Southern Africa has experienced highs and lows in its efforts towards democratisation. Following political independence of Southern Africa states, the germination of democratisation was a rather slow process. A brief period of multi-party democracy introduced through pre-independence elections quickly dissipated and was replaced by one-party, one-person and, in some instances, military regimes. This era also coincided with the height of the Cold War globally and the heyday of apartheid in which inter-state conflicts had intensified. Since the late 1980s and early 1990s, a new dispensation has emerged wherein multi-party democracy has re-emerged in the context of the post-Cold War and post-apartheid dispensation, marked by relative peace dividend. However, democratisation in Southern Africa remains a mixed bag today. Some countries have not yet experienced the democratic transition. Others have managed to transition from one-party, one-person and military regimes to multi-party democracies. In various others, there are signs of reversal of democratic gains. This paper reviews the state of democratisation in Southern Africa with a view to understand why the regional record is so uneven across countries that form the Southern African Development Community (SADC). While the article presents a regional snapshot, it also presents comparative insights from Botswana and Lesotho.
Comment: The author debates the popular notion of whether states were 'fit for democracy' by asking whether they became 'fit through democracy' through the example of South African countries. The paper thus contributes to the debate on democratisation of formerly colonised/ authoritarian countries and the ideas in political science about democratic trajectories by investigating the linkages between political transitions and democratisation. This article can be used by students of political history in tracing the history of democratisation around the world, as well as in the debate of the longterm impacts of colonisation and authoritarian rule on democracy.