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From our research library: Essential reads ahead of the South African elections

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From our research library: Essential reads ahead of the South African elections

06 May 2019

5min min read
  • Elections

South Africa last week marked 25 years of democracy and the end of apartheid rule. This Wednesday, it will hold its parliamentary and provincial elections. President Cyril Ramaphosa has been on a mission to rectify the scandal-plagued ruling party's reputation, but this is expected to be a hotly contested vote. Key issues such as land reform, corruption, poor service delivery and weak economic growth have dominated the political landscape. Read more on these challenges from our content partners' publications. 

Party and State in South Africa (Centre for Development and Enterprise, March 2019)

Dr Mzukisi Qobo argues that the lack of clarity about where the party ends and the state begins frustrates democratic consolidation and slows growth and development. In his view, this issue lies at the heart of many of the country’s problems: it has created conditions for corruption on a large scale, weakened key institutions, and slowed delivery on socio-economic commitments with implications for political stability at the local level. The ruling party must undertake reforms to survive, and President Cyril Ramaphosa also needs to place a huge bet on fixing the state, Qobo says.

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The Rainbow Myth: Dreaming of a Post-Racial South African Society (Institute for Global Dialogue, October 2018)

South Africa's transition from the racist apartheid regime to a democratic rainbow nation in 1994 has been admired worldwide. Its apparently peaceful reconciliation and emerging economic power made South Africa a global player. Nevertheless, with the ANC in power for over twenty years, one would have expected a change from former racist and colonial structural policies. Although the so-called 'Rainbow Nation' proclaims “unity in diversity”, racialisation and identity politics in South Africa have not evolved much from apartheid’s pattern. Its contradictions can be observed through actual examples such as debates around land expropriation, fees must fall movements and the striking racial inequalities. In 2018, South Africa is celebrating the centenary of the birth of Nelson Mandela to honour his humanitarian values and aptitude as a national hero. Where does the rainbow nation stand after Nelson Mandela? Are his ideas of social justice and equality implemented in today’s rainbow nation? Or were these broken promises? This paper will trace back the original mission of a rainbow nation and compare them with the present situation.

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South Africa's Hazardous Ballet with Human Rights Diplomacy (South African Institute of International Affairs, March 2018)

At its transition in 1994, South Africa emerged as an exceptional case of a rising power that would pursue the diplomacies of human rights. The history of the ANC, key policy documents and the rhetoric of its leaders, including Nelson Mandela, underscored the significance of South Africa as a human rights promoter. Although human rights are vital to South Africa’s foreign policy, they have in practice been relegated to the periphery of Pretoria’s diplomacy. The human rights deficits in South Africa’s multilateral diplomacy have been sufficiently demonstrated through its voting patterns and positions while serving as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. Its record at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is more unpleasant. To reverse this downward drift, South Africa should reconceptualise its diplomacies through a series of smart actions, rehabilitating policy positions that diverge from a coherent human rights outlook.

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Social Cohesion and Inequality in South Africa (Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, April 2018)

In this paper, we examine recent trends in social cohesion and inequality, and the relationship between the two in South Africa, using data from the South African Reconciliation Barometer (SARB) surveys. Given the country’s history of long-term racial and socioeconomic segregation, we use the extent of interracial interactions as our main approximation of social cohesion. We show that, although there is some improvement in the extent of interracial interactions over time, even today less than a third of South Africans often or always talk or socialize with someone from a different racial group. We use a multidimensional Living Standards Measure (LSM) to assess the level of well-being and the level of inequality. Our inequality analysis of this measure indicates that, since 2008, both vertical and horizontal (between races) inequality declined significantly. These trends can be attributed to progress made in the provision of basic services (i.e. water and electricity) and to ownership of household assets in South Africa. In contrast, when we focus on subjective or perceived inequality, it is clear that a large proportion of South Africans (about 70%) perceive the extent of inequality (the gap between the poor and the rich) as not having changed much or as even having worsened over time. The key finding of our quantitative work is a significant relationship between individuals’ perception of inequality and their level of interracial interactions.

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Rural Land Redistribution in South Africa: Contrasting Visions and Models (PLAAS, February 2019)

There is widespread agreement that land reform in South Africa is in deep trouble. However, there are very different perspectives on what should be done to address the failure to meaningfully redistribute land and resolve the land questions. This policy brief is a summary of a conference on 'Resolving the land question'. The conference interrogated three papers offering contrasting visions and models of land redistribution in rural South Africa.

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Forging a "New Deal" for South Africa? The Contribution of Parliament's High Level Panel Report (Centre for Development and Enterprise, May 2018)

South Africa urgently needs a new approach to deal with dangerously high poverty, unemployment and inequality levels. Policy and regulatory changes must be implemented to unleash faster levels of growth and much greater inclusion. The President of the country, Cyril Ramaphosa, has called for a “new deal through which we can build an economy that benefits all”. In the interest of increasing the public’s engagement with the report, we present a short outline of its core recommendations, focussing on those made in the areas CDE feels are central for tackling poverty, unemployment and inequality. These cover recommendations relating to making the economy more labour intensive; opening access to small and medium sized firms; combatting youth unemployment and exclusion; promoting immigration reform; reforming basic education; strengthening vocational education; implementing land reform more effectively; and building more inclusive cities.

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Public Service Delivery in South Africa: Councillors and Citizens Critical Links in Overcoming Persistent Inequities (Afrobarometer, October 2017)

The August 2016 local government elections in South Africa sent an earthquake through the political class when the African National Congress (ANC) lost power in three major cities of the country. Coalition governments led by the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) took over the economic powerhouse, Johannesburg; the administrative capital and seat of the Presidency, Pretoria; and the biggest city in the Eastern Cape and the country’s vehicle-manufacturing hub, Nelson Mandela Bay. Additionally, the DA grew its share of the vote to more than two-thirds in Cape Town, the home of Parliament. In Ekurhuleni and other cities, the ANC created coalitions and barely clung to power. This paper explores public opinion on basic services provision at the local government level in South Africa. Building on Bratton, which focused on local councillors’ responsiveness to constituents’ needs, I explore other factors that may influence public perceptions of local service delivery, including contact with local councillors and councillors’ job performance and trustworthiness. I also examine which actions, if any, citizens take when they see problems in their municipality.

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Aligning South Africa’s Migration Policies with its African Vision (Institute for Security Studies, October 2018)

Despite its commitment to prioritise Africa-oriented migration measures, domestically, South Africa is advancing some concerning policies. The result is institutionalised negative attitudes towards low-skilled African migrants and asylum seekers. But South Africa can turn the tide. It can do this by embracing migration’s development potential and following through on promises to provide legal pathways that promote orderly, regular migration, instead of continuing to prioritise punitive measures. South Africa is a major destination for African migrants of all classes – tourist, study, business, economic, irregular and asylum seeking. Some estimates indicate as many as 90% of migrants in South Africa are Africans. The country’s migration policies and practices have a significant impact on millions of people, particularly Africans. While South Africa insists upon its own commitment to Afrocentric ideals, an examination of current policies reveals worrying inconsistencies. On the one hand, recent policy documents and developments express a clear intent to strategically harness migration’s ability to achieve national and regional goals. On the other hand, the country is prioritising restrictive measures that disproportionately and negatively impact African migrants from neighbouring countries.

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(Main image: Lisa Hnatowicz/Foto24/Gallo Images/Getty Images)