Academic journal article Strategic Review for Southern Africa

In This Issue

Academic journal article Strategic Review for Southern Africa

In This Issue

Article excerpt

Twenty years of democratic South Africa inspires many scholars to look back, reflect on the achievements and failures and take stock of the current situation, maybe even to cast a view on possible future scenarios. This issue of the Strategic Review for Southern Africa is one of many efforts to engage with social realities in the context of a post-apartheid society; a society, where controlled change with the negotiated transition to regular democratic elections in a multi-party pluralist setting resulted to some extent in changed control. We are confronted with socio-economic, as well as political realities affected by and facing the challenges of structural legacies. The transitions and transformations documented re-alignments within a social and political framework, but often rather modified instead of transcended the previous systemic boundaries. The lack of fundamental shifts towards a genuinely people-centered development stands in strong contrast to the new elite policy and the relative privileges secured by its beneficiaries in the echelons of state and administration and the private sector. The emerging trends have been dubbed by some scholars as the 'limits to liberation'.

The aim of this special issue is to contextualise the efforts, hopes, aspirations, declared goals and the setbacks, measured against the expectations with regard to different sectors, and cross cutting issues pertinent to contemporary South African society. Other books and journals will offer similar, more or less ambitious perspectives. Predictably, not many of the analyses will resort only to uncritical praise songs and merely hail the achievements of the first two decades under a democratic political system. But as few will be similarly simplistic by only condemning or dismissing what has been achieved so far, as limited as it occasionally might seem to be. One should always keep in mind that as a point of departure there was nothing good in the so-called good old days. Hence democratic South Africa, with all its limitations and setbacks, remains a step forward. Twenty years on, for many in South Africa, life remains not good, but for many it is better than before. However, has South Africa done as well as it could have if there had been a more determined political will and a governance agenda serving indeed the ordinary people as a top priority?

As in most cases of soul-searching examination, it is rather easy to share critical observations and to put a finger on failures in delivery. …

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