A Comparative Study of the Namibian and South African Transitions to Democracy and the Effects on Reconciliation

Mechnig, Christopher Markus (2010-03)

Thesis (MPhil (Political Science))--University of Stellenbosch, 2010.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The Namibian transition to independence and the South African transition to a majority democracy have many similarities as well as differences. The key similarities are composed of the shared history and mutual influences on society, the economy and national politics. Key differences constitute the manner in which the transitions were executed: internationally imposed in the Namibian case, and internally negotiated in the South African case. Almost every facet of Namibian and South African societies have in some way or another been imprinted by the respective transitions, which also contributed to the shape of the national consciousness. However, decades of stateenforced racial discrimination in the form of Apartheid legislation left its mark on both the Namibian and South African society. As a result, public and private consciousness is marred with racial and ethnic identities created and legislated during Apartheid, which is hampering democratic consolidation. This study provides a comparison between the South African and Namibian transitions, within the broader context of democratic consolidation. This study contends that reconciliation is a necessary condition for democratic consolidation in South Africa and Namibia, and aims to assess whether there is any significant difference between the impact of the internationally orchestrated Namibian transition as opposed to the internally negotiated South African transition on levels of reconciliation in the two countries. This is done by applying Gibson’s (2004) four criteria of reconciliation (interracial reconciliation, political tolerance, support for the principles of democracy and legitimacy) to the South African and Namibian cases. The hypothesis is that there should be less support for democratic ideals in Namibia than in South Africa, on the basis that democracy was, to a certain degree, forced unto Namibian society, while it was freely chosen by South African society. The main finding of this study, however, suggests that the differences in the transition style - the one being internationally orchestrated and the other being internally negotiated- seems not to have had any significant affect on national reconciliation. It seems as though hostility between different groups based mainly on the superficial racial and ethnic differences that were created during Apartheid has made way for hostility centred more on socio-economic differences. While socio-economic issues have become the overriding concern for both South Africans and Namibians, socio-economic differences between individuals and groups are still largely tied to ethnicity and race.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die onafhanklikheidswording en die oorgang na ‘n meerderheidsdemokrasie van onderskeidelik Namibië en Suid-Afrika word gekenmerk deur ‘n aantal ooreenkomste asook verskille. Die sleutel ooreenkomste behels die gedeelde geskiedkundige agtergrond, die invloede van die ekonomie en nasionalie politiek klimaat en die gevolglike uitwerking van hierdie faktore op die samelewing. In kontras behels die verskille die wyse waarop die oorgang uitgevoer is. In die Suid-Afrikaanse konteks is die proses deur interne onderhandelinge bewerkstellig terwyl die Namibiese oorgang sterk beinvloed is deur eksterne invloede. Ongeag hierdie verskille het die verwikkelinge ‘n hewige impak gehad op beide die Suid- Afrikaanse, asook die Namibiese publiek en hul kollektiewe bewussyn. Die invloed van jare se rasdiskriminasie in die vorm van apartheidswetgewing het egter sy tol op die publiek geëis. Die gevolg is die merkbare invloed van ras en etniese identiteite op albei lande se bevolkings wat oor die langtermyn demokratiese konsolidasie kan teenwerk. Hierdie studie tref ‘n vergelyking tussen Suid-Afrika an Namibië binne die breër konteks van demokratiese konsolidasie. Die studie veronderstel dat versoening ‘n noodsaaklike vereiste is vir demokratiese konsolidasie in Suid-Afrika en Namibië, en poog ook om die invloed van die intern-gedrewe Suid-Afrikaanse transisie teenoor die ekstern-georkestreerde Namibiese transisie te assesseer. Dit word gedoen deur die toepassing van Gibson (2004) se vier-voudige konsep van versoening (inter-ras versoening, politieke verdraagsaamheid, ondersteuning vir die beginsels van demokrasie en legitimiteit) op beide lande. Die hipotese word as volg geformuleer: Die Namibiese bevolking toon ‘n negatiewe ingesteldheid teenoor demokratiese beginsels aangesien demokrasie as regeerstelsel op die bevolking afgedwing is, in kontras met Suid-Afrika waar demokrasie as regeerstelsel deur ‘n meerderheidstemming verkies is. Die hoofbevinding van hierdie werkstuk is egter dat die verskille in die aard van die oorgang na demokrasie in beide lande nie ‘n noemenswardige invloed gehad het op nasionale versoening nie. Dit blyk egter dat konflik tussen sekere bevolkingsgroepe wat hoofsaaklik spruit uit die etniese en ras identiteite, soos geformuleer deur die apartheidswetgewing, huidiglik gesentreer is rondom sosio-ekonomiese verskille. Gevolglik word dit gemeld dat hierdie sosio-ekonomiese verskille direk verband hou met ras en etnisiteit. i

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