Page 21 - University of Pretoria RESEARCH REVIEW 2016
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The 1994 post-apartheid breakthrough presented genuine possibilities for equity-based growth and development in South Africa. Why were these not harnessed and realised?
Dr Sihle Moon, research fellow at the Centre for
the Advancement of Scholarship, and lecturer in Development Studies at UP, constructs a carefully considered analysis of the political variables that defined and set in motion South Africa’s current socio-economic framework. At the heart of his argument is that the 1994 transition was always a fundamentally flawed and inadequate response to the multifaceted and layered socio-economic and political problems that confronted the country.
This also explains why the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP), a state-led, equity- driven and largely Keynesian approach, was pushed aside less than two years after its adoption.
More than two decades later, his book, The Political Economy of State-making in Post-Apartheid South Africa (Africa World Press, 2017), is a journey into the politics, policies, leadership, ideology and the performance of the state in the post-1994 period.
Seeking to provide an explanation for the failure of
a developmentalist path to growth and development, he places politics and political processes where they belong
– at the centre of the enquiry, which includes choices made by leadership elites at key junctures in the country’s post- apartheid history.
Contrary to the dominant narrative that the RDP’s failure can be explained away by invoking the hegemony
of neo-liberalism, Moon’s analysis shows that there was nothing certain or inevitable about the outcome of
events. Instead, the current socio-economic structure represents the triumph of
views of the dominant ideological faction within the ANC leadership elite. His analysis shows that while structure shapes and influences agential action, it does not determine political choices, policy options taken and rejected. Also, ideology matters because developmental state-making inherently implies fundamental change and transformation. A critical measure of success or failure therefore is the extent to which the underlying ideological framework has been disrupted and overturned, and the extent to which the dynamic between ‘winners and losers’ has been affected. This has not been the case in South Africa.
The conclusions drawn are that the mutually reinforcing structural and agential factors severely limited developmental state prospects in the 1990s. Further, external pressures exerted a powerful influence against the RDP and its state- led developmentalism. But there is always room
to manoeuvre. Without a developmental state committed simultaneously to equity and growth, tensions and political instability will continue. However, these state-types cannot be had to order.
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