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A culture of boycott. Reasons for the fragility of South Africa's democracy at the local level: the case of Umtata/Transkei


  • Dirk Asendorpf


Between 1994 and 1999 South Africa has been officially labelled a society in transition. Constitution, legal framework, public institutions and political structures were changed fundamentally. The new political dispensation was introduced from the top. At the bottom of society it is confronted with a political culture that has been shaped by the experiences of 300 years of colonialism, 50 years of Apartheid and the struggles against them. Thus today a rapid democratisation of the legal and administrative framework meets a political culture that has been formed by an undemocratic society. How does this confrontation shape the work of the new democratic institutions? This paper gives some aspects of an answer to this question. It is based on an empirical study of the transformation process in Umtata, former capital of the Transkei "homeland", conducted between January 1997 and July 1999. Mass action and a culture of boycott continue to be the main means of political expression in the public. Political culture in Umtata is a lot more confrontational than co-operative. This paper looks into four key areas of the transition process: the problems of getting people to pay their rates and user fees, the pressing land invasion, the failure of all attempts to regulate the local taxi industry and the expectations of people in regard to the future of their town.

Suggested Citation

  • Dirk Asendorpf, 2000. "A culture of boycott. Reasons for the fragility of South Africa's democracy at the local level: the case of Umtata/Transkei," Africa Spectrum, Institute of African Affairs, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies, Hamburg, vol. 35(3), pages 273-292.
  • Handle: RePEc:gig:afjour:v:35:y:2000:i:3:p:273-292

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