Published online by Cambridge University Press: 01 December 1999
This paper explores the dynamics of regime change in South Africa and Zimbabwe through an examination of civil society's role, but more particularly mainline Christian religious associations, in democratising and consolidating democracy. After surveying state–civil society debates, an analysis of the nature and purpose of civil society in these two countries is undertaken. In both countries, a vibrant, diverse civil society exists that builds or strengthens democratic possibilities; however, Zimbabwean civil society is weaker for reasons that include regime type, the particularities of the liberation struggle, and constitutional limitations. The paper concludes with prescriptions for strengthening civil society in South Africa based on lessons learned from Zimbabwe.