n Africa Insight - The presidencies of Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki compared : implications for the consolidation of democracy in South Africa

Volume 36, Issue 3_4
  • ISSN : 0256-2804


This article assesses the South African transition after the dismantling of apartheid and the negotiations for a new constitution. It points out that the process was pact-driven and that one of the principal compromises was the consensus about the desirability of a post-apartheid market-economy. Comparative analyses are made between the two presidencies of Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki, the criteria used being nation-building, public institutions, and economic policies. The analysis reveals negatives and positives from a consolidation point of view, with the latter outweighing the former, most notably the stable transition and remarkable reconciliation, an independent judiciary and media freedom. In a way, therefore, these substitute the absence of stronger parliamentary opposition. Consequently, the greatest challenge is economic development, especially of the so-called 'second economy', in order to reduce inequalities and solidify democratic principles. The post-2009 leadership will determe whether consolidation will be the next phase in South Africa's history.

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