International Colloquim, Polokwane 2008

African Meeting Process for Debate and Proposals on Governance in Africa:

Southern African Perspectives

17-19 June 2008 in Polokwane and 20 June 2008 in Pretoria. 



Donors and international organizations stress the need for « good governance » in their relations with their partners. What is good governance though and who defines it? IRG feels that a crucial aspect of good governance is that leaders are legitimate. Democratic elections are one procedure to determine which leaders are legitimate to rule, it is by far not the only process though. Legitimacy can also stem from other sources like leader’s personal charisma, from their background as soldiers, from custom or spiritual beliefs. In order to gain more understanding into these multiple sources of legitimacy, IRG has initiated with its partners a series of debates in different regions in Africa, bringing together a wide variety of key actors to explain where legitimate governance in their countries is based on and how legitimacy can be lost.

This process was initiated in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia and continued in Bamako, Mali before it arrived in Polokwane, South Africa.
In Polokwane, 35 politicians, religious and traditional leaders as well as civil society representatives and researchers from Zimbabwe, South Africa, Lesotho, Mozambique and Namibia came together with 15 participants from Western Africa and France to discuss the different co-existing sources of legitimacy in the region, to discuss the different processes that have led to constitutions to question their legitimacy and to look at how different forms of leaders work together in land management.

Three themes were chosen for the debate:

  • The analysis of the sources of the legitimacy of power (liberation movements, traditions, religions, constitutions).
  • The analysis of the nature of the interaction (co-existence, concurrence, overlaps)between different sources of legitimacy of power.
  • As an illustration of the difficulties of that interaction, the challenge of collective land management.

Vidéo de Polokwane (IRG)

The discussions that have taken place should be understood against the historical background of the region: all are characterized by a late process of de-colonization in comparison to other African countries, ruling political parties in all these cases -apart from Lesotho- stem from former liberation movements and they have relatively young constitutions. Levels of industrialization vary as well as the distribution of wealth in each country.

Rich debates took place over three days while the fourth day consisted of a presentation of the results to donors in order to contribute to their definition of good governance with these views from the ground.

Polokwane - Pretoria Program

Polokwane - Pretoria Colloquium Proceedings

Polokwane - Pretoria Participants List