Democracy in Africa Research Unit

Director: Prof Robert Mattes

The Democracy in Africa Research Unit strengthens empirical social science research capacity in Africa by supporting and conducting systematic research on key factors that shape the survival and quality of democracy in South Africa and the rest of the continent. DARU's activities are focused in four broad research areas: public opinion, voting and elections, political Institutions, and the political Consequences of HIV/AIDS. Read more about DARU

Sihle Nontshokweni wins award

Congratulations to Sihle Nontshokweni for being awarded the first Thembi Losi Leadership and Legacy Award at the graduation ceremony for the South African Washington International Program (SAWIP). The Award was established in memory of the late Thembakazi Losi, who had been (with Sihle) a participant in SAWIP. Well done Sihle!

Sihle writes from Washington:

At the beginning of this year I was selected for the South African Washington International Program (SAWIP).  Thembi (my friend) was similarly selected for this program in 2011.

Upon her passing a Thembi Losi: Leadership and Legacy Award was established which is awarded at each SAWIP Graduation Ceremony to a SAWIP graduand who most reflects symbolic qualities of Thembi’s favourite flower; Orchids. These qualities include: love, generosity, fortitude and the ability to work with others. The criteria for this award are detailed on this page.

Why Some Muslim Countries are Democracies and Some are Not

19 August, 2014 - 13:00 to 14:00
Shaheen Mozaffar Professor of Political Science Bridgewater State University and Research Fellow Centre for Social Science Research,UCT.
CSSR Seminar Room 4.29, Level 4 Leslie Social Science Building.
Abstract / Description: 

This presentation examines the argument that the relationship between democracy and Islam, and between democracy and religion more broadly, is a contingent relationship. The contingency derives from variations in (a) the salience of religion as a basis of social cleavage relative to the salience of other bases of social cleavages (e.g. class, ethnicity, race, region, language), and (b) the multifaceted ways in which religion becomes institutionalized in politics and governance. These variations suggest four possible outcomes: (1) High institutionalization of religion, independent of social cleavage patterns, will endanger democracy. (2) High institutionalization combined with high social salience of religion at the expense of other sources of social cleavage will weaken the prospects of democracy. (3) Moderate institutionalization of religion combined with cross-cutting social ethnic, language and religious fractionalization will facilitate democracy. (4) Low institutionalization and low social salience of religion reinforced by cross-cutting social cleavages will strengthen democracy.

Sihle goes to Washington DC

Sihle Nontshokweni was selected for the South African Washington International Program (SAWIP). Sihle is a a research assistant in DARU in the CSSR. SAWIP is a 7 month program of personal and professional development aimed at developing future generations of leaders in a post conflict South Africa. 18 students have been selected for the class of 2014 from four universities (UCT, UWC, Stellenbosch and the University of Pretoria). The program is made of three core elements. The first is leadership development; this is experienced over a seven month leadership curriculum both in South Africa and in Washington DC. The second being community engagement, which is expressed through individual and team projects. The third being professional exposure which is expressed through a six week work exposure in prestigious placements such as the World Bank, Capitol Hill, USADF etc. Sihle worked at a health consulting firm, called John Snow Incop (JSI). Whilst at John Snow, she worked on the Presidents Young Professionals Program for Young Liberians (PYPP). This is Sirleaf Ellen Johnson’s signature move to build the next generation of civil servants in Liberia. In the 5 weeks she managed to organise a panel discussion with all the young Liberians on the Mandela-Washington Fellowship in DC, released two press releases and several spotlights which were used towards the development of the PYPP website.

South Africa’s Emerging Black Middle Class: A Harbinger of Change?

5 August, 2014 - 13:00 to 14:00
Professor Robert Mattes
CSSR Seminar Room 4.29, Level 4 Leslie Social Science Building.
Abstract / Description: 

In this article I explore whether members of South Africa's emerging black middle class exhibit different political values,evaluations, and behaviours than the other black citizens. Futhermore, I explore whether the impact of class is due to physiological security or higher levels of education, as well as whether the impact of either of these markers of class are greater for yournger middle class blacks who have grown up under conditions of abundance or with higher education. I find that the attitudinal consequences of indicators of the middle class are inconsistent and sometimes contradictory. There is little evidence that the emerging black middle class is either more or less loyal to the governing ANC,though they are more positive in their evaluations of government action. The are signs however, that they are less likely to take part in a range of campaign, and inter-election democratic activities.


