SA joins worldwide democracy decline

2012-09-18 12:14

Washington - Democratic governance declined throughout the world, including in South Africa, in 2011, showing that gains made in the Middle East and North Africa during the Arab Spring are very fragile and in its chaotic aftermath leaders may slip back into authoritarian rule, a US watchdog group said on Monday.

"In South Africa, considered a beacon of democracy in sub-Saharan Africa, the supremacy of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party and the increasing politicisation of civil service appointments are leading to a reduction in protections for political activism outside of the ANC," the latest Countries at the Crossroads report published by Freedom House said noting score declines.

Four criteria are used to assess the 72 countries surveyed in the Countries at the Crossroads - accountability and public voice; civil liberties; rule of law; and anti-corruption and transparency.

Half of the countries are updated each year, while Egypt and Tunisia were surveyed for both the past two years.

Freedom House says a country score of 5 out of a total of 7 is the minimum standard for effective democratic governance, which it views as essential to an open, just and prosperous society.

On the four criteria averages South Africa scored 4.76; 5.09; 4.39 and 3.90 respectively.

Declines exceed improvements

Amongst the Middle East-North African countries that were surveyed only Tunisia has improved markedly its overall governance score. Bahrain slipped backward and Egypt edged up only slightly.

Worldwide, declines in the quality of governance far exceeded improvements, led by a worsening of government accountability and the rule of law in civil and criminal matters, the US research group said.

The deterioration raises an alarm for pro-democracy advocates who had hoped that the overthrow of brutal authoritarian regimes in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt marked a dramatic breakthrough, said Vanessa Tucker, project director.

"It is unclear whether the popular dismissal of the old models of authoritarianism will translate into enduring public support for novice representative government and contentious institutional reforms," she said.

"There are limits to citizen's patience with respect to political instability, economic disruption and physical insecurity, and the desire to return to a less chaotic environment may allow the leaders to slip back into the familiar habits of authoritarian rule."

The Freedom House measure is used widely by development groups in helping them decide whether a government can use foreign assistance effectively. The report covers the period from April 2009 to December 2011.

Women's rights

In the latest report, Tunisia improved in all categories led by a sharp rise in accountability and public voice, pushing its overall country ranking to 4.11 from around 2.36 before the ouster of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011.

One area of concern the report flagged was women's rights saying Islamist political parties have stoked fears of a rollback in existing rights.

While it uses monitors and experts on the ground and an advisory board, such rankings can be controversial accused of imposing subjective and Western viewpoints.

Accountability and public voice also rose in Egypt after the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, but other measures were flat leading to only a small rise to 2.25 from 1.98 the prior year, despite open elections.

Restrictions on the media, hostility to non-governmental organisations and efforts to restrain women's political activity through "virginity checks" by the military were cited as areas of concern.

Bahrain, once seen as one of the more developed countries, saw its measures decline across the board pulling its country average down to 2.03, the level of pre-uprising Syria, from a recent peak of 3.27 in 2004.

Other findings in the report were:

- Electoral abuses in Malawi and Uganda, in addition to growing corruption in Tanzania, were also responsible for significant score drops in African countries assessed in the latest report.

- Latin America saw increases in violence and organised crime hurting scoring in the countries surveyed there.

The trend included high rates of violence against journalists in Mexico and Honduras, and growing interference by organised crime in the electoral process in Guatemala and Mexico.

- Asia suffered major setbacks in the face of power grabs by the executive branch and ruling parties, particularly in Sri Lanka and Vietnam. Freedom of expression was also constricted as the Indonesian and Cambodian governments and others cracked down on the media.

  • Fidel - 2012-09-18 12:18

    Economic development trumps democracy everyday. Pity that the useless ANC seems to be failing in both, but I wouldn't take anything seriously coming from Washington, who are masters at double speak!

      yung.shlong - 2012-09-18 12:44

      I can agree with you. US policies have too long dominate world issues and sovereign states. Like Zimbabwe says, look east. Africa must now trade with China for more business and mutual benefit.

