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Working paper

WP131: The “Born Frees”: The prospects for generational change in post-apartheid South Africa

Robert Mattes 2 Apr 2011 South Africa
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In 1994, the combined prospects of rapid demographic change and a radically changed political system held out the promise of rapid movement toward a transformed citizenry, based primarily on an emerging post-apartheid generation imbued with the values of the new South African citizen. But as far as popular demand for democracy goes, the post-apartheid generation is less committed to democracy than their parents or grandparents. Rather than re-drawing the country’s main cleavages along lines of age and generation (as in post-war Germany), many of the key fault lines of apartheid have been replicated within the new generation. While the country’s new schooling curriculum was meant to produce a new type of democrat, only the products of the country’s historically advantaged schools seems to have profited from this process. South African democracy remains dependent on performance based legitimation. But whatever advantages might accrue from the new political experiences of political freedom and a regular, peaceful, electoral process, are diminished by frustrating encounters with the political process, victimization by corrupt officials, and enduring unemployment and poverty.

Robert Mattes

Robert Mattes is a professor of government and public policy at the University of Strathclyde and a co-founder of Afrobarometer.