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Elections debate spirals out of control in Makana Municipality

In anticipation of tomorrow’s local elections in South Africa, I am going to post a few items today about the campaigns in various localities, particularly from the provinces where I have spent time in the past few years (Eastern Cape, Western Cape and Gauteng).

When I traveled with several students to the Eastern Cape during the summer of 2009, we found lots of party in-fighting within ANC municipalities, and varied levels of support for the breakaway COPE party. We spent a fair bit of time in Makana municipality, which is centered in Grahamstown (home of Rhodes University).

The excellent newspaper, Grocott’s mail, tried to host a debate in Makana’s Joza township last week, but reports that it was plagued with disruptions: Elections debate spirals out of control | Grocott’s Mail Online | Grahamstown News.

In that municipality in 2009 we observed “democracy in action,” during several municipal meetings and issues were debated and sometimes thoughtfully considered, but we also saw instances of this type of “vigorous” and raucous politics crowding out thoughtful deliberation. The ANC may lose some seats, but is not likely to lose control of the municipality. Hopefully, the opposition pressure will lead to better performance rather than simply stronger rhetoric.

About Evan Lieberman

I am a Professor of Political Science at MIT, and I conduct research, write, and teach about development, ethnic politics, and research methods.

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