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South Africa’s democracy at 20: Diagnosis and prognosis

April 17, 2014



Venue: University of South Africa (Unisa), Pretoria, South Africa

10-12 SEPTEMBER 2014


Conference Theme: South Africa’s democracy at 20: Diagnosis and prognosis

A call is made to authors to submit abstracts for the SAAPS National Conference. Please follow the guidelines below:

  • Title of the proposed paper, name of the author(s), email of one author as the contact
  • Length: maximum 200 words
  • Submission deadline: 15 June 2014
  • Send to: panel convenor and cc to In the absence of a convenor, please send it to

 The conference organisers had called earlier for panel proposals. A number of them were accepted and form part of this call for abstracts. It means that authors can submit abstracts either under one of these panels or under the conference sub-themes mentioned later or in an open category. The conference organisers will later create panels to accommodate all the accepted abstracts.

The approved panels are the following (an explanation of their purpose is provided later):

  1. Reflecting on 20 years of democracy: does gender matter? - Convenors: Prof Amanda Gouws, and Prof Shireen Hassim,
  2. South Africa’s democratic norm entrepreneurship within the African Union: Hopeful or hopeless? – Convenor: Gerrie Swart,
  3. South Africa’s democracy at 20: Diagnosis and prognosis of Russia-South African relationship – Convenors: Dr Siphamandla Zondi, and Dr Alexandra Arkhangelskaya,
  4. Challenges and opportunities in teaching and learning in tertiary institutions with a focus on Politics and International Relations – Convenors: Dr Victoria Graham, and Dr Suzanne Graham,
  5. Does Political Theory have a postcolonial future? – Convenor: Prof Suren Pillay,
  6. South African elections – Convenor: Dr Kealeboga Maphunye,  

In deciding on an abstract topic authors could either identify one as part of the conference theme or as part of the Political Sciences in general. The conference theme is understood by the organisers as follows: In April 1994 the transition in South Africa concluded its first phase with the general elections and introduced the second phase of a Government of National Unity and a Constitutional Assembly. Most observers and scholars regard that election as the beginning of democratization in South Africa. In 2014 the fourth general elections conclude the first two decades of a post-apartheid dispensation, of a far-reaching transformation period, of a national democratic revolution in the words of the ANC, and of democratization. While the South African government its own Ten Year Review in 2004 and Fifteen Year Review in 2009, 2014 provides an opportunity for political scientists to conduct our own retrospection, diagnosis and prognosis.

Though the transition in the 1990s concentrated on the constitutional aspects with strong institutional, legal and political foci, 1994 can also be seen as a catalyst for deep-seated social changes and a new role for South Africa in the international community. Serious differences of opinion are expressed about the economy in the past twenty years: is it a neo-apartheid economy or two racialised economies as President Mbeki observed it; it is a neo-liberal globalized economy detached from the poverty priorities or is it the foundation of a developmental state?

The purpose of this Conference is to provide an opportunity for the broad political science community in South Africa and beyond to focus our attention on analyzing the political dynamics and trends in South Africa, comparing it with similar cases, providing explanations and identifying trends, test theoretical premises and look for opportunities of conceptualizing specific aspects of South African politics or engage in different forms of theory building.

The conference theme lends itself to a wide range of sub-themes and participants are encouraged to submit paper abstracts in any of the following sub-themes:

  1. A retrospective or revisionist view of the transition in the 1990s.
  2. South African constitutionalism, human rights and judicial politics.
  3. South Africa’s foreign policies and international relations.
  4. The state of democracy in South Africa: democratic consolidation, the quality of democracy.
  5. Gender relations and politics.
  6. South African political economy and development.
  7. Party politics, party systems and elections.
  8. Governance in South Africa.

The conference programme will consist of Conference Theme Panels and Open Theme Panels. The Open Theme Panels can focus on any of the sub-disciplines in the Political Sciences that are not yet accommodated in the conference theme. It is meant for participants who don’t specialize in South African topics but who still want to participate in the conference. Abstracts for the Conference Theme Panels can be in the mentioned sub-themes mentioned above or any other area relevant for the conference theme. Potential participants are therefore invited to submit abstract proposals in both categories to the organisers. SAAPS also established three caucuses to encourage more interaction and cooperation in specific sub-disciplines. The organisers want to encourage proposals for caucus panels also. The International Relations caucus is coordinated by Prof Jo-Ansie van Wyk ( and Dr Costa Georghiou (; the African Politics caucus is coordinated by Prof Clive Napier ( and the Gender caucus is coordinated by Prof Amanda Gouws ( Proposals in these caucuses should be discussed with these coordinators.


