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South African voters shifted support in 2024 but that’s nothing new – surveys after previous elections showed party loyalty was fluid

South African voters shifted support in 2024 but that’s nothing new – surveys after previous elections showed party loyalty was fluid

TO the casual observer, the outcome of South Africa’s 2024 national and provincial elections, which herald a new era of national coalition governance, may appear to represent new electoral trends. But that is not the case. While the shift in voting patterns is certainly the largest the country has seen since democratic elections began, voter fluidity – people shifting their votes from one election to the next – has been a growing trend among the South African electorate since at least 2016. The 2024 general election is a watershed moment in South Africa’s democracy. For the first time in 30…
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Biden, Kenya’s Ruto pledge protect democracy in Africa and beyond

Biden, Kenya’s Ruto pledge protect democracy in Africa and beyond

U.S. President Joe Biden welcomed Kenyan President William Ruto to the White House for a state visit, pledging new partnerships on technology, security and debt relief to the leader of one of Africa's strongest democracies. Ruto's is the first state visit by an African president to the White House since 2008, a gesture toward the importance of a continent that is home to 1 billion people and nurtures close trade ties with China, but which ranks behind the wars in Ukraine and Gaza on Washington's agenda. On Thursday evening, Ruto was the guest of honour at a lavish state dinner that drew a wide…
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How the Mandela myth helped win the battle for democracy in South Africa

How the Mandela myth helped win the battle for democracy in South Africa

POLITICAL history scholar Jonny Steinberg’s 2023 book Winnie & Nelson: Portrait of a Marriage is a double biography of South Africa’s most famous political figures – Nelson Mandela and Winnie Madikizela Mandela – and their role in the country’s struggle for democracy. It’s also a book that shatters countless myths about the couple and the liberation struggle that have been formed in popular culture and even academic tellings of history. As South Africa commemorates 30 years of democracy, we asked Steinberg for his views on how and why these historical myths are formed. How did Winnie and Nelson become so…
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South Africa’s constitution was set up as the bedrock of its democracy: it’s been challenged over last 30 years, but has held firm

South Africa’s constitution was set up as the bedrock of its democracy: it’s been challenged over last 30 years, but has held firm

THERE was a moment during the state capture years of South African president Jacob Zuma’s term in office (2009 to 2018) when the veil finally slipped. There had been quiet rumblings against the country’s constitution for many years. But now a senior figure in the ruling African National Congress – its chief whip in the National Assembly, Mathole Motshekga – gave public expression to the notion that when judges overturned decisions of the government they were undermining democracy by thwarting the will of the majority. As I watched a 2014 parliamentary ad hoc committee debate the Public Protector’s report on…
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Chad presidential election: assassination of main opposition figure casts doubt on country’s return to democracy

Chad presidential election: assassination of main opposition figure casts doubt on country’s return to democracy

THE assassination of Chad’s main opposition leader, Yaya Dillo, is hanging heavy over presidential elections due in early May. Dillo was killed on 28 February when the headquarters of the opposition Party Socialiste sans Frontières (Party of Socialists without Borders) in the Chadian capital N'Djamena was besieged by the newly formed Rapid Reaction Force. It’s not the first violence meted out to the opposition. In October 2022 Chadian security forces killed hundreds of protesters. They were protesting the extension of the transition to democracy from 18 to 36 months and the decision of transitional president Mahamat Idriss Déby to stand…
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South Africa will work harder, sparing neither strength nor courage, to fulfil the basic human rights of her people

South Africa will work harder, sparing neither strength nor courage, to fulfil the basic human rights of her people

THE adoption of our Constitution with its Bill of Rights by the Constitutional Assembly on the 8th of May 1996 was a great moment in our struggle to achieve a free and equal society.  As I said at the time, it marked the day our country and our people came of age. I referred to our constitution as the birth certificate of our nation. On that occasion, we proclaimed to the world that we are a society committed to democracy, to the rule of law and to the protection of human rights.  The Constitution came to be as a result…
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West Africa bloc to negotiate with Niger junta on return to democracy

West Africa bloc to negotiate with Niger junta on return to democracy

WEST Africa's regional bloc ECOWAS set up a committee of three leaders to negotiate with Niger's military junta on a transition to democratic rule and to consider easing sanctions, a communique said after an annual summit. Niger in July became the latest Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) member to undergo a coup when soldiers from the presidential guard detained President Mohamed Bazoum and set up what they called a transitional government, one of a series of government overthrows in West Africa's Sahel region. At Sunday's summit in the Nigerian capital Abuja, ECOWAS decided to set up a committee of leaders…
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Senegal’s internet shutdowns are another sign of a democracy in peril

Senegal’s internet shutdowns are another sign of a democracy in peril

SENEGAL’S government began blocking several digital platforms – including Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Telegram and YouTube – in certain areas on 1 June. Days later, it extended the disruptions to all mobile internet and several television stations. The social networks were shut down for two days. This was followed by a four-day mobile internet shutdown. Author JEFF CONROY-KRUTZ, Associate Professor of Political Science, Michigan State University Given that nearly all Senegalese internet users access it through their mobile phones, these moves constituted a near-total block on digital communications and information. Internet penetration in Senegal has exploded in recent years. A decade…
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Media freedom and democracy: Africans in four countries weigh up thorny questions about state control

Media freedom and democracy: Africans in four countries weigh up thorny questions about state control

IN July 2022, BBC Africa Eye released a documentary on gang activity in northwestern Nigeria. The programme, The Bandit Warlords of Zamfara, examined the raids on villages, abductions and murders that have plagued swaths of the country. Notably, it included interviews with so-called bandits, who described their violent actions and laid out their grievances. Author JEFFREY CONROY-KRUTZ, Associate Professor of Political Science, Michigan State University The Nigerian government responded furiously to the documentary’s airing. The minister of information, Lai Mohamed, called it “a naked glorification of terrorism and banditry”. The National Broadcasting Commission, which regulates broadcasting, said it “undermines national…
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South Africans are fed up with their prospects, and their democracy, according to latest social attitudes survey

South Africans are fed up with their prospects, and their democracy, according to latest social attitudes survey

THE mood among South Africans has soured. The latest findings from the representative survey that’s done every year by the country’s Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) show some disturbing new trends. The most marked are: a decline in levels of life satisfaction as a whole a downturn in people’s views about what lies ahead in their lives a growing sense of despondency, and a declining satisfaction with democracy. Authors JOLEEN STEYN KOTZE, Chief Research Specialist in Democracy and Citizenship at the Human Science Research Council and a Research Fellow Centre for African Studies, University of the Free State BENJAMIN ROBERTS,…
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