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Pass or Fail?

Assessing the Quality of Democracy in South Africa

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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 Seven. Conclusion: Review And Findings

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CHAPTER SEVEN

Conclusion: Review And Findings

7.1.   Rationalisation and theoretical framework

Since its democratic transition in 1994, South Africa has achieved much in rebuilding the state in a more democratic way (for example, through its guarantee of universal franchise and its adoption of one of the most liberal and comprehensive Constitutions in the world). Given its history of polarisation and racism, violent political conflict, and extreme antidemocratic tendencies under apartheid, it would seem that 20 years on, the country’s democratic performance has thus far surpassed expectations.

However, increasing reports (in both scholarly contributions and the print media) in recent years have reflected worrying problems that have existed since 1994 but have intensified in recent years thus threatening South Africa’s apparently successful democratic consolidation. Seemingly endless examples of violent crime; corruption; dysfunctional service delivery; spreading poverty; a resurgent racialisation in society; the lack of real progress on land reform and redistribution; and concerns over continued ANC party dominance and perceived threats to the Constitution have led to a growing perception that South Africa’s quality of democracy is wavering. It was suggested that either this growing consternation is a sign of the public exercising their right to question those that govern them and is therefore a healthy expression of active citizenship, or it is indicative of a population increasingly disillusioned and dissatisfied, in which case, it is concerning especially in terms of political legitimacy in South Africa. The purpose of...

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