Selected Term Paper No. 6 / August 2004
Staatsbürgerliche oder ethnische Identität? Der Stand der demokratischen Konsolidierung Südafrikas und die Rolle des Parlaments und der Opposition

Wilfried Wunden


This paper analyses the state and prospects of South African democracy ten years after the demise of Apartheid. It presents an operational model for measuring the consolidation of the new democratic regime, which is based on the final constitution of 1996. The results indicate that the country’s crucial challenge for a sustaining democratisation is to bridge the social gap between the poor, who are still predominantly black, and the wealthy population of mostly white South Africans, in order to create a common civic identity, crosscutting the ethnic cleavages. The author claims that during the first ten years of democratic rule the new government – despite some remarkable achievements - did not take all the necessary steps helping to overcome this Apartheid legacy. This refers especially to the neo-liberal economic policy and is promoted by transitional arrangements of the elites that put stability above socioeconomic transition. The situation of the poor masses has therefore even deteriorated with respect to some areas like employment. This development is unlikely to result into a turn-over of the political regime, but might lead to an erosion of public support and could gain momentum by some of the population’s problematic political attitudes.
Another cause of concern for the consolidation of South African democracy is the dominant position of the African National Congress in the country’s party system and in the institutions of the political regime. The constitutional checks and balances like parliamentary control towards government or the vertical control by the provinces cannot unfold to their full extent, as some recent events have indicated.
Additionally, the paper identifies some institutional constraints that prevent South Africa’s legislatures from creating more legitimacy for the political regime, although this is known to be the key-element of democratic consolidation. Therefore the author lays strong emphasis not only on some wishful constitutional amendments or the restricted potential of the formal opposition parties, but also on the role of South African civil society as a ‘watch-dog’ and engine of democratic consolidation.