      Derek - 2012-09-18 12:59

      ANC Governance = Animal Farm (George Orwell)

      Fidel - 2012-09-18 13:00

      It's quite telling that both China and India had the same level of development and populations in the 1950s. China chose totalitarianism and India chose democracy, as they say, the rest is history!

      jacqui.daanevanrensburg - 2012-09-18 13:11

      Yung S.H. Long. No thank you. Your fellow Chinese have turned in their identity here for the sake of making lots of money. Then your fellow countrymen just can't get enough of Rhino horn, Elephant ivory and Lion bones, so they spend lots of money to have our animals killed. As much as I love Chinese music, I dontt think it is a good idea for us to turn to the East. We don't eat dogs and cats and we don't use animal parts in our medicine. So in the end the only thing we will have in common is noodles and I don't think that is enough reason for us to sell our identity, and ourselves, to become good little communists. Your invitation is here by disregarded.

      nads.delange - 2012-09-18 13:45

      Oh no, the Chinese are back. Long, leave Africa alone please, your country is at the helm of stripping Africa of its animals as it is, not to mention the vast human rights violations commited in your country everyday. We don't need your kind in our beautiful country, in SA we still care about animal and human rights, if you had to enter Africa the vast beauty of our country and continent will soon be wiped out completely.

      Jellyarse - 2012-09-18 17:57

      What a stupid headline from News24 - It's not that Democracy is declining around the world - rather that the moronic individuals in the named countries believe in turning democracies into Dictatorships i.e. Mugabe, Zuma etc. As for our Chinese Communist Party Member Yung S.H Long - Pi88 off back to china and practice your failed political ideologies there ( where they have also failed miserably) Tw@

      Fidel - 2012-09-18 23:51

      @Claudia Despite what anyone has told you, China, a communist country has uplifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, the most rapid economic development in history, out of its own efforts and without resorting to slavery, colonialisation and plunder of other nations. Western societies' economic development was inspite of democracy, but because of a surpluss derived from slavery and colonialism. Western countries only introduced civil liberties when those countries were already in an advanced stage of economic development. "The USA is the greatest empire the world has ever seen." You tell that to the millions of Africans chained and shipped accross the oceans to toil on American plantations, to the millions of Indians exterminated by white settlers, to the billion people of South America who have been at the receiving end of US sponsored torture and contras, to the millions of Muslims in the Middle East, to the millions in Vietnam and S/E Asia who perished at the hands of US empire building! So I propose to you this question: What of value do you today possess that you would not have possessed had the Empire never existed? When you learn the answer to that question you will realise how all the resources and lives lost to create and attempt to hold the Empire were totally wasted. And that is what always happens to the resources and people expended in empire building. For a post a stupid as yours, you are lucky to be getting this response from me!

  • Raymon - 2012-09-18 12:19

    No surprise here. As was expected by most educated people, once the ANC came into power, everyone knew that they will NEVER relinquish power. The ANC is reading from Mugabe's playbook, he showed them how it's done.

      Fidel - 2012-09-18 12:33

      Western Cape? You are just speculating, and a lot of people have made a killing from speculating!

      wilhelm.grobbelaar - 2012-09-18 12:51

      I agree. One needs to be blind not to see that the ANC has done nothing good so far. Who knows maybe in the future.

      gerhard.kress.3 - 2012-09-18 18:49

      Mgoqi you Once again, the cheap polemics of Mgoqi

  • bradley.kecskes - 2012-09-18 12:34

    If you do not come to democracy democracy will come to you.

      lynette.venter.12 - 2012-09-18 12:45

      Yes and kill you in your sleep

      Fidel - 2012-09-18 12:57

      You cannot speed up historical democratisation using bombs!

      jacqui.daanevanrensburg - 2012-09-18 13:12

      Fidel, for once I agree with you.

      nads.delange - 2012-09-18 14:03

      I also agree Fidel, not sure why you're getting thumbs down for that one.

