What makes the South African constitution effective


South Africa has had a surprisingly positive and stable development. The feared "Balkanization" after the end of apartheid did not materialize; there is a democratic normality. A cardinal problem of the new South Africa remains independent of this: The big discrepancy between "first" and "third world" in one country.

Extract from:
From politics and contemporary history (APuZ 04/2005) - South Africa's successful change


The new South Africa is - measured by "African standards" - an exemplary pluralistic democracy. The political system allows fair elections, freedom of expression for all citizens and the media and has established the rule of law. In addition, a decade after the end of apartheid, South Africa is experiencing stability and a state of largely democratic normality that seemed unimaginable before the great political change. [1]

This was initiated in February 1990 by then President Frederic W. de Klerk, when he released Nelson Mandela after 27 years in prison and tore down the South African "wall" between black and white. Shortly thereafter, official negotiations began to overcome racial segregation.

Only an intensive elite compromise between the old political, intellectual and economic leadership and the upcoming black political class around the great reconciler Mandela made peaceful coexistence possible. [2] The South African " Miracle "of general democratization. With the agreement on the transitional constitution in November 1993, it got its centerpiece - even before the democratic founding elections in April 1994 symbolically documented the beginning of a new era. On May 10, 1994 Nelson Mandela became the first freely elected President of South Africa.

Since then, political equality for all South Africans has been firmly anchored. Three national parliamentary and regional as well as two local elections have taken place in the new South Africa so far - with the results most recently confirmed in April 2004: The black majority of the population (almost 80 percent of the approximately 46 million South Africans) has a decisive political weight through "their" representatives . But the whites still dominating the economy (around ten percent) as well as colored people and Indians (together also around ten percent) are more than proportionally represented in political life. The ANC has a stable two-thirds majority and has been the head of government (since 2004) in all nine provinces - four of them are now women.

Because the supremacy of the old (white) elites in many areas of society has so far remained largely untouched, it is justified to speak of a "narrow transition" in South Africa, which "only" changed the political balance of power. [3] What is new, however, is a growing black upper and middle class, which is why the "positive stability" now seems far more well-founded than was imaginable at the end of apartheid. There is a liberal market economy with a guarantee of private property, which the ANC alliance - with its partners Communist Party (SACP) and trade union federation (COSATU) - had propagated to attack until 1994. [4]

Thus, as paradoxical as that may sound, a social change in stability can be identified. Because the emancipation of the once completely (because politically and economically) underprivileged has started profoundly and is continuing without sweeping away everything old. From the point of view of many observers, the tightrope walk between the majority and minority interests of the social groups succeeded on the whole well - even if from the perspective of those who so far benefited little or no material from the transformation, it was only inadequate. The new South Africa has to be understood as an "inverted two-thirds society" compared to European and North American conditions, with many more needy than wealthy.

This is the reason for the parallel task of the new South Africa: Many of those who are now politically equal must now also be given more socio-economically, without taking too much from the old and new economic and functional elites that are required. Change in stability means: a demanding compromise between development dynamics and property and structure preserving statics. How much change can South Africa take without jeopardizing its functionality?

The most important transitional institution between the old and the new South Africa was a government of national unity, in which all relevant population groups were involved through three parties: ANC Alliance, Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and (white) National Party (NP). In 1996, however, this special regulation expired - three years earlier than planned - because Vice President and NP leader Frederik Willem de Klerk could not see any guarantee of white minority influence in the negotiations on the final constitution. [5] A stronger federal order within the two-chamber system was its minimal goal, which the ANC denied. On the basis of the modern liberal constitution, however, in addition to general human rights, at least cultural group rights (language and education) [6] and, above all, the rule of law and party pluralism are guaranteed. In addition, an important constitutional court monitors compliance with the constitutional principles. Their authority and the independence of the judiciary (collectively "rule of law") have so far been recognized in an exemplary manner.