. This reconfiguration is in accordance with patterns in other African states in the post-independence period. As Tordoff claims, ‘many parties … came to rest on a firmer ideological base than they had before’ (Tordoff 1997: 115). By definition, the nationalist movements had a broader ideological basis before independence.

Graph 3.3 shows the racial composition of the political elite by political party over time. In the ANC, whereas the number of white and asian MPPs halved in the second election, black MPPs increased by almost a third. This racial reconfiguration of the ANC has, however, occured without a substantial loss of white MPPs. In any case, the white MPPs that exited parliament conti-nued either to serve the ANC in other capacities or within state structures, indi-

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Graph 3.3 Time series of MPPs by race, 1994-2004

cating the reach of the political elite nationally and locally.13 Hence, if one thinks of the state in Africa (in which elite formation takes place) as encom-passing the matrix of parties, civil service and elected representatives, there has been no circulation of the ANC elite based on race, as national government, local government and the civil service are part of the extensive matrix. In KwaZulu-Natal, as the ANC increased its share of the parliamentary seats in 1999 from 26 to 32, the only new members of the political elite were black. This is indicative of greater accommodation of the previously dominant racial groups in the first few years, rather than later years, of a transition in societies where racial domination and discrimination has been a key feature.

This, however, is not to say that race does not play a part in elite formation in the ANC. The following quotations are illustrative of the perceived salience of race as an organising factor by some MPPs.

13 For example, Roy Ainslie relocated to the national parliament in 1999. Mike Sut-

cliffe took up the position of Chairperson of the Municipal Demarcation Board in 1999 and was required to resign from all party offices within 30 days of appoint-ment. This attracted a brief period of controversy over the questioned independence of the board. He later became Municipal Manager for the distict municipality of eThekwini, the largest local government structure in KwaZulu-Natal.

‘When it comes to the inner sanctum of black politics, I don’t belong. I was very disappointed to hear S’bu Ndebele with his African Rennaissance, saying it was only for black people’ (Pers. Interview 68).

‘The ANC is guided by a deep philosophical outlook. It is overwhelmingly black, so a good white comrade might be disadvantaged. Does one therefore say that the comrade not be included? ... The real victors are generous. The ANC finds a place for everyone’ (Pers. ANC Interview 134).

‘The ANC now have only one white and one Indian. They are resented by the others’ (Pers. Interview 83).14

In the ANC, it would seem that a greater accommodation of a formerly dominant feature (whiteness) occurred early in the transition. However, by the second term there was a gradual decline in this group as the newer political elite (predominantly black) brought greater change. Consequently, a decline in the salience of white representatives occurred.

As Graph 3.3 shows, in the DP a clear attempt has been made over the first two terms of office to alter the racial composition of the political elite to reflect at least some black and asian MPPs. The percentage of white MPPs in the DP decreased by almost 30% during the first 10 years of democratic rule. Black and asian MPPs who were absent from parliament in 1994 became visible in the 1999 period onwards and by 2003 constituted almost 15% of MPPs respec-tively. However, these increases do not correlate with the gains in parliamentary seats achieved by the DP. In 1994 the DP comprised 2 parliamentary seats in contrast to 7 in 2003 in which five white MPPs, 1 black MPP and 1 asian MPP served. It would seem that it is important for political parties to also be seen to promote elite circulation, to populations that were previously excluded.

Whereas the increase in parliamentary seats occupied by the DP prompted a racial reconfiguration of the political elite, the same reconfiguration was prompted in the NNP by a decrease in seats. In parties that have historically been identified with the old political order, it is imperative for their survival that they come to be seen as embracing the new order. Racial plurality is one key feature of the new South African order. In 1994 almost three quarters of the NNP were white MPPs (see Graph 3.3). In terms of race thinking in the NNP, a loss of two thirds of their seats in the second election from 9 to 3, led to a re-ordering of the party list, once the election results were revealed, to return one black, one asian and one white MPP to parliament. This suggests that racial representivity in parliament was central in the thinking of a party attempting to shed its apartheid past. Evidently, race has played a significant part in elite formation in the NNP in both the first and second terms. But whereas the reconfiguration of elites in the NNP in terms of racial parity in parliament in 1999 showed an attempt to present a racial transformation to the voters in terms

of both party orientation and representivity, this was not sustained. In 2001, when asian NNP MPP Naicker crossed the floor to the IFP, the party re-appointed MPP Brian Edwards, a long standing white member of the party, politician and parliamentarian from the first term, to fill the seat. Clearly factors other than racial representivity had reasserted themselves. One MPP’s perspec-tive is illuminating. He said, ‘Indians in the party want more representation because Indians make up a big voting block in the party’ (Pers. NNP Interview 112). While the racial composition of the general membership of the party in the post-1994 period is not in question, the incumbency of tried and tested white MPPs over other racial groups demonstrates that the parliamentary selectors have hardly changed. That is, while racial transformation may have occurred in general party membership, the centrality of race in parliamentary candidate selection may remain the same.

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The most significant racial reconfiguration of the political elite has, how-ever, occurred in the IFP. As demonstrated by Graph 3.3, the number of asian


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