Across Southern Africa HIV/AIDS threatens to block and even reverse democratic consolidation. Lost incomes, higher health and labour costs, shrinking tax bases and decreasing productivity undermine the economic growth necessary to sustain democratic government in the countries of Southern Africa.
Sustainable democracies require a professional civil service and strong, viable and autonomous courts, legislatures, executives and electoral systems at national and local levels. AIDS related death and illness among cabinets ministers, legislators and public officials threaten the political institutions that are necessary to give effect to the rules of democracy. Sharply reduced adult life expectancy, and increasing proportions of people living with AIDS, remove incentives for large sections of the populace to participate in democratic politics or comply with the rules of the democratic state.
Robert Mattes is associate professor of Political Studies, and director of the Democracy in Africa Research Unit in the Centre for Social Science Research, University of Cape Town. He is also cofounder and co-director of the Afrobarometer, a regular cross-national survey of citizens' attitudes to democracy, markets and civil society in selected African countries.