SASCA 2018 unpacks Democracy, elections and constitutionalism in Africa

The Sixth Stellenbosch Annual Seminar on Constitutionalism in Africa (SASCA) 2018, jointly organised by the Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa (ICLA) of the Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria and the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (STIAS) in partnership with the South African Research Chair (SARChI) on Multilevel Government, Law and Policy at Dullah Omar Institute, University of the Western Cape, and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung Rule of Law Programme for Sub-Saharan Africa, based in Kenya. from 4-6 September 2018. The theme for the seminar was Democracy, elections and constitutionalism in Africa.

The highlight of the seminar were the keynote addresses that were made by two eminent judicial personalities, who can indisputably be described as Africa’s leading warriors of constitutional justice and constitutionalism, the Honourable David Maraga, the Chief Justice of Kenya and the Honourable Mogoeng Mogoeng, the Chief Justice of South Africa. After their keynote addresses, the two Chief Justices were honoured with a special Ghanaian traditional attire, the Kente hand-woven cloth, reserved for accomplished elders.

The seminar was premised on concerns for the future of democratic elections and constitutionalism in Africa. Since the 1990s, multiparty elections have widely been regarded in Africa as the only way to constitute a legitimate democratic and accountable government. These elections have over the past three decades been held regularly in most African countries. In spite of this, the prospects of such multiparty elections forming the basis for entrenching a culture of democratic governance, constitutionalism and respect for the rule of law have diminished, particularly in the last few years. Whilst it is clear that support for democracy is hardening, the democratic quality of elections has steadily declined.

The recent harmonised elections in Zimbabwe have generally been described by most international election observers and election monitors as reasonably free and fair. The same was said of the 2017 presidential elections in Kenya until the courts shocked the international community by proving that this was not the case! The critical issue then is how can we stablise the rocky African constitutionalism boat through the stormy seas of authoritarian revival and prevent the democratic recession spiralling into a depression?