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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 Six. Pillar Four: Freedom and Equality


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Pillar Four: Freedom and Equality

“… economic and social well-being create self-confident citizens able and willing to play a part in the democratic life of their society; to know and exercise their civil and political rights; and to enjoy personal and political freedoms.”(Beetham et al., 2002b: 59)

6.1.   Introduction

As discussed in Chapter 2, ‘freedom’ and ‘equality’ can be empirically translated into a set of civil and political rights for freedom and social and economic rights for equality. An extensive array of these rights is contained in the South African Constitution which is considered to be among the most progressive Constitutions in the world for this reason. These rights are contained predominantly in the second chapter of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights. It is this chapter which is the cornerstone of constitutional democracy in South Africa as it “enshrines the rights of all people in South Africa and affirms the democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom” (section 7(1)). Moreover, it applies to all law, and binds the legislature, the executive, the judiciary and all organs of state.

In the first section of this chapter, the extent to which civil and political rights are upheld in South Africa is assessed in three parts. The first discusses the dimension of civil rights; the second assesses the existence of discrimination in South Africa and the third part assesses the dimension of political rights....

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