The South African State Post 1996- How Democratic Is It?

Topics: Democracy, Elections, Representative democracy Pages: 5 (1711 words) Published: May 5, 2013

Gaining its independence in 1994, with Nelson Mandela at the time president of the African National Congress Party (A.N.C) becoming the first black president of South Africa, the country had overcome the apartheid era, notoriously known for its racial divides leading to unequal rights between the various ethnic groups, with the minority ruling over the majority. This essay seeks to analyze how successful the country has been in achieving democracy, and will do so by first giving a definition of democracy, then giving a brief description of South Africa’s transition to democracy then stating all the significant democratic milestones since independence, namely the constitution, electoral system, separation of powers between the branches of the state, namely the executive, legislature and judiciary. The essay will then also look into the flaws of the government since independence which threatens to make South Africa less democratic. Before analyzing how democratic South Africa is post 1996, it is necessary that we first find a definition of democracy and then make an analysis to see whether post 1996 South Africa measures up to the definition and if not why it falls short of it. The term democracy is derived from Greek dialect meaning “rule by the simple people” (Democray-Building, 2004) the democracies in the old ages were created as a repercussion to the concentration and abuse of power by the rulers of those times. The doctrine of modern Democracy was created in the 18th century when philosophers defined the essential elements of democracy as Separation of powers, basic civil and human rights, religious liberty and the separation of the state and church. A democracy can therefore be defined as a form of government that encompasses the above mentioned, in the form of a constitution that guarantees basic personal and political rights, free and fair elections and independent courts of law (Democray-Building, 2004).

A constitution is the cornerstone of modern democracy which usually emerges from a critical historical conjuncture in the political development of a country such as colonialisation, revolutions, independence, unification of separate territories and so forth. The first democratic milestone of South Africa was the signing of the 1996 Constitution at Sharpeville by President Mandela, marking the end of South Africa’s formal transition to a constitutional democracy (Currie & Waal, 2001). The constitution aimed to construct the future social and political collaborations in such a way that ensured a society free of the tyranny, gross inequalities, poverty and violence that characterized the history of South Africa. The constitution did this in a number of ways, firstly, it was created by the majority through popular participation in the constitution making process, and it being drafted and negotiated by representatives of the people. Secondly the constitution includes mechanisms that prevent state oppression and violence, this mechanism takes the form of the Bill of Rights, which has Non- Derogable rights such as equality, human dignity, the right to life, and freedom and security of the person. (Currie & Waal, 2001) Thirdly, the constitution contains provisions aimed at addressing the socio-economic inequalities of apartheid. At first glance, the constitution seems like an ordinary document, but in actual fact it is the most powerful document in the state, and what make it so powerful and democratic are its founding provisions which state that: s1 (1) “The republic of South Africa, is one Sovereign democratic state founded on the following values: a)Human Dignity, the achievement of equality and the advancement of human rights and freedoms. b)Non-racialism and Non-sexism

c)Supremacy of the constitution and the rule of law
d)Universal adult suffrage, a national common voter’s roll, regular elections, and a multi party system of democratic government to ensure accountability, responsiveness and openness....

References: Constitution, 1. (1996). Republic of South Africa 1996 Constitution.
Currie, I., & Waal, J. d. (2001). The New Constitutional & Administrative Law. Johannesburg: Juta.
D.Barkan, J., & Rushton, P. D. (2001). Designing Better Electoral Systems For Emerging Democracies. .
Democray-Building. (2004). A Shot Definition Of Democracy.
Deventer, A. W. (1999). Winners and Losers: South Africa 's Changing Income Distribution in the 1990 's. Johannesburg: WEFA.
Mattes, R. (2002). South Africa: Democracy without the People? Journal of Democracy Vol 13 .
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