People or Preservation?

How Electoral Accountability Reduces Human Cost in South Africa’s National Parks

  • AJ Golio Columbia University
Keywords: Biodiversity, Electoral Accountability, Human Cost, National Parks, Preservation, South Africa


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.

Author Biography

AJ Golio, Columbia University

AJ Golio, from Pittsburgh (United States), is a Master of Arts candidate in Political Science at Columbia University. He received his Bachelor’s in International Political Economy and English from Fordham University in 2016 and spent two subsequent years in New Orleans working on issues of housing inequity and justice. His interests include matters of political inequality, protest and social movements, and the intersection of art, performance, and politics.

How to Cite
Golio, A. (2019). People or Preservation?. Politikon: The IAPSS Journal of Political Science, 41, 24-42.