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-09-18 18:23

      ""You cannot speed up historical democratisation using bombs!"" What kind of crap is this ??? Who has ever suggested this ???? You are obvious referring to the bombing of strategic military installations in Libya!! Only the dumb and ignorant, and off course, radical clowns, believe this was done to speed up ' democracy' !!!! This was done to save the lives of tens of thousands of Libyans!!! Not , that you could care !!!

      gerhard.kress.3 - 2012-09-18 18:51

      @Mgoqi You cannot speed up historical democratisation using bombs! Now tell us how you propose to speed them up.

  • whatda.fuqbro - 2012-09-18 12:35

    3.9 out of 7 for anti-corruption and transparency? These people are way too generous with their points.

      travis.vermaak - 2012-09-18 15:13

      What transparency and anti-corruption? All our anti-corruption units are 'regulated'(limited) by the ANC themselves.....Bugger all transparecy. Where was the transparency before the ANC attempted to implement e-tolling? There was none.

  • shirley.steenkamp - 2012-09-18 12:37

    At last someone notices! The minority groups right to vote is meaningless and pointless.

      Billy - 2012-09-18 12:42

      but we will ALWAYS keep on trying, never give up

      shirley.steenkamp - 2012-09-18 13:03

      Billy: The eternal flame of hope that burns in all of us I suppose. Yes we will!

  • mmangaliso - 2012-09-18 12:42

    transparency there is no such thing in SA the gov tells u what it wants u to knw

      yung.shlong - 2012-09-18 12:45

      South Africa government must be more like our government and establish new policy and equal trading with her new business partner, China.

      luke.dekoker - 2012-09-18 13:10

      Yes Yung S.H. Long, you are most likely one of those who are making millions with the anc-chinese buddy/buddy scemes.

      mike.boylen - 2012-09-18 13:19

      @Yung S.H. Long. In spite of your government's best efforts, the world has still not forgotten the Tiananmen Square Massacre. This is what awaits African countries that are foolish enough to allow you to exploit them.

      jacqui.daanevanrensburg - 2012-09-18 13:34

      Yung S.H Long. Who are you to tell us what our government should or shouldn"t do. Equal trading? You want ALL our animals now? The only time your government allows protest is when it suits them. Like now with Japan about a couple of miniscule, uninhabited islands. Our Democracy may not be what it is suppose to be, yet, but it is a hell of a lot better than what you have where ancient homes are being torn down to make way for factories and the inhabitants are left homeless. If you want to call this Western Propeganda, be my guest. Why don't you come for a visit and see how beautiful these animals are in their natural domain. You know the ones you people have killed to futher your sex drive and to bring you luck. Burn some paper money for that and since you are not allowed more than one child why the hell worry about sex?.

      nads.delange - 2012-09-18 13:51

      Yung S.H. Long, kindly butt out of our country, we have enough retards trying to run it, we do not need animal killers as well.

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-09-18 14:02

      One can't help when reading any article or comment with China in it, that there is a sense of dread, foreboding, in the tone of "did you hear, number X got eaten by the flesh eating zombies as well , what are we to do !?" They're coming and we're all doomed. Word of advice, if you're going to racially stereotype, do it to a group that isn't one of the biggest out there!

      nads.delange - 2012-09-18 14:10

      Ha ha, true Fidel. I will however racially stereotype them until they leave our animals alone. I feel strongly about politics and our economy, but nothing comes close to my love for animals, and watching them get butchered because of ridiculous medicinal beliefs kills me!

      rontheogre - 2012-09-18 15:45

      Long, I would not mind too much, trading with China, if only the stuff they make would stop breaking. Even the construction they are doing in Angola is already falling down after 2 years. They are now even breaking our rhino to get to the horns. They think that rhino horn will keep everything erect for longer.

