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The theory and application of consociational democracy in South Africa : a case study of KwaZulu-Natal.

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Liberal democracy has failed to address issues of development, especially in plural societies such as South Africa, where different segments of society and government representation coexist. Its focus on individualism rather than collectivism; its competitive nature and lack of participation, injects an uncommon practice to the African political culture. Liberal democracy has been perceived by scholars and more generally, political commentary as an appropriate political system to address issues of development. This in part may be the result of not drawing focus on the relationship of development to other systems of government, more especially consociational democracy. And thus, due to the weaknesses and assumptions inherent in both new and classical liberal democracy, the study explored the consociational model in a search for a development model appropriate for South Africa. In essence, the study specifically seeks to provide an alternative paradigm of development by drawing on the consociational theory as advocated by Claude Ake. The study argued that the importance of achieving development through coalition and participation by different segments of society deserves much attention. The conflict perpetrated by power struggles amongst elites is a significant obstacle in the path of development. In filling in the gap between liberalism and development, the study employed the consociational theory in examining the extent to which coalition between different segments of KwaZulu-Natal can work collaboratively towards achieving development. The theory based on Ake’s paradigm of development is used to narrow down the research into a developmental paradigm that will specifically be in reference to KwaZulu-Natal’s three districts, eThekwini, uMzinyathi and uMgungundlovu. Such a paradigm essentially focuses on cooperation and is characterized by a people driven development agenda. The study argues that Claude Ake’s paradigm of development with both its inclusive nature of the individual and emphasis on collective representation appears more feasible and capable of bringing about an African paradigm of development than the dominant liberal approach. The study uses a qualitative research method. As research instruments, interviews and a questionnaire are used to get more detailed information out of participants. Using structured interviews and open interview schedules, interviewees consists of focus groups and elites in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. These interviewees are; councilors at district and local municipalities, traditional leaders, non-governmental organizations, politicians from different political parties, senior government officials, and the unemployed. The study found out that it is abundantly clear that Africa in the 21st century requires a paradigm shift in shaping and conducting its democratic practices and its development agenda. There is a need to adopt a clear paradigm of development that is human centred and characterised by the inclusion of various segments of society. This paradigm should embrace the spirit of inclusiveness, cooperation, participation and recognition of people’s capabilities and freedoms to value. While the study acknowledges the conscious attempts made by South Africa to ensure the participation of the citizenry in development issues, a greater emphasis on cooperation and unity in decision making is necessary in ensuring a smooth process of development, particularly in South Africa’s most deprived communities.


Doctor of Philosophy in Political Science.


Constitutional history -- South Africa -- KwaZulu-Natal., Democracy -- South Africa -- KwaZulu-Natal., Theses -- Political science.