The consolidation of democracy in South Africa and the legacy of the United Democratic Front
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Despite the rhetoric of democratic participation, of participatory development, of the need for partnerships between state and civil society, and even a call within the ANC for a culture of volunteerism to be revived, it is a source of grave concern that levels of political and social participation are dropping. In a society where unemployment is unacceptably high, and expectations of government 'delivery' of basic needs are also unreasonably high, most citizens who vote for the ANC adopt the position of 'loyal grumblers': they do not see themselves as having a role to play in the delivery of those benefits of democratic government which they anticipated.
I have argued that levels of political participation were particularly high in the urban African townships of the Eastern Cape during the 1980s, and that something of this culture of participation was 'carried through' with the establishment of representative democracy in the 1990s. It is now perhaps the right time to revisit some of these questions around the nature and extent of political participation, and to see what lessons we can draw from this experience in order to understand the consolidation of democracy in South Africa.