Reflections on Claude Ake and Democracy, and Engaging the idea of Civil Society
Buntu Sixaba (University of Cape Town)

This paper reflects on the scholarship of Claude Ake. Beyond this, the paper demonstrates my divergences and convergences on some of his ideas on democracy. In addition, the paper engages and draw from African examples on democracy’s progress on the continent so far- post independence and post-apartheid South Africa. The ideas of the state on how democracy could be best practiced is often contradictory with the very essence of democratic practice or more simply with what the people of this continent aspires. These contradictory ideas from the state and the imagination of African peoples are often articulated within the lexicon of ‘civil society’ and ‘citizenship’. The notion of ‘civil society’- its place in the South African context- is an uneasy posturing in imagining democracy in South Africa. For the reason that this notion’s limitations are concealed by the idea of a Rainbow nation, it consistently obscures racial tensions from which practices of democracy are often performed and experienced in South Africa. Given this, the paper asks if Africa needs democracy (as understood in the West), and what are the alternatives.