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Transformation, Transition or Regression?

18 years into our Democracy- fault-lines and future prospects.
October 2012
Paper Commissioned by the Raith Foundation and written by SPII

Table of Contents


Table of Contents 2

Introduction 2

Contextual Background to the Research 6

Note on the timeline of the stages towards consolidation of Democracy in South Africa. 8

What is the basis for transformation in South Africa? 9

Clash of Cultures between Exiles and those who Remained Inside. 12

Participation and the Mediation of Contestation. 16

The Constitution of South Africa. 18

Challenges and Limitations to Transformation. 20

The Role of Business in South Africa’s Transformation. 23

Perspectives on Civil Society. 27

Policy Development in South Africa. 35

Scorecard: How would you rate the transformational success of the ANC Government? 37

Challenges Ahead for Substantive Transformation. 39

Future scenarios for transformation. 44

Shifts and Drifts – the de- and remilitarization of the South African Police Service: 1994 to 2012. 49

Bibliography 51


Introduction


This paper, as one of three critical papers commissioned by the Raith Foundation, seeks, through undertaking interviews with six key people who were either integral to the transition of South Africa, or, alternatively, have carefully studied the process of change, to record people’s remembrances and analysis of the trajectories that have characterized this period. In essence, what we wanted to capture was whether there could be said to have been an overarching and uniform view pre-transition, of what the shape and texture of a liberated South Africa would be, socially, politically and economically, and if so, whether we have yet achieved that, whether we are on track to do so, or where emergent fault lines threaten the realization of this vision.
What emerges through these interviews is indeed a sense of drifting in terms of the shaping of a nation in keeping with the passion and vision that drove the long and demanding struggle against Apartheid. In trying to understand just what has led to this sense, a number of impressions emerged. Firstly, and crucially, there is a sense that society in general and leaders in particular, do not spend enough time on reflection and thinking. A common lament was the dearth of the intellectual capacity within the ruling party and other social sectors, including civil society, that could provide a sounding board for decision makers as well as generate new knowledge into alternative and innovative solutions to present and future challenges. While many of the formal commitments of state craft as contained, for instance, in the 1992 Ready to Govern document of the ANC in terms of the alignment of state, the values and principles that should inform the Constitution and the shape of government have been met, there seems to be a lack of space to be able to address underlying questions of the design and strengthening of institutions of democracy, of the place and space for informed participation by ordinary people, and also the nature and content of appropriate policies that both meet immediate needs as urgently as possible, and are further capable of building longer-term transformative institutions of delivery – difficult, contested issues.
The extent to which social transformation is possible in the absence of economic transformation – transformation of the ownership and nature of the economy was something raised by a number of the respondents. The sense emerged through the conversations that real economic transformation has still not been tried, let alone achieved, and that this was due to a successful pre-emptive strike by vested white Capital ahead of the transition, with the development of Black Economic Empowerment schemes, which resulted in the real enrichment of a few, with very little if any benefit being enjoyed by those marginalized from the mainstream of formal economic activities and opportunities.
The need to deploy people into government and into spaces opened up in business resulted, it was unanimously held, to an overwhelming haemouraging of leaders from communities and civil society structures. Combined with this was the sense that new and younger activists and leaders are no longer being developed, mentored and supported by these same people whose departure left such gaping holes.
Transformation will inevitably affect the alignment of interests of various sectors and people within any society, and this is true for South Africa as well. Contestation occurs in many spaces, including in the interpretation and application of guiding principles, and in the shaping of compromise that will inevitably follow. What emerged from a number of the respondents was a sense that in the cut and thrust of the mediation of such interests, at times there has been a sense that challenge to the prevailing interests carries with it the need to be brave enough to ‘stick your head over the parapet’, and the feeling that there are too few people who, when faced with the consequences of such actions – whether professionally, economically or socially - would be prepared to do so.
This paper by no means provides final solutions or absolute recommendations for a way forward towards attaining the objective of transformation. What it does present is a very honest and open insight into some of the complex challenges that mark the daily lives of everybody living in South Africa. The sense of the growth of social distance between ordinary people and leaders, and the inertia amongst the leadership around how to move forward to meet both local and global challenges does pervade many of the responses below, but we see this as an opportunity to frame some of the awkward questions that need, urgently but wisely, to be addressed and solved.
The paper takes the form of a series of questions that were put to respondents. We have chosen to represent the answers to the questions as put by the respondents, although no specific answer is attributed to any of the participating interviewees. Towards the conclusion of the paper we use the example of the de/remilitarization of the South African military since transition to illustrate the ongoing nature of the contestation for transformation.




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