People or Preservation?
How Electoral Accountability Reduces Human Cost in South Africa’s National Parks
Natural protected areas (NPAs) are commonly used to preserve environmental biodiversity. Such policies, however, often harm rural communities. This article argues that the human cost of NPAs is often because of a lack of formal electoral accountability that links national governments to these communities. Through the case of 1994 democratic elections in South Africa that signified the end of the apartheid, I show that an increase in electoral accountability can be associated with a decrease in the human cost of NPAs. Using scholarly observations and histories on NPAs in South Africa, and primary documents from governmental agencies, I examine the post-apartheid change in three areas pertinent to human cost: Law and Intention, Communication and Community Involvement, and Land Restitution. In doing so, I demonstrate that the enfranchisement of black South Africans, who overwhelmingly populate the rural communities that are harmed by NPAs, has led to a shift in human cost.