Academic journal article Strategic Review for Southern Africa

The South African Development Model: Hitting against the Limits?

Academic journal article Strategic Review for Southern Africa

The South African Development Model: Hitting against the Limits?

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

The South African development model is based upon fragile foundations and is confronting a looming crisis. At the political level, long term structural factors are eroding the legal and institutional foundations of the constitution, this reflecting, inter alia, declining morality within the ruling African National Congress; its growing resistance to political accountability; the limited prospects for a developmental state given state incapacities; and erosion of support among the party's constituencies. Economically, although growth is likely to remain positive, its benefits will continue to be in part negated by population growth, the persistently high level of unemployment, and the growing financial burden of social security payments. Thirdly, worsening inequality between rich and poor means that South Africa has been able to overcome overall colonial patterns, and the continuing overlap between race, class and power remains explosive. Finally, the South African developmental model is facing ecological crisis as it is reaching the limits of resource intense growth. The way forward to confront a dangerous future is to demand innovative and radical solutions facilitated by genuine political commitment to a more equal society.

1. INTRODUCTION

The arrival of democracy in 1994 was a 'liberation' for the majority of people in South Africa who had previously been denied the most basic of rights by the former apartheid regime. Democracy brought a new constitution resplendent with a battery of political and socioeconomic rights and the right to vote brought with it an African National Congress (ANC)-Ied government committed to ensuring a 'better life for all'. As a result, the landscape has been transformed in so many ways that South Africa is 'another country', and a much better one at that. No one, bar a few die-hards, would want to go back to apartheid, and indeed, it is often said that today it is difficult to find anyone amongst the white population who ever voted for the formerly ruling National Party (NP)! Nonetheless, nearly two decades on, the limits to South African liberation are becoming more evident. It is not just that South Africa is confronting a fairly familiar post-colonial malaise, rooted notably in increasing disillusion with the performance and character of post-apartheid government, but there is a growing sense that the entire edifice of the South African 'development' enterprise is based upon fragile foundations and that the future points to a looming crisis. Now, 'crisis' is of course an overworked word, and we need to specify what we mean by it. My dictionary offers me two meanings which express the sense in which I use the word: 'a crucial stage or turning point'; and 'an unstable period', especially one of 'extreme trouble or danger'. In other words, 'crisis' implies that South African society faces more than the usual 'problems' or 'challenges' which confront the post-colony, and that indeed we face the prospect of 'extreme danger'. This is because the looming crisis is multi-faceted, with its different dimensions deeply interrelated, and not easily attended to. In fact, without wanting to be alarmist, I would argue that it is deeply alarming!

Drawing particularly upon a recently published volume drawing together the work of diverse scholars (Daniel et al, 2010), I will propose here that the South African crisis can be broken down into at least four dimensions, viz interrelated political, economic, human security and ecological crises. In this I draw upon ideas dealt within an essay in which I pose the question whether contemporary South Africa is embarked upon 'development or decline' (Southall 2010). Obviously in a short article it is impossible to deal with any of these challenges comprehensively, but hopefully some broad brush strokes will serve to illustrate the pressing issues which South Africa is facing while suggesting what needs to be done to address them. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.