Democracy and Accountability: Balancing Majority Rule and Minority Rights

Image: Flickr,UN Geneva
Image: Flickr,UN Geneva

Paper 27 by Advocate Paul Hoffman, director of the Institute for Accountability in Southern Africa, identifies accountability as the essential ingredient required to make the ideals of constitutionalism a reality.

He offers a definition in which three tests for constitutionalism are set out. These are, firstly, limitations on the exercise of power; secondly, legitimacy in the eyes of the people; and, thirdly, respect for human and people’s rights. These three components of constitutionalism are examined against the political backdrop of post-liberation societies in which people’s struggle for freedom becomes subsumed by the infighting that occurs within governing elites or liberation movements. This is to the detriment of the realisation of the values of dignity, equality and freedom that underpin the accepted constitutional dispensations, which are given lip service by politicians, but are not implemented in a manner responsive to the needs of the people. This paper is also available in French.

SAIIA sincerely thanks those who acted as peer reviewers for these papers.

Perspectives on Governance: Founded to promote public debate and research on crucial issues of public policy, the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA) is pleased to send you these occasional papers that we hope will contribute to a more robust conversation about the nature of Africa’s governance challenges.

23 Mar 2009