Politics in South Africa: From Mandela to Mbeki/Disabling Globalization: Places of Power in Post-Apartheid South Africa

By Cooper, Allan D. | African Studies Review, September 2004 | Go to article overview

Politics in South Africa: From Mandela to Mbeki/Disabling Globalization: Places of Power in Post-Apartheid South Africa


Cooper, Allan D., African Studies Review


Tom Lodge. Politics in South Africa: From Mandela to Mbeki. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2003. vi + 314 pp. Notes. Bibliography. Index. $19.95. Paper.

Gillian Hart. Disabling Globalization: Places of Power in Post-Apartheid South Africa. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002. xi + 385 pp. Appendix. Notes. Bibliography. Index. $21.95. Paper.

It has now been a decade since South Africa emerged from its authoritarian and apartheid past. Inevitably, political scientists pose certain questions: How has South Africa weathered the transition to democratic and free market reform, and where does the "New South Africa" fit into the larger discourse on globalization and neoliberal capitalism? Gillian Hart and Tom Lodge offer two perspectives on these questions, and suggest that South Africa represents an important model for understanding the challenges that face transitional societies seeking to achieve rapid pursuit of free market democracy.

Lodge takes a macro approach to analyzing the South African state, focusing on the political forces affecting the national government's leadership as it reshapes the economic and social framework of the country. Hart utilizes a micro analysis that places two communities within the KwaZulu-Natal province under scrutiny to determine why such geographically similar locales developed such different trajectories in their political and economic development.

Both authors devote substantial attention to the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) developed in the early 1990s by the leadership of the African National Congress (ANC), South Africa's governing party, and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU). The RDP proposes that growth can be combined with development by (1) meeting basic needs, (2) upgrading human resources, (3) strengthening the economy, (4) democratizing the state and society, and (5) reorganizing the state and the public sector. Lodge examines how the RDP quickly came to represent different things to different people inside South Africa, but by any measure there is little dispute that substantial progress has been made in South Africa in the areas of housing, clean water, electrification, primary health care, and public works.

In 1996 the South African government formally adopted a package of economic policies known as GEAR (Growth, Employment, and Redistribution). While Lodge notes the general success of these policies across South Africa as a whole, Hart shows that these policies affected Ladysmith-Ezakheni and Newcastle-Madadeni in very different and sometimes contradictory ways. Part of the explanation for these differences derives from the personalities resident in these communities. …

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