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Pass or Fail?

Assessing the Quality of Democracy in South Africa


Victoria Graham

In recent years, growing concerns over the strength of South Africa’s democracy appear to indicate a population increasingly disillusioned and dissatisfied with the quality of its implementation. This book assesses the quality of democracy in South Africa after 20 years of democracy in order to ascertain whether or not this growing perception is valid. Since the inception of democracy in 1994 there have been countless procedural and substantive improvements in addressing historically entrenched political, social and economic problems; however, there are serious issues that have emerged relating to the quality of democratic implementation in South Africa. Two existing analytical frameworks of democracy assessment, International IDEA’s State of Democracy framework and Leonardo Morlino’s tool for empirical research on democratic qualities, TODEM, are utilised to assess the quality of South Africa’s rule of law and institutional capacity; representative and accountable government; civil society and popular participation; and freedom and equality after 20 years of democracy. The book concludes cautiously that while South Africa faces many serious and threatening potholes in the road to a fully successful democracy, there is nevertheless much to applaud.
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Chapter Four. Pillar Two: Representative and Accountable Government


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Pillar Two: Representative and Accountable Government

“It is through the ability of citizens, at regular elections, to retain or dismiss their elected representatives … that the principle of popular control is made flesh”(Beetham et al., 2002b: 85).

“An effective Parliament should be the basis for effective government … it should keep government in touch with public feeling and alert to issues about which the public feels strongly”(Jacobs, Calland and Power, 2001: 69).

4.1.   Introduction

A truly representative and accountable government is a foundation of a good quality democracy. As noted previously in Chapter 2, accountability is defined as “an exchange of responsibilities and potential sanctions between rulers and citizens” (Schmitter, 2004: 47). Accountability can be either electoral or inter-institutional. Electoral accountability is “that which electors can demand from their elected official” (Morlino, 2011: 12). However, while elections are an essential part of representative democracy in their own right, they are periodical and therefore can be limited in their ability to continuously monitor government accountability. As such, electoral accountability must be supplemented by inter-institutional accountability, which is the responsibility of the governing bodies to answer to other institutions that have the expertise and power to control the behaviour of the governors (Morlino, 2011: 12).

In this chapter the extent to which government is representative and accountable is assessed in four parts. The first three parts discuss electoral accountability through the dimensions of free...

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