• home Home
  • keyboard_arrow_right PRESS OFFICE
  • keyboard_arrow_right Posts
  • keyboard_arrow_rightTo fix South Africa’s dysfunctional state, ditch its colonial heritage

To fix South Africa’s dysfunctional state, ditch its colonial heritage

File 20180628 117430 1sh6sxa.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
South Africa’s Union Buildings in Pretoria.
Paul Saad/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

Mashupye Herbert Maserumule, Tshwane University of Technology

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa recently made an astonishing statement: that the country’s governance is collapsing. It takes extraordinary courage for a head of state and of the national executive to be so candid.

Ramaphosa’s statement followed the release of damning data about the state of governance in the country. For example, the most recent report from the Auditor General Kimi Makwetu showed that only 7% of the country’s municipalities are discharging their constitutional mandate. And only 8% were given a clean audit in the last financial year.

Hot on the heels of this report were parliamentary briefings which painted a gloomy picture of the state of public service. Added to this is the fact that a number of state owned enterprises have gained notoriety as conduits for patronage.

Does this suggest that South Africa is at the tipping point? I’m asking the question because an important determinant of a functioning state is its administration. As the British political scientist Andrew Heywood argues:

Political systems can operate without constitutions, assemblies, judiciaries, and even parties, but cannot survive without an executive branch to formulate government policy and ensure that it is implemented.

The administration of the state is key. A political system can be optimised or vitiated by the way in which public affairs are managed. Politics decides a system of government while the administration of the state institutionalises how these objectives are realised. In a democracy this is about enhancing the quality of citizens’ life.

To understand what’s behind the appalling state of governance in South Africa it’s more useful to look at causes, rather than just the problems. I argue the main driver is that South Africa’s democracy has been sacrificed at the altar of neo-liberalism – a system of organising society in which the markets are left unbridled and their principles thrust into various aspects of human life.

The rise of neoliberalism

The collapse of communism in Eastern Europe in the 1980s gave the neo-liberalism arsenal an unfettered edge. It was peddled as the panacea by international financial institutions and liberal scholars. Audaciously, an American political scientist and economist Francis Fukuyama proclaimed in his book The End of History and the Last Man that the market economy and a democratic political system were the only means to achieve sustained growth and development.

The post-apartheid state was created just as these views were becoming more prevalent. This meant that the new state didn’t deconstruct the colonial architecture of its administration.

The African National Congress (ANC) also took over running the state with zero experience behind it.

In other words, the ANC ran into government in 1994 completely unprepared. As a result, it often embraced the colonial apartheid governance model.

The intersection of a neo-liberal approach and a colonial edifice eroded the state’s capacity to fulfil the mission of the liberation struggle. This was about “uplifting the quality of life of all South Africans, especially the poor, the majority of whom are African and female.”

In a neo-liberal framework, the people’s sovereignty is replaced by the market. The public good is commodified. State and the citizens assume a transactional relationship in which citizens are characterised as customers.

New public management

During the 1980s a template began to emerge for state reform along neo-liberal lines. It was called new public management. It remoulded the administration of the state according to private sector principles and practices, which saw the state becoming more service ensurer than service provider.

The approach dominated the 1980s but waned in the 1990s. South Africa embraced it anyway, and used it to frame the post-apartheid model for state administration.

The new public management approach became a staple diet in the education of students of government. They were taught that the performance of the state was the function of the economic value of efficiency, largely derived from privatisation cuts in public expenditure. The key is to maximise output with minimum input costs. It’s not about the “social effectiveness” of the state’s action – enhancing the wellbeing of the citizens.

This approach spawned inequality. Society is stratified along socio-economic lines. The hardest hit are the poor while the business, political and bureaucratic elites rich live lavishly.

As I have argued elsewhere, “democracy in conditions characterised by inequities in socio-economic gains is not sustainable, particularly in South Africa with the history of many decades systematic marginalisation” of other races.

Can governance be fixed?

