Within the context of the multiple historical and political obstacles to the consolidation of democratic transitions in southern Africa, the panel focuses on how poverty and social inequalities may have contributed to undermining the legitimacy of liberal democracy in the region.
In spite of the high expectations raised in the early 1990s by the end of the apartheid regime in South Africa, the independence of Namibia and the resolution of the civil war in Mozambique, the consolidation of liberal democracies in southern Africa has not been accomplished yet. While multiparty elections have become the norm in the region and good governance has been strengthened, the concentration of power in the presidency and the political and organizational weaknesses of opposition parties and civil society organizations still hamper the achievement of democratic consolidation. In addition to that, a falling voter turnout indicates a growing popular disenchantment with the institutions of democratic representation. Within the context of the multiple historical and political obstacles to the consolidation of democratic transitions in southern Africa, the panel focuses on how the persistence of poverty and social inequalities may have contributed to undermining the legitimacy of liberal democracy in the southern African countries. The national and international efforts aimed at fighting poverty and achieving the Millennium Development Goals notwithstanding, poverty and social destitution remain pervasive in southern Africa, while economic inequalities have been rapidly increasing. In particular, the panel will try to address the following questions: what role do poverty and social inequalities play in the contemporary politics of southern Africa? What are the features of the emerging social pacts in the region? What impact do current processes of redefinition of citizenship and rights in southern Africa exert on the transformation of democracy at the global level?