Symposium on African Public Opinon

To mark the end of the CSSR-Afrobaromeer Summer School, a symposium was held on the morning of Friday 7 February 2014. The symposium was opened by UCT Vice-Chancellor Professor Thandabantu Nhlapo. Papers were presented by a selection of by members of the Afrobarometer Executive Committee as well as the prize-winning participant in the 2014 Summer School. Presentations covered topics such as the historical roots of variation in trust across Africa, the implications of mobile phones for citizenship, and the relatonship between atttudes to tradtional leaders and atttudes to local government.

CSSR-Afrobarometer Summer School

The second joint CSSR/Afrobarometer Anglophone Summer School was held at UCT from 13 January to 7 February. The four-week summer school consisted of five two-week modules in substantive subjects relevant to the Afrobarometer Project in the broad areas of democracy, governance and public policy as well as two four-week modules in research design and social statistics. This year’s summer school instructors included Professor Robert Mattes, Professor Jeremy Seekings, Professor Rajen Govender and Dr Pedro Wolf of the Centre for Social Science Research as well as Professor Gyimah-Boadi, Professor Michael Bratton and Dr Boniface Dulani of the Afrobarometer Network. A total of 30 participants from 18 African countries participated. Participants presented ther reserach papers on the fnal day of the School. The Summer School comprises two UCT-registered courses, at Honours and Masters levels; partcipants had the option of registering for these courses.

CSSR research on young South Africans

The CSSR has long been active in researching the experiences of, and the challenges and opportunities facing, young people in South Africa. Jeremy Seekings, Bob Mattes, Elena Moore, Ariane De Lannoy and Pedro Wolf conducted research for the Centre for Development and Enterprise, which recently published a summary report which in turn has received some publicity in the press. Jeremy's work focused on experiences in the labour market, and especially the ways in which inequalities are reproduced between generations. Bob's research focused on young people's attitudes towards democratic citizenship. Elena considered transitions in family life, Pedro considered health-compromising behaviours, and Ariane examined schooling and education.

High school learners' opinions about immigration: Preliminary evidence from the the 2012 Cape Area Study

30 October, 2012 - 13:00
Kevin O'Neil
CSSR, Room 4.29, Leslie Social Science Building
Abstract / Description: 

Some opinion surveys have found that South African respondents are highly skeptical of foreigners and immigrants, relative to respondents from other countries. This, combined with high profile attacks on immigrants in recent years, calls for an investigation of the sources of hostility toward outsiders. This presentation examines predictors of attitudes toward immigration among the “born free” generation, testing several hypotheses that scholars have used to explain xenophobia in South Africa and elsewhere. The analysis uses new, preliminary data from the 2012 Cape Area Study, a survey recently conducted by CSSR's Democracy in Africa Research Unit that asked Cape-Town area high school learners and their teachers and parents about their opinions on civics and other public issues. The hypothesis that skepticism of immigration is driven by economic anxiety receives some support, while the hypothesis that hostility toward immigration is a byproduct of South Africa’s nation-building efforts is not supported. Measures of educational effectiveness are also not associated with levels of support for immigration.

Course for South African Parliament

The CSSR is running a 3-day course on "Doing Research for researchers" at the South African Parliament. The course, from 25-27 June, has been designed to help parliamentary researchers to reflect critically on the design, practice and presentation of research. We live in a world where information is abundant: the challenge facing researchers is often not so much “how do we collect new information?” as “how do we make good use of the information that is already available?” We have to avoid being overwhelmed by the volume of information, distinguish between reliable and unreliable information, and present our findings effectively and honestly. The course examines how we collect the information that we need, how we make sure that we have good information, how we can use quantitative data sensibly and critically, how we organize our analyses, and how we communicate our analysis to our audiences.

Carlos wins prestigious award

PhD student Carlos Shenga has won the 2012 UPEACE-IDRC Doctoral Research Award! The Award covers generous tuition and research expenses.

The doctoral research award is part of a joint undertaking by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the UN University for Peace (UPEACE) to develop an evidence-based, strong research capacity in Africa on critical issues of governance and security. 

Congratulations to Carlos!


"Who Governs Public Health? Donor Retreat and the Shifting Spheres of Influence in Southern African HIV and AIDS Policy-Making"

10 May, 2012 - 13:00
Gemma Oberth
CSSR R429 Leslie Social Science Building
Abstract / Description: 

Background: For the last decade, discussions about who governs African HIV/AIDS policy have revolved around Western donors and their influence over local aid recipient countries. However, these dialogues are increasingly less relevant due to declining HIV funding from the West, combined with growing financial ownership of the epidemic within Africa. This project tested the hypothesis that the shift in HIV financing has prompted countries in Africa to move their National Strategic Plans (NSPs) away from global policy indicators, in favour of domestic approaches.

