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Consolidating democratic governance in the SADC region: transitions and prospects for consolidation
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The SADC region has made strides towards democratic governance but still faces numerous democratic deficits that need serious attention if democratic consolidation is to occur and endure. This study investigates causal and incidental linkages between political transitions on the one hand, and democracy and democratisation on the other, within the Southern African context. The main problem that it seeks to address revolves around whether or not political transition from authoritarian to multiparty democracy has taken place in the SADC region.
It delves into the factors that explain the situation and what is needed for transition to occur. It also probes the factors behind the variations between and among various SADC states’ progress towards institutionalising democratic governance. It investigates the political transitions and state of democracy and governance in the SADC region using case studies of Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. It uses a four-pronged typology of political regimes classified as authoritarian regimes, electoral authoritarianism, electoral democracy and liberal democracy.
The study is informed by the widely accepted principles of democracy - political control, political equality and socio-economic equality. It found that all the country studies showed progress and faced challenges in transition and democratisation in the following four thematic areas:
representation and accountability
economic and corporate governance.
The study also reviewed other studies worldwide in order to establish the linkages and complementarities with the present study. It found that the majority of SADC member states have undergone democratic transitions from autocratic regimes of the past, although it is not certain that these transitions are sustainable and irreversible. It also found that SADC countries exhibit varying trends of democratisation.
The paper concludes with the following remarks:
Democracy in SADC means much more than the mere act of electing leaders every so often. Its instrumental value should be felt by the people through sustainable human development.
Many SADC countries have undergone transition to a liberal multiparty democracy, but reversals to authoritarian forms of governance cannot be ruled out.
The challenge facing these countries is to transcend this democratic model and aim to adopt and foster a developmental or social democracy.
For the region to realise this type of democracy requires strong institutions that constructively engage each other in the governance process.