In this article I argue that Liberal democracy in South Africa accommodated and left unresolved the contradictions of South African capitalism and the ANC's multiracial nationalist discourse. More specifically, the delivery of equal political rights in the new democracy is premised on the acceptance of the unequal economic relations among different classes, gender and race. Second, the multi-racial and multi-ethnic middle class is threatened from above and below. Popular demands from below sometimes lead it to partially satisfy the people's economic and social demands. Pressure from economic interests and the business community limits the middle class' room for maneuver and forces it to make compromises at the expense of the people's interests, priorities and needs (especially economic ones). Apartheid's inequality can only be addressed by a radical program based on the majority's economic and social needs. Liberal democracy does not allow for radical changes because it privileges the market rather than peoples' needs. Consequently, the ANC cannot meet its overseers' (business, bilateral institutions, white minority) interests as well as transform the economy. These realities will continue to inform ANC's economic and social policies as it tries to transform South Africa for the foreseeable future.
What lessons can we draw from the past fifty years of political independence in African countries? Which mistakes can we avoid in the future? Can there be peace without social justice? Four mistakes must be avoided if democracy, peace and social justice are to be achieved in African countries. Drawing on lessons from Central, East, North, West and Southern Africa, I use Fundi wa Africa – a multidisciplinary approach based on a long term historical perspective to argue that individual nationhood (the first mistake) has not resulted in democracy and peace. Only Pan-Africanism (based on the needs and interests of Africans as they define them) will lead to democracy and peace. The second mistake is that leading international financial institutions (IFI) and some Africans assume that democracy has to be introduced to Africa. This assumption is based on the belief that Africans and their culture have nothing to contribute to their own development. As a result liberal democracy is promoted by these agencies as the only option available for African countries. The third mistake is the belief that a colonial state which was developed to fulfill the market and labor needs of colonial powers can lead to democracy and peace for Africans. The fourth mistake is African leaders’ and their supporters’ conviction that neither African intellectuals nor women have any place in African development and may only be given symbolic positions. Without economic independence, the political gains of the past fifty years will be lost. The founding fathers and mothers of Africa’s freedom fought and achieved political independence, but it is up to the next generation to strive for economic empowerment. Only then will African countries cease to be homes for bankrupt ideas as they are freed from conflict and hunger.