Methods: Data was collected from analyzing the NSPs of eight African countries with HIV prevalence rates >10% (Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, Zimbabwe). Based on 34 policy indicators (adapted from the Global Fund 2009 M&E Toolkit), the NSPs were evaluated on their compliance with the global policy, measured on a 5-point nominal scale. This was carried out for three successive policies in each country, to show change in global policy compliance over time.

Results: Botswana and South Africa have moved their NSPs away from global indicators in the last five years. Where Botswana's NSP was 65% compliant in 2003, it was 42% compliant in 2010. Similarly, South Africa's newest NSP exhibits a 19% drop in policy compliance. The remaining countries in this study continue to align themselves with global indicators. These trends can be partially explained though significant correlations with explanatory variables, such as perceived corruption (-0.5241) and health expenditure per capita (-0.7311).

Conclusions: The implications of these results may well be crucial in evaluating policy efficacy. In the last five years, the correlation between change in global policy compliance and change in HIV prevalence is also significant (-0.5174). The purposefully provocative conclusion of this project is that heavier national compliance with global policy indicators is connected with larger decreases in HIV prevalence. These findings disrupt many mainstream ideas about the benefits of cultural relevance and grassroots policy-making.


ALP dissemination in Namibia

Prof Robert Mattes gave a presentation to a well attended Symposium for Civil Society on Recent Research on African Legislatures: Namibia in Comparative Perspective hosted by the Namibia Institute for Democracy (NID) in Windhoek on 30 March 2012. The ALP presentation was on Institutionalising Democracy in Africa? Assessing the State of Legislatures. Presentations made by Namibian NGOs included: Democracy Report – analysing, monitoring and supporting the work of Namibia’s parliament, by Graham Hopwood from the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) and The Influence of Non-Governmental Organisations on the Parliamentary Law-Making process in Namibia, by Theunis Keulder of Namibia Institute for Democracy.

Governance in Africa in a Worldwide Perspective: What the Data Tell Us, and the Challenges in Constructing and Using Governance Indicators

4 November, 2011 - 13:00 to 14:00
Daniel Kaufman (Brookings Institution)
CSSR Seminar Room (4.89 Leslie Social Science)
Abstract / Description: 

This special CSSR seminar will be offered by Daniel Kaufman, Senior Fellow in the Global Economy Program at the Brookings Institution and former director of the World Bank Institute.

Refreshments will be served

The Impact of AIDS on Local Government Performance: Evidence of the Third Wave of the AIDS Epidemic

27 October, 2011 - 13:00 to 14:00
Robert Cameron (UCT), Per Strand (UCT) and Lauren Smith (UCT)
CSSR Seminar Room (4.89 Leslie Social Science)
Abstract / Description: 

Only ten years ago, alarming scenarios were predicted for nascent democratic states in Africa as a consequence of the third wave of the AIDS epidemic. The erosion of capacity caused by AIDS mortality, some argued, would trigger wars and reverse recent gains in democratic governance. However, whereas case studies have been able to detail the AIDS-related attrition among staff with responsibility to deliver essential services, and small-n comparisons have argued for an ‘AIDS pattern’ in the mortality of Members of Parliament, no study has so far been able to link the epidemic to data on governance outcomes. On the basis of more recent data from South Africa’s districts and municipalities, this paper argues that such an effect can now be specified. In addition to providing support for the argument, the statistical analysis provides a basis for making strategic choices about which districts would be optimal cases for more qualitative comparative analyses to understand the mechanisms that make local governance more or less vulnerable to the effects of AIDS.

Political Intermediation and Attitudes toward Democracy in Mozambique

13 October, 2011 - 13:00 to 14:00
Carlos Shenga (DARU)
CSSR Seminar Room (4.89 Leslie Social Science)
Abstract / Description: 

y using the Afrobarometer data Shenga (2007) found mainly that, because the incumbent party subverts democratic procedures, Mozambicans who obtain information from state aligned sources are less likely to view democracy as what it is, (that is, procedurally) rather than what it does (that is, substantively); and are less likely to support democracy, compared to those who obtain information from relatively independent sources, in the period between elections. Does this finding still hold true when tested during election periods? This study tests and analyzes this assumption using the CNEP (Comparative National Election Project) post electoral survey of the Mozambican 2004 election.

Refreshments will be served