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20 Years of South African Democracy - April 2014

February 6, 2013

St Antony’s College and the African Studies Centre (ASC) at the University of Oxford are planning a conference to be held on 25th/26th April 2014 on 20 Years of South African Democracy.

The purpose of the Conference is to analyse the transition in the 1990s, the subsequent consolidation of democracy and the nature of political authority in South Africa. We envisage six linked streams: the transition; the constitutional settlement and its legacy; new institutions and their recent history; democratic consolidation, the ANC and dominant-party rule; political opposition and popular protest; beneficiaries and those marginalised in post-apartheid South Africa. 

The twentieth anniversary of the April 1994 election is an opportune time to re-examine the negotiations as well as the details of the constitution, and its legacy. The context and nature of the settlement - and what it meant to various constituencies, both then and now - will be a key theme for discussion over the two days. Many aspects of the transition, particularly participation by smaller political groupings, are less well explored than the contestations and emerging consensus between the ANC and National Party. Alternative scenarios have been submerged in a narrative of success. Yet the constitution has endured and the negotiations, as well as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, have attracted interest from a wide range of other countries. 

Panels will also focus on other important aspects of the South African state and its institutions. The Constitutional Court has probably played a larger role than anticipated, while parliament has been more
subdued. The state of the country’s bureaucracy is a critical issue for research and debate. The ANC has come under considerable scrutiny both in recent conferences marking its centenary, and also in the run up to Mangaung. Yet the workings of the movement, its political culture and its internal divisions are still inadequately understood. President Zuma’s re-election and the responses to Marikana both throw new light on the ANC. We hope that papers will be offered on parties, ideologies, elections, patronage and the question of who rules South Africa and how. Equally, the emergence of popular opposition in postapartheid South Africa has been an unanticipated but significant feature of politics, and popular protest may be changing its form in recent years. The relationship between politics and social divisions, of race, class, gender and region, will also be central for the conference.

The organisers welcome abstracts on these themes and are open to suggestions for panels and papers on related issues. The conference will largely consist of academic papers in panels but at least one plenary session is planned to include politicians and practitioners.

Abstracts of 250 words will be reviewed by the Conference Steering Committee and a response
given as soon as possible. Abstract deadline is July 1st 2013. Financial support is being sought for those giving papers.

Conference Organiser: Jason Robinson. Email correspondence to Jason.Robinson@sant.ox.ac.uk, St Antony’s College, Oxford OX2 6JF, ph 075 2619 0419


Conference Steering Committee: Jocelyn Alexander, William Beinart, Colin Bundy, Nic Cheeseman, Shane Mac Giollabhuí, Jonny Steinberg