- The New South African Review 2: new paths, old compromises? ed. by John Daniel et al.
The second volume of the New South African Review provides a comprehensive overview of the contemporary state of South Africa by focusing on four major themes: politics and international relations, economics and society, environment and media. This all encompassing, in-depth analysis provides a valuable insight into the major challenges facing the country nearly two decades after apartheid has ended. The authors' provide well-balanced arguments supported by sound qualitative and quantitative analysis leaving the reader replenished with new insights and information.
The section of the book pertaining to politics and international affairs explores the myriad forces at play in the South African political arena and specifically examines the multi-dimensional character of the African National Congress (ANC); the nature of opposition politics, the question of participation under the new democratic dispensation. In addition it ventures outside of the national political arena to examine South Africa's relationship with its Southern neighbours.
In addition to providing valuable insights into the history and contemporary nature of the tri-partite alliance, Pillay explores the voting patterns of the electorate. The percentage of eligible voters who vote for the ANC decreased to 38.8 per cent from 53.8 per cent and of all eligible voters in the most recent national election, 12.2 million voters abstained from casting a vote (44). This chapter raises important questions about how South Africans feel towards democracy almost nineteen years after apartheid has [End Page 302] ended. Does this indicate that we're heading down a path of apathy or will it give birth to new political voices with parties and policies that will enable those voices to be heard? And who will listen to those voices given that the ANC still exercises such a strong hold over a majority of South African citizens. Alternatively, one may ask how long it will take for the ANC to loosen their grip over the majority?
Southern and Southall examine the shape and form of the political opposition in South Africa, the tactics that the leading opposition party is employing, and whether these have been successful. The authors go further to imagine what a new opposition would look like, emphasising the need for a more coherent alternative and outlining the key guiding principles that the new opposition ought to embody.
The chapter addressing the 'Zanufication debate' challenges the perception that South Africa is evolving into Zimbabwe by exposing some of the key differences between the two countries, thereby presenting a much more sophisticated and nuanced perspective on the issue:
It is important to make a clear distinction between the thorough going authoritarian character of Zanu PF in contemporary Zimbabwe and the real but constrained and contested authoritarianism of the ANC in South Africa which still exists within, and is tempered by, the country's broader democratic structure.
The authors attempt to determine not whether South Africa can be equated to Zimbabwe but whether South Africa is heading on the same trajectory as Zimbabwe. The strength in this approach is that it provides an un-biased argument based on the complexities of the situation differentiating it from other less rational debates.
The issue of participation within a democratic state is a challenging one to address. Despite South Africa's vibrant civil society, the country still faces major obstacles in this regard. Buccus and Hicks raise an important question: How do the poor and unorganised participate in this democracy? The authors illustrate how oftentimes the legislation to enable participation does exist but the mechanisms to enforce the law are inadequate or nonexistent. Addressing the issue of participation of the silenced masses, they argue, is a crucial step towards constructing a more just society.
The reader is exposed to various aspects of South Africa's economic sphere. The argument for worker cooperatives to be used as a vehicle to strengthen economic empowerment is supported by concrete examples of successful cases in South Africa. Whilst the creation...