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Political elites and democratic institutions in South Africa since 2004.

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This is a study, through extensive empirical fieldwork research, of political elites and democratic institutions in South Africa from 2004-2018. The study examines the dynamics, roles and challenges of political elites in shaping democratic institutions in South Africa through an examination of the National Assembly. These roles cut across plenary debates, the passage of bills and committee functions. Through the frameworks of democratic elite theory, the political and social composition, attitudes, values and party roles of the elected members of the parliament are discussed. The study also examines the structure, composition, and functions of committees in the parliament. The study explores the roles and functions of elites using qualitative methodology to gather data through interviews and observations. Twenty-five elected members of the South African Parliament were interviewed for the study. The findings of the study also demonstrate that committees are the engine room of the Parliament. The cross-party nature of committees with different MPs from various parties offers an atmosphere for members to actively participate in debate and recommendations transparently. The findings of the study also show that ideological values are a key factor in the recruitment of MPs and determine to a large extent how MPs coalesce around particular value systems and the type of attitudes MPs display in the Parliament. The study recommends that for effectiveness and efficiency of the parliament three steps must be taken. Firstly, the appointment of an independent speaker is essential to promote fairness in parliamentary debates and enhance democracy without party influence. Secondly, the parliamentary rules need to be reviewed particularly in terms of the discipline of MPs and to curb the unruly behaviour of MPs. Thirdly, for effective checks and balances of MPs, MPs should not occupy ministerial offices.


Doctoral Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.