The country that has been chosen for study in this class during the term is South Africa. There are several reasons why this country was chosen as the focus of individual study during the class. Not only is South Africa the largest country in the southern region of the continent, but it is also comprised of different cultures which until 1994 have been controlled by the colonial influence of the British settlers (Marks & Trapido, p. 19). However, what is ironic about this fact is that the country has never been the victim of a coup d’état and was controlled by the National Party until the end of apartheid. The World Bank also classifies South Africa as an upper middle income nation despite the nation’s wealth being unevenly distributed amongst its people. States as well as countries not only differ in their institutional design but in their effectiveness as well as their ability to govern (Draper & Ramsay, p. 53).
According to Draper & Ramsay (p. 36), the horizontal distribution of power in the state refers to how the power is distributed across the organs of government. This refers to the legislative, the executive and the judicial branches of government. As in the majority of democracies, in South Africa the horizontal distribution of power is distributed amongst the three branches of government already named. Marks & Trapido (p. 27) write that the horizontal distribution of power can make a difference between whether a state is a democracy or if it is a dictatorship. Even though South Africa was controlled by one political party for several decades, it is essentially a democratic state that has survived even with the end of apartheid. However, it is safe to say that there is a better balance of power in the country since the ending of apartheid in the 1990s; there is a balance of horizontal power restored to South Africa.
Vertical distribution of power pertains to the distribution of powers at various levels, as opposed to horizontal distribution of powers which is concerned how power is separated at one level (Draper & Ramsay, p. 44). Horizontal separation of powers is basically about separation of powers between the three branches of a government at one level, such as in the United States. A prime example of this type of distribution of power would be in the United States where the vertical distribution of power would refer to the state and/or local level. The horizontal distribution of power is applicable to the federal separation of powers. This would also be applicable to the nine provinces of South Africa which are Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, North West, Free State, Kwazulu Natal, Gauteng, Limpopo and Mpumalanga. They all have the same vertical distribution of power that the states do in America.
The capabilities approach according to Marks & Trapido (p. 56) is an economic theory that was developed as an alternate to welfare economics. What it basically states is that a state is capable of accomplishing something specific if they are strong versus welfare economics if they are a weak state. Examining South Africa’s economy, they would fit under the classification of a strong state because their economy is strong. Even though their wealth distribution is still considered uneven in their country, South Africa is still classified as a strong state because of their economic accomplishments. Now that apartheid has ended, there is a movement to make the distribution of wealth more even in the country which is making the nation even stronger. By having an even stronger economy, South Africa is well on its way to becoming the strongest state on the continent.