South Africa's Bumpy Road to Democracy
By Peace Watch
This Article Summary written by: Mariya Yevsyukova, Conflict Research Consortium
Citation: "South Africa's Bumpy Road to Democracy". Peace Watch, Vol.1, No. 4. June 1995. United States Institute of Peace, Washington, D.C. Pp. 6-7.
This article is dedicated to the one year anniversary of South Africa's first democratic elections, which took place on April 27, 1994. Nelson Mandela became president as a result of the elections. His approach was to create a nonracial democracy, as opposed to multiracialism. The difference between these two approaches is that multiracialism emphasizes diversity but fails to unite people, while nonracial democracy respects diversity but values unity. This unity can be achieved only through bringing the truth about the past to light. In South Africa this is done through a "committee that investigates crimes and promotes reconciliation..., as well as an affirmative action program" (p. 7).
After the excitement of the fall of apartheid and the beginning of the democratization process, it was time to start dealing with the many problems that exist in the society, such as the dissatisfaction of black people with the government trying to win whites' favor, black people's expectations for quick improvement in their standards of living, an increase in violent crimes and social disorder. Thus, after the excitement declined, deep racial and class differences became apparent. To deal with conflict situations, the National Peace Accord (1991) created a number of peace committees at all levels. Recently the government decided to dismantle conflict resolution organs; many believe that this was done too soon. The action was explained by the belief that democratic institutions can take responsibility for dealing with conflicting issues. But people working in the area of conflict management worry that democracy is not strong enough to fulfill those tasks. They think that the Peace Accord should be revised to respond to new social conditions, but divisions in the society are still very deep and need serious attention. But at the same time, the view of the future is optimistic. First, blacks and whites understand that the success of the democracy depends on their cooperation. Second, South Africa has a leadership respected by different layers of the society. Third, both the leaders and the people have high respect for democratic values. It was the Peace Accord that created channels for democratic ways of managing problems in South Africa, and encouraged political groups to adopt those methods.