top of page

Dee Smythe, Michelle LeRoux, and Dennis Davis on "state capture" and South African democracy

Today, Fabio talks to Dee Smythe (UCT honorary), Michelle Leroux (UCT and Wits), and Dennis Davis (UCT Emeritus).

Fabio and his guests focus mostly on the piece that the latter wrote for the PAL project, titled “What Future for Constitutional Democracy in South Africa?,” which was published in 2022, in VRÜ/World Comparative Law. That piece argues that “state capture” by sectors of the African National Congress, so-far the dominant party in South African politics, is at the center of the country’s ongoing democratic crisis. The main victim of this particular form of democratic decay is not just the ideal of liberal-democratic governance, based on separation of powers and accountability, but also – and perhaps more importantly – the promise of deep societal transformation that came along with South Africa's constitution, enacted after the end of apartheid.

Fabio and his guests then spend time unpacking an intriguing feature of democratic decay in South Africa: the “capture of tradition” or the cooptation and repurposing of “traditional leaders” by Zuma to build a more robust scheme of unaccountable governance. They finish with a discussion about the extent to which South African institutions have demonstrated resilience against this “capture,” as well as about the hopes and fears of interviewees regarding the upcoming South African elections.


bottom of page