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-09-18 18:27

      Yung S.H.Long Are we not fortunate that 88 % of foreign investments in SA come from the EU, and so creates hundreds of thousands of jobs!!! Your country has, just in the last year, destroyed tens of thousands of jobs. CHINA IS AN ENEMY OF AFRICA !!!! Keep your cheap crap and your people, at home !!!

  • mmangaliso - 2012-09-18 12:42

    transparency there is no such thing in SA the gov tells u what it wants u to knw

  • BulletProof. - 2012-09-18 12:50


  • Fidel - 2012-09-18 12:51

    Only an ideologue would argue that a European type of democracy is possible or even desirable in countries with very low socio economic-development.

      raymond.dick.12 - 2012-09-18 13:09

      First time you have ever said anything tht I agree with. So what is the alternative? Do you have one?

      BigChiefPlumbPudding - 2012-09-18 13:40

      Democracy is not based on a European style or American style. Democracy is based on principles that you either abide by or not. You either have it or you don't. We have something that looks like democracy from the outside, but once unpacked, it doesn't measure up too well to a real democracy.

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-09-18 13:44

      Firstly, a recognition that cultures do exist in different states of development and in different environments, and therefore what can be considered important, e.g. civil liberties or individual rights in one culture, can't in another. Sacrificing individual rights for the benefit of the society as a whole, to limit the influence of competing interests who often pull in different directions. Don't get me wrong - I think political freedom is important, and multiparty democracy generally a good thing. But they're not the *most* important things. In many parts of the world, people would rather have a government that brings economic development rather than political freedoms, and as long as they're able to live safely and in peace, don't particularly mind the lack of multiparty elections.

      nads.delange - 2012-09-18 14:00

      Fidel, I agree with you. The problem is that people are power hungry and greedy by nature. So in societies where one government gets too comfortable, they start exploiting that position for their personal gain, and forget about the people they once served. That is what happened to the ANC. As soon as we start talking about a dictatorship or single party government, we're in trouble, because when there is nobody to question the government, to check up on them and point out their weaknesses, we end up in a situation where people are hungry, poor and uneducated (basically exactly what's happening here, only worse). You need the government to answer to the people, and the only way to do that is to vote. If you can find another way to hold them accountable, maybe then we'll have a solution.

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-09-18 14:23

      I think the problem lies mainly with leadership, wether elected or dictorships. We have a bunch of cruel swines in this country who pass themselves as leaders. Honestly SA has had the financial resources to have been able to make strides in the economic development of a large part of the population, but that has been thrown away in an orgy of corruption and pillaging by these scumbags. Had the character of the ANC leadership been principled, disciplined, honest and competent, I would not have minded them being in a dictatorship, ala Beijing, or similar how the Nats dominated politics in this country but ensured that there was meaningful benefit to its constituency and part of the country's infrastructure. But we have chosen democracy in this country with its pros and cons!

      nads.delange - 2012-09-18 15:02

      Fidel, I completely agree with you. Until we have leaders who can use the financial strength of South Africa for the betterment of this country, we cannot be a dictatorship, or anything other than a democracy. Like you said, at least the Nats for all their evil tendencies saw the value in keeping their constituency mostly well off. I wouldn't have a massive issue with any form of political setup if the leaders uplifted everyone in the country and really cared about the citizens, instead of their own wealth. No discrimination, no corruption, only competence and a genuine desire to uplift the country. Ah, a girl can dream hey?

      gerhard.kress.3 - 2012-09-19 10:11

      Mgoqi it is a matter of intelligence.

  • mknnko003 - 2012-09-18 12:54

    I don`t even think we know what Democracy mean...

  • winifred.watson.9 - 2012-09-18 13:12

    What was supposed to be a democracy is turned into a fallacy. The ANC and its bedfollows have turned it around and made us a communist country with too many dictators. It is good that this is being noted and my advice to the rest of the world.....take note, dont invest unless all this BEE EE AA is dismantled. They have had many years where people sat back and waited. Mothers are being torn apart, having to send their children out of the country whilst still teenagers to further the education and hope with all their hearts that their children will make a good life for themselves in a foreign country, this whilst everyday they feel the hurt, longing and hate build up in them. Many times they are denied of having their grandchildren to sleep over or to take on an outing. What government is doing now to our woman will make other woman in other countries feel the same way as we do.

