Troubling Signs for South African Democracy under the ANC

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Executive Summary

Thirteen years ago, South Africa underwent a peacefultransition from white minority rule to majority rule.Today, the country is a stable multiparty democracy.It has the largest and the most sophisticated economy inAfrica, which generates almost 40 percent of all the wealthproduced on the African continent south of the Sahara.The African National Congress government, which came topower in 1994, deserves credit for stabilizing the economyand returning it to a steady, albeit slow, growth path.

The ANC's democratic record is less impressive. Thegovernment has transformed the state-owned SouthAfrican Broadcasting Corporation into an ANC propagandamachine that has banned some of the government'smost prominent critics from appearing on it. The culture ofpolitical correctness stifles public debate over the directionof South Africa's economic and social policies. Those whodare to criticize the government are often labeled as racist.Moreover, the ANC is considering new laws that wouldundermine judicial independence.

It is increasingly apparent that the ANC wishes to dominatethe social and institutional life of South Africa in thesame way that it dominates the country's political life.Fortunately, the ANC continues to put great value on itsinternational reputation and tends to be hypersensitive tointernational criticism. When the government does not act inaccordance with the spirit of liberal democracy, members ofinternational civil society groups, the diplomatic corps, andthe business community should voice their concern.Constructive criticism could change the ANC's behavior andpositively influence political developments in South Africa.

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Marian L. Tupy

Marian L. Tupy is a policy analyst at the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity. He specializes in the study of Europe and sub-Saharan Africa and is author of Trade Liberalization and Poverty Reduction in Sub-Saharan Africa, Cato Institute Policy Analysis no. 557, December 6, 2005.