Jacob Zuma arrives to announce his resignation in Pretoria, February 2018.
Siphiwe Sibeko / Reuters

Democracy in South Africa is in tatters. Or at least that’s the widespread view following President Jacob Zuma’s forced resignation on February 14, which ended his almost-nine-year tenure in office. Although South Africans are largely united in celebrating Zuma’s departure, a litany of scandals, allegations of corruption, and a perceived hollowing-out of institutions have led many to conclude that the post-apartheid project under the African National Congress (ANC) has gone rotten. From this vantage point, whereas under Nelson Mandela the country was a beacon of political inclusion and stability on the African continent, under Zuma, South Africa has become yet another “broken democracy.”

This judgement fits comfortably with the views of (typically white) critics who warned that under majority rule South Africa would follow the path of countries such as Zimbabwe, descending into personal rule, nepotism, and economic collapse. The narrative that South Africa’s institutions are failing

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  • DANIEL DE KADT is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of California Merced. EVAN LIEBERMAN is Total Professor of Political Science and Contemporary Africa at the Massachussetts Institute of Technology. PHILIP MARTIN is a Ph.D candidate in political science, also at MIT.
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