JAE Volume 8 Number 2, October 2009

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Editors: Denis Kadima & Khabele Matlosa
Copy Editor: Pat Tucker

Contributors: Norbert Kersting, Phillip Mtimkulu, Khabele Matlosa, Bernadeta Killian, Kevin S Fridy, Ernest T Mallya.

Key terms: Direct Democracy, Southern, East, Africa, Referendums, and Initiatives, One-Party Dominance, Lessons, South Africa, Role, SDC, Management, Zimbabwe, Post-election Crisis, Zanzibar?, Elections, Civil Society Organisations, State, Popular Participation, Tanzania, Review, African Peer Review Mechanism, Ross Herbert, Steven Gruzd, SAIIA.

Direct Democracy in Southern and East Africa: Referendums and Initiatives

Norbert Kersting

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Prof Norbert Kersting holds the Willy Brandt Chair on Transformation and Regional Integration (DAAD) in the Department of Political Science, Stellenbosch University

ABSTRACT: There seems to be a worldwide trend towards direct democracy instruments such as referendums and initiatives. The African Union Charter (2007) and the New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad) strategy papers (2003) recommend these instruments. Is direct democracy the panacea for the problem of strong personalisation of African party politics? If electoral democracy is the problem, is direct democracy the solution? The article describes the legal framework and the implementation in countries in Southern and East Africa. Referendums, which are solely implemented at the national level, were often used to support regime change in the 1960s (independence) and in the 1990s (multiparty systems) and to strengthen and finalise conflict resolution. Plebiscites, characterised by strong executive governmental campaigning and party dominance predominate and citizen initiatives are not common. The implementation of citizen initiatives at both national and local level could be an additional way of strengthening accountability.

The Key to One-Party Dominance: A Comparative Analysis of Selected States: Some Lessons for South Africa

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Phillip Mtimkulu

Dr Phil Mtimkulu is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Political Sciences at the University of South Africa

ABSTRACT: Since the ascent to power of the African National Congress (ANC) in 1994 the concept of one-party dominance has dominated the South African political landscape. It is argued that the magnitude of the ANC's victories in four consecutive elections raises questions about whether South Africa is headed for a one-party dominant political system achieved through democratic rather than authoritarian means - a feat achieved by only a few political parties in the past century. The argument in this article is that the ascension to power of parties which have attained dominance has been preceded by extraordinary circumstances prevailing within their states and that it was the successful involvement of these parties in resolving these circumstances that was responsible for their victory in subsequent elections. However, other factors also contributed to the continued electoral success of the parties. The ANC also traces its ascension to power back to the extraordinary circumstances that prevailed in South Africa and which the party assisted in resolving. This article assesses the possibility that the ANC will attain dominance in the South African body politic as parties in other countries have done. This necessitates a study of the factors the parties exploited in order to be continuously voted into power. The ANC emerged victorious from South Africa's fourth non-racial democratic election in 2009, a victory that moved the party closer to fulfilling the criteria of a dominant party - winning four consecutive elections and holding power for 20 years or more.

The Role of the Southern African Development community in the Management of Zimbabwe?s Post-election Crisis

Khabele Matlosa

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Khabele Matlose is Programmes Director - EISA

ABSTRACT: The political crisis that beset Zimbabwe following its harmonised elections in March 2008 and the controversial presidential run-off poll in June of the same year has triggered heated debate among academics and policy-makers alike. This paper joins this debate. It proposes an analytical framework for our understanding of the crisis and its political ramifications for democratisation in Zimbabwe. In this regard, it problematises the key question, whether or not elections are meaningful to those who have voted if political elites are able to form a government by other means. It unravels the underlying factors behind the post-election crisis, one of these being Zimbabwe's long trajectory of ZANU-PF's political hegemony to the detriment of a viable multipartyism. It investigates SADC's intervention through mediation and how far this has taken the country on its democratisation path. While a political settlement has been achieved with the signing of the Global Political Agreement (GPA), the extent to which the key political players adhere to and observe the letter and spirit of the agreement remains moot.

Do Elections Matter in Zanzibar?

Bernadeta Killian

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Bernadeta Killian is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Political Science and Public Administration, University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

ABSTRACT: Do multiparty elections facilitate or hinder the process of democratic consolidation in Zanzibar? Since Tanzania's return to a multiparty system in 1992 three rounds of general elections have been held in Zanzibar, all of them marred by gross irregularities, fraud, violence, and insecurity. All three elections were also followed by a political stalemate, with a major opposition party rejecting defeat, refusing to recognise the elected government, and challenging the results. Consequently, the legitimacy of the elected government has remained questionable for more than a decade. This puts in question the reliance on the 'election-centric concept' of the 'consolidation' phase, which tends to place a great deal of hope in the holding of periodic elections. This by no means suggests that elections do not matter in Zanzibar. They matter in terms of keeping the flame of democratic struggle alive. Also, as the findings in this article indicate, there is a need to pay attention not only to elections but, equally importantly, to other processes and institutions of governance that enhance the rule of law and individual rights.

Africa's Disappearing Election Results: Why Announcing the Winner is Simply Not Enough

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Kevin S Fridy

Kevin S Fridy is Assistant Professor, University of Tampa

ABSTRACT: In many African countries releasing election results means simply revealing the winners and losers and publicising their percentage of the national vote. This norm makes it very difficult for researchers interested in studying African elections to collect detailed election data and for citizens to evaluate the validity of the results. This article describes the difficulties associated with collecting sub-national election results in a select set of West African countries, explores some of the potential reasons for these difficulties, argues for an alteration in the status quo and pushes election observers and scholars to demand more of African electoral commissions.

Civil Society Organisations, Incompetent Citizens, the State and Popular Participation in Tanzania

Ernest T Mallya

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Earnest T Mallya is Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science and Public Administration, University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

ABSTRACT: Civil society organisations have played a vital role in the relationship between the state and society. In Africa they have come into existence for different purposes, ranging from 'self-help', where the state has failed to help its citizens, to human rights, as the wave of democratisation has peaked, and economic rights, when a country's economy has crashed and governmental capacity declined to the extent that the population has had to take care of itself without help from the government. In Tanzania CSOs have had to play a more extensive role because many citizens are not politically competent and CSOs have had to take the lead in strengthening the demand side of the political equation. But this role is questionable in cases where CSOs have taken to speaking for and representing people in many forums without the consent of those they claim to represent. In the process CSOs, like NGOs, have compromised their autonomy, becoming close allies and partners of the state. The dilemma is that if they do not do this they cannot help the people they purport to help and if they do they are seen to be usurping the power of the people. The way forward is to empower citizens to assume their role as citizens and to ensure that the relationship between CSOs and the state remains beneficial to all.

Review: The African Peer Review Mechanism: Lessons from the Pioneers

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by Ross Herbert & Steven Gruzd
SA Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA)

Grant Masterson