from Africa in Transition

Morning in South Africa

May 25, 2016

Blog Post

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Sub-Saharan Africa

Politics and Government

South Africa

Heads of State and Government

Political Movements

My new book on South Africa is now available in hardcover and Kindle. The book’s core argument is that despite the corruption and incompetency of the Zuma administration combined with slow economic growth, the country’s democratic institutions are strong enough to weather the current period of poor governance.

Intended for the non-specialist reader, the book includes an orientation to the history of South Africa. A review of current demographic trends highlights the persistent consequences of white supremacy and apartheid. Since Nelson Mandela’s 1994 presidential inauguration, social and economic change has been slow. Despite the emergence of a black middle class and a few black oligarchs, the gulf between white wealth and that of the other racial groups is greater now than it was in 1994. Whites also have longer life spans, a reflection of their access to much better education and health services. However, politically the country is a fully functioning democracy with credible elections. The book includes a discussion of education, health, contemporary politics, and land reform with an eye as to how South Africa’s democracy is responding to thorny challenges.

The book highlights the strength of constitutionally mandated institutions, the rule of law, and the independence of the judiciary. South Africa is a constitutional democracy, not a parliamentary democracy. The constitution limits what governments can do at all levels and has among the most elaborate protections of human rights of any country in the world. Notably, South Africa has outlawed capital punishment and is the only African country that permits gay marriage. Both are the result of judicial rulings based on human rights provisions in the constitution. Both are deeply unpopular, yet there has been no significant effort to amend the constitution to permit the former and ban the latter; such is the prestige of the rule of law.

Morning in South Africa concludes with an assessment of why prospects are poor at present for closer South African ties with the West, especially the United States, so long as the current government leadership remains in power. However, I conclude that South Africa’s democracy has been surprisingly adaptable, and that despite seemingly intractable problems, the black majority are no longer strangers in their own country. These are the basis for building in the future a new, stronger relationship between the “rainbow nation” and the West.

More on:

Sub-Saharan Africa

Politics and Government

South Africa

Heads of State and Government

Political Movements

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