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This report presents the “first findings” from the African Legislatures Project or ALP. The report is based on the preliminary coding and analysis of data obtained from research in six countries—Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, Namibia and South Africa (MP survey findings from South Africa are not presented as that element of the project is still in progress). Because the purpose of ALP is to achieve a comparative understanding of legislative institutions across Africa, and is funded from multiple sources, we have adopted the practice of including data from as many countries as possible when we present findings from the project. Field research for ALP began in late February 2008 and is expected to continue through the end of 2010 as the work proceeds seriatim in 18 African countries.
Emerging legislature or rubber stamp? The South African national assembly after ten years of democracy
This paper examines the role of the South African National Assembly in comparative perspective by discussing the experience of the Assembly since 1994 in comparison to the development of legislative institutions elsewhere in Africa. The paper thus begins with an overview of seven sets of variables that seem to drive the process of legislative development across the continent, and then turns to the South African case. The “conventional wisdom” (CW) on the National Assembly—usually by observers who have spent little time at Parliament—is that the body is little more than a rubber stamp of the ruling African National Congress. The paper explores the validity of this view concluding that it is not inaccurate—to a degree. The combination of ANC’s supra majority, its organisational culture and modus operandi, and South Africa’s system of proportional representation all reduce the independence of the legislature. The paper then examines five dimensions of the legislative process and argues that the CW reflects only part of the reality. The National Assembly is not a mere rubber stamp. More interesting from a theoretical perspective, the same variables that facilitate or undermine the emergence of the legislature as an institution of countervailing power elsewhere in Africa, apply to the South African case as well.
This paper charts the development of the two institutions most central to the nature of representative democracy in South Africa: the electoral system and the National Assembly. It reviews how developments since 1994 have shaped the institutional context in which political parties operate and compete for power. The paper first considers how the National Assembly has developed over the past ten years, reviewing the performance of parliament and its role in the consolidation of democracy. The second part of the paper focuses on the electoral system, reviewing the debate around electoral reform and discussing changes that have been introduced since 1999. In the conclusion, we suggest what the implications of these institutional developments are for the future of representative democracy in South Africa.
Books and Chapters
Chapter in Nijzink, L. and Piombo, J. (Eds.). 2005. Electoral politics in South Africa: Assessing the first democratic decade. New York, NY & Hampshire, English: Palgrave Macmillan. 64-86.
Later published by HSRC Press (2007).
Books and Chapters
A puzzle underpins this groundbreaking study of legislative development in Africa: Why are variations in the extent of legislative authority and performance across the continent only partially related, if at all, to the overall level of democratization? And if democratization is not the prime determinant of legislative authority, what is? Exploring the constraints that have retarded the development and power of legislatures across Africa—and how members of some legislatures are breaking free of those constraints—the authors shed new light on the impact of the legislative branch on the political process in six emerging African democracies.