n Journal of Public Administration - Democracy without accountability, or accountability without democracy? 'Born-free' perspectives of public representatives in South Africa

Volume 49, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0036-0767



Are South African public representatives accountable to the voters? If so, how far accountable are they? Is accountability the weakest link in South Africa's democratisation process? This paper assesses the accountability (or lack thereof) of public representatives in South Africa in the background of the country's attainment of two decades of democracy. It examines the accountability of local government councillors, government ministers and provincial MECs (Members of the Provincial Executive Councils) including other public representatives to the voters. The voters expect such representatives to be responsive to their needs according to the country's five-yearly electoral mandates. Based on a questionnaire that was administered to a purposive group of 'Born-Frees' or young adults who were born on or after 1994 in Gauteng Province, the paper explains the dynamics facing South Africa's attempts to implement its policies; such difficulties emanate partly from the country's electoral system and partly from the calibre of officials holding public office. Relying on theories of democracy and democratic consolidation, the paper argues that much still needs to be done to ensure the complete consolidation of democracy in South Africa, given the challenges of accountability that the country has recently experienced. The paper concludes by acknowledging that despite minimal gains such as the attainment of franchise and human rights, public accountability remains the Achilles heel and a major stumbling block towards substantive democratisation in South Africa's governance systems.

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