Conference report

Liberation and Democracy in Southern Africa—A Consultative Workshop

13–14 December 2001, Cape Town, South Africa

This Workshop was the first scholarly meeting within the research project on Liberation and Democracy in Southern Africa. It was organised in collaboration with the Centre for Conflict Resolution at the University of Cape Town. The 25 participants came from Sweden (2), Zimbabwe (3), Botswana (2), Namibia (3), Mozambique (1) and South Africa. They discussed conceptual issues and empirical case studies in several sessions, during which scholars from Zimbabwe, Namibia, Mozambique and South Africa presented in total nine papers. The contributions centred on the meanings of both liberation and democracy in various contexts of the region.

An emphasis was on postcolonial experiences in Zimbabwe, with three staff members of the History Department at the University of Zimbabwe (Knox Chitivo, James Muzondidya and Josephine Nhongo-Simbanegavi) reflecting on issues related to the role of the military, the “coloureds” and the women respectively during and after the chimurenga. A session on regional aspects compared empirical surveys on democratic attitudes in Namibia (Christiaan Keulder) and Mozambique (Joao Pereira) as well as the degree of an institutionalised culture and protection of human rights within the security forces of Namibia and South Africa (Guy Lamb). Another session analysed recent trends in South Africa, with a theoretical reflection on state formation in transition (Michael Neocosmos), neoliberalism and democracy (Ian Taylor) and the culture(s) of the ANC (Raymond Suttner).

The Workshop provided a forum for an interesting and stimulating debate. The plural if not controversial nature of both, the subject matter and the different schools of thought were represented by a variety of opinions and approaches. They underline the permissive character of the project as a network, embracing different views and theoretical as well as political positions in combination with several related academic disciplines such as history, political science, sociology and anthropology. Discussions confirmed that there is no single valid definition of either democracy or liberation. Debates also highlighted the substantial role of state formation as well as state influenced transformation of power structures and the modified reproduction of classes in the Southern African societies in transition.

The Workshop also initiated discussions on a forthcoming Conference within the research project. It is scheduled for 11 to 13 July 2002 in Windhoek/Namibia and will be jointly organised with two local institutions (Legal Assistance Centre and Namibia Institute for Democracy), which qualify as civil society actors. The theme for a Call for Papers was discussed. In the light of the indicated variety of existing concepts and paradigms it was agreed that the Conference should explore further and seek clarification of the notions at hand. It was hence decided to invite contributions on “(Re-) Conceptualising Democracy and Liberation in Southern Africa”. A committee was formed with scholars from the University of Zimbabwe/Harare, the University of the Western Cape, the University of Pretoria and the Eduardo Mondlane University/Maputo to support NAI’s Research Director in the selection process for the Windhoek Conference. It is the intention to publish the contributions pre-sented to the Workshop in different Discussion Papers by NAI during the first half of 2002.

Taken from News from the Nordic Africa Institute no. 2/2002.

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