  • paul.maarman - 2012-09-18 13:13

    rich coming from the USA...- shall we see what crap you have in your own backyard? You no longer have the moral high ground, you lost that royally with GW...and you want to accuse the rest of the world of executive branch overreach? Conservatism is the in euphemism for Right Wing...the gods help all if the Tea Party infected GOP, gets to steal another election.

  • Bruce - 2012-09-18 13:26

    This is disturbing for a country that was not so long ago revered and held in high esteem worldwide, for its progressive constitution and governance..Most of us saw the red flags and heard the alarm bells leading up to Polokwane in 2007, clearly the ANC under the leadership of JZ doesn't care about the welfare of the state as long as they can cling to power a little bit longer. Bring Thabo Mbeki back now...

  • Bruce - 2012-09-18 13:28

    This is disturbing for a country that was not so long ago revered and held in high esteem worldwide, for its progressive constitution and governance..Most of us saw the red flags and heard the alarm bells leading up to Polokwane in 2007, clearly the ANC under the leadership of JZ doesn't care about the welfare of the state as long as they can cling to power a little bit longer. Bring Thabo Mbeki back now...

  • Bruce - 2012-09-18 13:28

    This is disturbing for a country that was not so long ago revered and held in high esteem worldwide, for its progressive constitution and governance..Most of us saw the red flags and heard the alarm bells leading up to Polokwane in 2007, clearly the ANC under the leadership of JZ doesn't care about the welfare of the state as long as they can cling to power a little bit longer. Bring Thabo Mbeki back now...

  • John - 2012-09-18 13:43

    What democracy? When our servant government becomes OUR master it becomes fascism. Work it out for yourself what we have! DEMOCRACY, hah! There's a joke! When sovereign man's rights, human rights, constitutional rights, legal rights are violated by OUR servant government it is NOT democracy!

  • don.mug.3 - 2012-09-18 13:56

    Zuma did you hear,even Cosatu is now an ANC clone head to tores.

  • don.mug.3 - 2012-09-18 14:01

    All minorities

  • jacobusm1 - 2012-09-18 14:07

    Democracy based on party political system has failed throughout the western world due to abuse of government structures and finance for personal enrichment and bribary of votes under very "WHOLLY PRINCIPLES" of care and free services to the poor.With that they exceeded the ability of the country by far.Most western democracies are bankrupt beyond repair and should be declared so and put under administration.Europe is trying to save politics instead of planning to save the economy from collapse.To say anymore is a waiste bacause nobody take note(that really should)The collapse is unavoidable,only when is outstanding.

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-09-18 14:40

      It is incumbent too on the emerging powers to let them fall gently and not to antagonise them.

  • tony.naidoo - 2012-09-18 14:39

    Haibo! Countries@Crossroads must have been commissioned by the DA. The WCape govt. must have subsidised this report. The ANC is incorrigible! The president is the father of the nation! Our country's wealth is shared by ALL! THIS is the perception of 70% of Safricans. When this time-warped mindset changes, ALL Safricans WILL benefit! Hope this day comes soon!

  • cirrus11 - 2012-09-18 15:46

    Minority rights, which are entrench in the RSA Constitution, sre ignored and undermined by the ANC government. Afrkaners especially are targeted for marginalization to pressurize them to give up their property rights and even to leave the country. Afrikaners has another option though. It is time for Afrikaners to reconsider the option of self-determination which was on the table at CODESA. In the last two years the international law has changed and obstacle which prevented self-determination back in 1994 is now available for exploration again. OASE has developed a new model for self-determination by Afrikaners which complies with the international law criteria for self-determination. For more info visit:

  • gerhard.kress.3 - 2012-09-18 18:48

    Mgoqi your last statement bespeaks of ignorance.

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