A new survey conducted by Afrobarometer shows that South Africans – and much of Africa – support the restriction of presidential terms.
According to the barometer, about three-quarters of citizens in 34 African countries are in favour of limiting presidential mandates to two terms.
These findings are counter to many claims made by African leaders seeking to extend their rule, saying it reflects “popular demand”.
“The fact that a number of leaders have managed to circumvent term-limit rules to extend their tenure should not be interpreted to mean that Africans want a return to the era of presidents for life,” the Afrobarometer said.
The Afrobarometer is a research project that measures public attitudes on economic, political, and social matters in sub-Saharan Africa.
Across 34 countries, average support for presidential term limits was 73%. When the parliamentary-system countries are removed from the analysis, the average increases by 2 percentage points to 75%.
In South Africa, 68% of the survey’s respondents said they were in favour of term limits – one of the lower percentages in the report, below even the likes of Zimbabwe, where 74% were in favour.
Afrobarometer’s survey sampling includes up to 2,400 individuals per country across several stages; starting in rural areas, and progressing to randomly selected households. Afrobarometer conducted more than 50,000 face-to-face interviews in this particular round.
Speaking at a World Economic Forum on Africa in Cape Town last week (4 June 2015), South African President Jacob Zuma said presidents should not overstep their two-term limit.
“People who say they want to serve two terms and then when their terms are up, they don’t want to go – that’s a problem,” he said.
According to Afrobarometer’s data, with very few exceptions, large majorities of Africans support the idea of imposing a two-term limit on the exercise of presidential power.
This includes countries that have never had term limits and those that have removed them in the past 15 years.
Support for term limits was highest in Benin (90%), “making it all the more surprising that President Yayi Boni is reportedly contemplating removing them,” the group said.
“Two other countries where presidents appear eager to challenge term limits have not been part of the Afrobarometer surveys: Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwanda.”