Democratic Consolidation Process in South Africa Between 2005 and 2015

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Middlebury College
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South Africa has since the 1990s found itself in a state of transformation in the field of democracy. This transformation was at first increasingly progressive. The nation has a long history of numerous political and economic inequalities that burdened its righteous governance, as it favored parts of its population, namely the white race, on the cost of the black race (Altman et al., 2015). Once deciding to phase-out apartheid in South Africa, the nation adopted a freer and open society that chose to include the black population as well. The transformation began positively, as the phase-out of apartheid was considered a breakthrough in that part of the world and for humanity. The president F.W De Klerk also eventually announced his release of the political prisoner Nelson Mandela (Beall, Gelb, and Hassim, 2005, p. 683). He was imprisoned on the basis of his beliefs and political opinions. 1994 he was finally freed after over two decades behind bars, and that became the starting point for the democratization process of South Africa.

The race laws were revoked and Nelson Mandelas party African National Congress was now allowed to be active and part of the political arena (Butler, 2005, p. 721). According to Chinguno (2013), the nation was now under new governance with Nelson Mandela as their ruler. He made sure that a development plan was in progress, with the aim to fight poverty and create better circumstances for the black people. However as Cuthbertson (2008) explains, this democratic transition has slowed down immensely, and a lot of research even point at evidence that suggest that it has stopped completely. The development plan has not been fully implemented, as the economical inequalities has persisted and remained unchanged between the two races the black are still poor, and the white are still wealthy. It seems like the development plan have caused more problems than solutions.

A fear of conflict has risen and divided the two races even more. The differences in the lower, middle and higher classes are still visible when examining both races. Furthermore, Lane and Ersson (2007) explains that the blacks are still faced with challenges such as unemployment, lower quality of education for the youth as well as lower quality healthcare. This hybrid regime makes for an excellent study object in the field of democratization and democracy in transition. The topic of study is scientifically relevant, as there are many hybrid regimes that struggle with the democratization process; similar to that of South Africa. As a result, I have chosen to carry out my bachelor thesis with the focus on South Africa during the years 2005-2015, to examine why the democratization process have slowed down or stopped entirely.

1.2. Purpose and research question

The purpose of this paper is to highlight the democratic consolidation process in South Africa between 2005 and 2015. As such; my thesis intends to provide an answer for the following questions:

1. Has South Africa been consolidating democracy between 2005 and 2015? If yes, to what extent has the five arenas of Linz and Stepans theory (civil society, political society, economic society, rule of law and state apparatus) contributed towards the consolidation of democracy in South Africa?

2. What are the key challenges for further democratic consolidation in South Africa?

The African National Congress is still the ruling party today, without successful implementation of the presented development plan (Butler, 2005). A prerequisite for a democratic country amongst other things, are to offer a good foundation for a healthy and stable incline in the economic sphere. With that, a relatively even income is anticipated amongst its entire population regardless of class or race, as well as having democratic and good governance in place; for example, a leadership that actualizes its peoples wills.

Previous Research and Theories

Previous Research

Democratic transition and consolidation are one of the key areas that various scholars have studied in their research in South Africa. Hennie Kotze and Reinet Loubser are some of the scholars who have greatly contributed to this discussion. Hennie Kotze is a research associate in the center for International and Comparative Politics (CICP) while Reinet Loubser is a researcher at the CICP. The authors write in their article South Africas Democratic Consolidation in Perspective: Mapping socio-political changes, that it is expected that most of the countries that transition from the authoritarian regimes to a liberal is most likely to experience social, political, and economic value shifts (Kotze & Loubser, 2016, p. 3). They further explain that countries that have only transitioned from authoritarian to democracy like South Africa may raise the question whether democratic consolidation is occurring or not. The conceptualization of consolidation has been a key challenge in such a country. For them, democracy is never enough; thus, they ask the question of when democrats should relax and say that it is enough.

Alta Folscher and Neil Cole have also contributed significantly to this discussion through their research. Alta Folscher is an independent public finance researcher and consultant and has worked in over three continents including Africa, Asia and Europe. Neil Cole, on the other hand, was the chief director of the Expenditure planning in the Budget Office Division, South African National Treasury in 2006. They analyze the opportunities that transition to democracy has offered to governance system in South Africa in their report South Africa: Transition to Democracy offers opportunities for the Whole System Reform. The authors explain the transition that South Africa went through in 1994 came about with many challenges especially in the management of public finances (Folscher & Cole, 2007, p. 2). They argue that the transition resulted in a constitutional dispensation that laid down the new structures and power distribution strategies in the state. This, as a result, created and established a new way in which the public funds were allocated and used. They explain that the first period after the country transitioned from the authoritarian regime under President FW de Klerk, the country underwent through tough financial times that increased the governments borrowing to over 8.7% of the total countrys GDP (Folscher & Cole, 2007, p. 2). However, this was the constitutional dispensation created opportunities that ensured that the wastage of resources is limited. Among the principles that underlying democratic transition reformed include the 1) comprehensiveness and integration, 2) Political oversight and focus on a policy priority, 3) Using information strategically, 4) Changing behavior by changing the incentives, 5) Ensuring the budget stability and predictability while facilitating change at the margin (Folscher & Cole, 2007, p. 3).

The previous research presented focus on both the democratic institutions in South Africa like the Treasury. Kotze and Loubsers article focus on the socio-political changes that the South Africas democratic consolidation has caused. Folscher and Cole on the other hand focus on the changes that have come with the transition to democracy in South Africa. This study will focus on the socio-political, judicial, and the economic aspects. The next section presents the theoretical framework of the study.

Theoretical Key concepts

As one my research question is seeking to answer to what extent South Africa have been consolidating democracy from a liberalized drastically perspective, theoretical definitions of democracy, democratization and consolidated democracy are relevant to my study, then follows the definition of a Linz and Stepan's consolidated democracy. Furthermore, I will also provide a definition of Linz and Stepan's five arenas of a consolidated democracy which will be the basis of this research study.


When discussing the notion of a democracy, it is important to establish a mutual understanding as to what it is, as there are many differing definitions of the concept. The original meaning of democracy in Greek translates to the power of the people. Demos means the people and of kratos means the power. (Diamond, 1994, p. 6)

In any democracy, people have the right to choose their leaders. This is done through open, free, regular elections that are fair. The people as used in democracy refers to the citizens of that territory; for example, that state (Diamond, 1999). By open, it suggests that it should be a competitive election (Diamond, 1999). This means that multiple parties are allowed to compete. Furthermore, a country cannot be a democracy if there is no freedom of speech or rule of law. To complicate things even more, there are various types of interpretations of democracy, as well as various democratic systems. Joseph Schumpeter defined democracy as for arriving at political decisions in which individuals acquire the power to decide by means of a competitive struggle for the peoples vote (Diamond, 1994, p. 7). This may in modern terms be interpreted as free and fair elections. This is called the Schumpeterian democracy and it is only one of many available forms of democracy. Some other types of democracy include electoral democracies, elite democracy, polyarchy and consensus democracy to name a few (Nilsson & Carlsson, 2014, p. 658).

Democracy comes in thick and thin conceptions, depending on how many or which attributes they fulfill. Liberal democracy is the type of democracy that may be considered thick, as it fulfills all ten thick dimensions. According to Nilsson and Carlsson (2014), it requires a supportive economic climate as well as a certain degree of social cohesion and political consensus. This is also the type of democracy that also includes all five arenas of consolidated democracy; civil society, political society, economic society, rule of law and state apparatus (Hass & Aidoo, 2015, p. 46). A liberal democracy should be aspir...

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