Any information regarding the conference arrangements will be available from Prof Clive Napier,

Any information regarding the conference programme, panels and presentations will be available from Prof Dirk Kotzé, 



1 Title of Panel: Does Political Theory have a Postcolonial Future?

Panel Convenor:  

Assoc. Prof. Suren Pillay, Centre for Humanities Research, Univ. of the Western Cape,

This panel asks how Political Science and Political Studies might engage with what we might call a history of Eurocentrism. By that we mean, our dominant theorization of political modernity - its key concepts and assumptions. Its philosophical and theoretical foundations in particular, rely on a history that remains largely teleological in perspective and geographically delimited.  The defining concepts of modern political life, such as freedom, sovereignty, democracy, representation, equality, the citizen, the nation-state, are all concepts taken to often be transparent and normatively the marker of progress, and the product of Western civilization.  Even our dominant conceptions of the relationship between violence, modernity and progress, resides in this form of the narrative through which the past’s injustices or violence is potentially redeemed by the society created in its wake. The normative assumption being the creation of a modern, free society of equal citizens pursuing their own ends. In short, what we call liberal democracy and its political subject- the rational autonomous individual. More democratic versions of our political modernity are emerging in the realms of history, sociology and anthropology, to suggest two propositions that challenge this origins story- that the Western tradition is the product of borrowing from other traditions, and secondly, that political modernity itself might not be singular but rather plural. In this view China, Asia, Africa and Latin America, contain within them histories of intellectual life that have produced knowledge which has contended with the major predicaments of contemporary political life. What are the implications of these propositions for how we teach political theory today? By today, we mean, in contrast to the way in which this question was posed in the immediate moment after colonialism, when one form of centrism might have been replaced by another. How do we navigate towards a pedagogy and a curriculum which grapples with political theory as a diverse set of intellectual traditions which are neither discreet nor static but rather entwined and dynamic? This question becomes even more pertinent when considered against the recent past which shaped the emergence and pre-occupations of the discipline of Political Studies and Political Science in South Africa.  This panel invites reflections on the history of Political Science and Political Theory, as well as reflections on its futures.  It is particularly interested in papers which reflect on how we might constitute the teaching, curriculum and pedagogy of a postcolonial and post apartheid Political Theory course in an African or South African university. 

2 Title of Panel: South Africa’s democracy at 20: Diagnosis and prognosis of Russia - South African relationship.

Panel Convenors:

Dr. Siphamandla Zondi, IGD, SA,, Tel: +27 (12) 337 6021

 Dr. Alexandra Arkhangelskaya, Institute for African Studies, Russia,, Tel: +7 (903) 1483535

Both are members of a recently launched South Africa Russia Dialogue Forum (SARDF, and their research interests coalesce around foreign policy and emerging powers with special reference to the BRICS.

This panel envisions to focus on diagnosis and prognosis of bilateral relations between South Africa and Russia, with a special focus on the analysis of the nature, history, current tendencies and potential of such relationship as well as their recent interaction in the BRICS grouping, and how it is relevant for South African foreign policy formula after 20 years of democracy.  This panel welcomes an analysis of the issues like the key drivers of the relations, key phases in the relations, institutions, political cultures and the recently launched comprehensive strategic partnership. Another important cluster of the discussion could be the study of the perspective on how Russia-South Africa relations impact BRICS development and how they could contribute to growth in intra-BRICS cohesion. It could consider significant areas where the two countries have collaborated closely or have not collaborated on within BRICS. Namely, the areas of convergence in the country’s approaches to BRICS themes in order to propose ways in which the relations could be enhanced.

Papers focusing on various aspects of the South Africa- Russia relations will be most welcome, especially focused on:

1.     Global reforms – economy, governance and peace

2.     Development and Sustainable development

3.     Science, Technology and Education 

The discussions will also consider broader regional issues given impetus by the bilateral relations.

3 Title of Panel:Reflecting on 20 years of democracy: does gender matter? Panel Convenors:

Prof Amanda Gouws (SU), Prof Shireen Hassim (Wits),

In 2014 South African democracy will be twenty years old. A significant aspect of the past two decades is the attention to the rights, needs and interests of women citizens. There have been major advances in some aspects of democracy – for example, the presence of women in government and the creation of new structures in the state – as well as many setbacks to the project of gender equality of which gender based violence is one of the most serious. Paper should be linked to the following topics: •       The politics of women’s representation •       Political participation: political parties, social movements, and other forms of collective action •       Economic policies: how empowered are women? Will the National Development Plan address gender equality? •       The dimensions of the gendered division of paid and unpaid labour in South Africa •       Multiculturalism: issues of culture and tradition •       Sexualities, power and rights •       Engaging the state and its institutions: is the national gender machinery alive and well? •       Policy-making and implementation with respect to equality •       Gender transformation of the judiciary •       The dimensions and impact of gender based violence on the realisation of gender and sexual rights •       Realising the health and reproductive rights of citizens

4 Title of Panel: South Africa's Democratic Norm Entrepreneurship within the African Union: Hopeful or Hopeless?

Panel Convenor:

Gerrie Swart (US), 

Some possible issues to explore:

South Africa's stature as leading state in AU- Accepted or still Viewed with Suspicion?

SA's stance on Unconstitutional Changes of Government: Consistent or Selective?

SA's role in promoting democracy and free and fair elections in Africa- flawed at inception?

SA's role as Credible Peacemaker in Africa- an established or receding power?

SA's Role in Gender Issues in Africa/ AU, empowerment of women in Africa? A democratic victory or continuing deficit?

Possible other topics can also be added here with a focus on SA's role in the AU structures, AU Commission and issues surrounding democracy promotion via various initiatives since the advent of democracy in SA from 1994.


The following are closed panels and the convenors already submitted a complete list of paper presenters. They are therefore not open for additional abstract proposals.

  1. Nuclear energy in democratic South Africa: trends and transformation
  2. Rethinking sustainable development in Africa
  3. Theoretical implications of 20 years of democracy in South Africa