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South Africa's Political Futures

  • Anthony Butler


Political analysts are variously divided over the prospects for South Africa's democracy. This article both explores and explains their great diversity of opinion. It investigates the implications, both positive and negative, of African National Congress one-party electoral dominance. The paper goes on to assess the reliability of the mechanisms through which an electorally dominant government can be rendered politically accountable. It then explores the implications of political challenges — concerning capital and skills flight, HIV/AIDS, and corruption — that have licensed further speculation about South Africa's future, and concludes that a cohesive ruling alliance offers the best hope of entrenching the country's imperfect democracy.



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1 Johnson, R. W., How Long Will South Africa Survive?, Johannesburg, Macmillan, 1977 .

2 Statistics South Africa, South Africa in Transition: Selected Findings from the October Household Survey of 1999 and Changes that haveOccurred between 1995 and 1999, Pretoria, Statistics South Africa, 2001 .

3 Munck, Geraldo L. and Verkuilen, Jay, ‘Conceptualising and Measuring Democracy: Evaluating Alternative Indicators’, Comparative Political Studies, 35:1 (2002), pp. 534 .

4 The notion ‘end of consolidation’ may be incoherent because of the ‘institutionalized uncertainty’ intrinsic to the concept of democracy. See Schedler, Andreas, ‘Taking Uncertainty Seriously: The Blurred Boundaries of Democratic Transition and Consolidation’, Democratization, 8:4 (2001), pp. 122 .

5 Mattes, Robert, ‘South Africa: Democracy without the People’, Journal of Democracy 13:1 (2002), pp. 2236 ; p. 1.

6 Schrire, Robert, ‘The Realities of Opposition in South Africa: Legitimacy, Strategies and Consequences’, Democratization, 8:1 (2001), pp. 135–48.

7 Giliomee, Hermann and Simkins, Charles, ‘Conclusion’, in Giliomee, and Simkins, (eds), The Awkward Embrace: One-party Domination and Democracy, Cape Town, Tafelberg, 1999, p. 337 .

8 Giliomee, H. and Simkins, C., ‘Conclusions’, p. 340 .

9 Southall, Roger, ‘Conclusions’, Democratization, 8:1 (2001); Reddy, Thiven, ‘The Dominant Party and Democratic Consolidation’, paper presented to the Department of Political Studies, University of Cape Town, 23 04 2002 .

10 Dunn, John, ‘Situating Democratic Political Accountability’, in Przeworski, Adam, Stokes, Susan and Manin, Bernard (eds), Democracy, Accountability and Representation, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1999, pp. 329–44.

11 Suttner, Raymond, ‘Culture(s) of the African National Congress of South Africa’, paper presented to the Department of Political Studies, University of Cape Town, 12 08 2002 .

12 Yashar, Deborah J., Demanding Democracy: Reform and Reaction in Costa Rica and Guatemala, 1870s–1950s, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1997 .

13 Crush, Jonathan et al. , Losing our Minds: Migration and the ‘Brain Drain’ from South Africa, Queen's University Ontario, Southern African Migration Project Policy Series No. 18, 2000 .

14 The paper is currently available at 〈〉 (20/09/2002).

15 Forrest, Drew and Streek, Barry, ‘Mbeki in bizarre Aids outburst’, Weekly Mail and Guardian, Johannesburg, 26 10 2001 .

16 Grint, Keith, The Arts of Leadership, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2000 .

South Africa's Political Futures

  • Anthony Butler


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