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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Is South Africa heading towards authoritarian rule? Instability myths and expectation traps in a new democracy
Author:Butler, AnthonyISNI
Periodical:Politikon: South African Journal of Political Studies
Geographic term:South Africa
heads of State
About person:Thabo Mvuyelwa Mbeki (1942-)ISNI
External link:https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/713692335
Abstract:Political analysts are ambivalent about leadership in new democracies. Such States need powerful leaders to establish fresh economic and political institutions, to deflect the demands of interest groups and activists, and to build consensus out of the inevitable conflict of transition. At the same time, however, weak constitutional forms and feeble countervailing forces make personal power dangerous. This article examines political leadership in South Africa. It first places President Mbeki's leadership in comparative perspective by exploring the political challenges faced by new democracies. In particular, it assesses demands from the OECD zone or the 'international community' that political leadership should be strong yet also constrained in such States. The article then examines Mbeki's purported centralization of the State machine and his 'democratic centralist' control of the ANC and its allies. It concludes that Mbeki, far from being propelled by inexorable forces, is in fact caught in an expectations trap created by commercial, media and academic analysis. While a drift into authoritarianism remains unlikely, Mbeki's personal power will itself generate many of the costs normally associated with non-democratic rule. Notes, ref., sum.