n African Renaissance - Consolidation of democracy in South Africa

Volume 4 Number 3-4
  • ISSN : 1744-2532
  • E-ISSN: 2516-5305


Why is it important to look at the consolidation of democracy in South Africa at this stage? Are there any doubts about South Africa's future emerging? It is now already more than thirteen years since the first democratic election in 1994. It still serves as one of the prime examples of the Third Wave democratisation process in the 1990s. Samuel P. Huntington did discuss in his work also the phenomenon of "counterwaves", and questions about the state of democracy in South Africa is therefore not an extraordinary exercise.

The unique nature of South Africa's democratisation is not its content but its process. It was the only unassisted (mediated) constitutional negotiations in Africa in the 1990s. Similar processes occurred in the form of national conferences, especially in Francophone Africa, but their agendas were limited to introducing multiparty elections and not comprehensive democratisation.
Democratic consolidation as an academic focus, was largely dictated by the events in Latin America and Eastern Europe. The journal, , and scholars such as Linz and Stepan, Guillermo O'Donnell, Philippe C. Schmitter and Larry Diamond made important contributions in this respect. In the 2000s the emphasis in international practice and in scholarship has moved to post-conflict reconstruction (as represented in the policy documents of the AU and NEPAD) or post-conflict peace-building (also represented in the UN's Peacebuilding Commission).
Democracy and democratic consolidation as concepts are currently counter-balanced by economic concepts such as good governance, growth and economic development. (The Millennium Development Goals are one example of this focus.) Two foci emerged out of this balance between economic and political factors: good governance, and free and fair elections. The other aspects of democratic consolidation are important but secondary in nature.

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