Public Attitudes in Contemporary South Africa

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HSRC Press, 2002 - History - 170 pages
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Democracy cannot be taken for granted. Its consolidation is neither inevitable, nor need the process take the form of a linear progression. Democracies are susceptible to reversions to authoritarianism. As Robert Dahl demonstrates in his recent work, On democracy, authoritarian regimes have replaced democratic ones some 52 times between 1900 and 1985 (Dahl, 1998). But southern Africans do not need to be quoted statistics to be made aware of this fact. Indeed, the point has been graphically brought home by developments in both Zambia and Zimbabwe. In the case of the former, a trade union leader who led resistance against what had been the only president of post-independent Zambia, then subverted that same democracy by first attempting to re-write the constitution to enable him to seek a third term, and when that failed, manipulating elections to ensure that his nominee was elected president. In Zimbabwe, a first generation independence leader succeeded in holding onto power through graft, patronage, electoral fraud, constitutional manipulation, and intimidation of opponents and dissidents. In both cases, democracy and the promise of development dissipated as a result of both structural conditions and leadership behaviour.

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