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Reviewed by:
  • State of the Nation: South Africa 2004-2005
  • Gerhard Maré (bio)
John Daniel, Roger Southall and Jessica Lutchman (eds) (2005) State of the Nation: South Africa 2004-2005. Cape Town: HSRC Press; East Lansing: Michigan State University Press.

This, the second issue of what is intended as an annual contribution to monitoring the performance of the governing movement, the state, and society in general towards a fully democratic, less unequal and participatory system, is a welcome addition to what is becoming a thriving and wide-ranging published output on post-apartheid South Africa. The country desperately needs critical analyses of a society in change, a society that needs self-reflection rather than confirmation of the obvious, or, even worse, silencing of questions and questioners.

As with the first issue, this volume takes as its starting point the president's 'State of the Nation' address to parliament, but necessarily stretches the topics covered to give a more comprehensive coverage to what the editors would argue are central social issues in relation to the most recent presidential political and social pointers.

The editors, in their introduction, note that in 2004 there were two 'state of the nation' speeches that set the tone of official discourse: in the first, given prior to the 2004 election, President Mbeki reflects on ten years of democracy, obviously with greater emphasis on achievements than on failures, stress on continuities and less on the breaks that have also characterised policy during the first decade of a democratic country; the second, post-election, reflects an apparent 'significant change in direction', an ambitious set of goals towards measurable redress within many problem [End Page 109] areas (2005:xx). The second has since been followed up with speculation of a new direction, and possibly leadership, specifically in economic policy formulation and implementation (for example 'State system set for revamp: Mbeki to take role in govt revamp', The Mercury May 13, 2005).

The collection, with no fewer than 21 contributions (up from 17 in the first volume), excluding the introductions to each of the four parts and a long 'Introduction' by the editors, stretches over 584 pages (excluding the index). The 'Parts' cover Politics - with articles including topics such as 'Race and identity in the nation' (by Zimitri Erasmus), 'Rural governance and citizenship' (by Lungisile Ntsebeza), and 'The state of corruption and accountability' (Sam Sole); Society - such as articles on education, policing, arts, and gender representation; Economy - where contributions include Stephen Gelb with an overview of the economy, Roger Southall on Black Economic Empowerment, and Benjamin Roberts on poverty and inequality; and, finally two articles under the heading South Africa in Africa - by John Daniel et al on 'South Africa and Nigeria: two unequal centres in a periphery', and Lloyd M Sachikonye with a contribution entitled 'South Africa's quiet diplomacy: the case of Zimbabwe'.

Even this brief selection, mentioned above, indicates the impressive scope of the articles that the editors managed to bring together, from within the HSRC staff and from beyond. There are several important issues raised by the editors in their introduction to the volume. The most central point is that of the 'developmental state' (2005:xxvi and further), as a more realistic description of the route (to be) followed by the Mbeki government, rather than a direction that could be characterised as reflecting a 'social democratic agenda'. The developmental state approach would acknowledge Mbeki's more pragmatic and transformative approach, but closer to an 'Asian style (capitalist) "developmental state"' than the social-democratic direction. This model would borrow from Malaysia (a country that has been, in various ways, linked to the ANC and South Africa for more than a decade, featuring again in the Schabir Shaik trial). Maria Ramos, now Transnet CEO, and others have also drawn attention to the Asian model (see ThisDay May 25, 2005 'State can't be neutral on growth: Government to expand role in economy'). This is a debate that will no doubt continue in State of the Nation: SA 2005-2006, and be watched until the end of the Mbeki presidency. Just recently, in one edition of the Sunday Times (15 May 05) there were two commentary pieces on this...


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