South Africa’s governance challenge can’t simply be fixed by reorganising the structure of government, such as by reducing the size of the public service. It requires rethinking the ideological edifice that frames it, and daring to decolonise the administration of the state.

To get there, the idea that government should be run like a business has to be jettisoned and the idea that it should be like a democracy embraced. This should be linked to the concept of the public good, where democracy should be given a human face.

Iain McLean, a British professor of politics at Oxford University, offers this conception of the public good:

any good that, if supplied to anybody, is necessarily supplied to everybody, and from whose benefits it is impossible or impracticable to exclude anybody.

The ConversationSo how can this begin to happen in South Africa? As a crucial first step, governance requires new narratives. These must transcend neo-liberal prescriptions and colonial-apartheid entrapment, replacing them with the notion of the public good.

Mashupye Herbert Maserumule, Professor of Public Affairs, Tshwane University of Technology

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Written by: Zuko


UpComing Shows

DownLoad Our Mobile App

Privacy Policy


POPIA ActTo promote the protection of personal information processed by public and private bodies; to introduce certain conditions so as to establish minimum requirements for the processing of personal information; to provide for the establishment of an Information Regulator to exercise certain powers and to perform certain duties and functions in terms of this Act and the Promotion of Access to Information Act, 2000; to provide for the issuing of codes of conduct; to provide for the rights of persons regarding unsolicited electronic communications and automated decision making; to regulate the flow of personal information across the borders of the Republic; and to provide for matters connected therewith.


  • section 14 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, provides that everyone has the right to privacy;
  • the right to privacy includes a right to protection against the unlawful collection, retention, dissemination and use of personal information;
  • the State must respect, protect, promote and fulfil the rights in the Bill of Rights;


  • consonant with the constitutional values of democracy and openness, the need for economic and social progress, within the framework of the information society, requires the removal of unnecessary impediments to the free flow of information, including personal information;


  • regulate, in harmony with international standards, the processing of personal information by public and private bodies in a manner that gives effect to the right to privacy subject to justifiable limitations that are aimed at protecting other rights and important interests,
  1. Definitions and Interpretation

1.1.“Personal Information” means information relating to an identifiable, living, natural person and where it is applicable, identifiable, existing juristic person, including all information as defined in the Protection of Personal Information Act 4 of 2013. 

1.2  Parliament assented to POPIA on 19 November 2013. The commencement date of section 1Part A of Chapter 5section 112 and section 113 was 11 April 2014. The commencement date of the other sections was 1 July 2020 (with the exception of section 110 and 114(4). The President of South Africa has proclaimed the POPI commencement date to be 1 July 2020.

1.3. “Processing” means the creation, generation, communication, storage, destruction of personal information as more fully defined in the Protection of Personal Information Act 4 of 2013.  

1.4. “You” or the “user” means any person who accesses and browses this website for any purpose. 

1.4. “Website” means the website of the KAYA 959 at URL or such other URL as KAYA 959 may choose from time to time.   

  1. Status and Amendments

2.1. KAYA 959 respects your privacy. This privacy policy statement sets out KAYA 959’s information gathering and dissemination practices in respect of the Website. 

2.2. This Privacy Policy governs the processing of personal information provided to KAYA 959 through your use of the Website. 

2.3. Please note that, due to legal and other developments, KAYA 959 may amend these terms and conditions from time to time.  

  1. Processing of Personal Information

3.1. By providing your personal information to KAYA 959 you acknowledge that it has been collected directly from you and consent to its processing by KAYA 959. 

3.2. Where you submit Personal Information (such as name, address, telephone number and email address) via the website (e.g. through completing any online form) the following principles are observed in the processing of that information: 

3.2.1. KAYA 959 will only collect personal information for a purpose consistent with the purpose for which it is required. The specific purpose for which information is 
collected will be apparent from the context in which it is requested. 

3.2.2. KAYA 959 will only process personal information in a manner that is adequate, relevant and not excessive in the context of the purpose for which it is processed. 

3.2.3. Personal information will only be processed for a purpose compatible with that for which it was collected, unless you have agreed to an alternative purpose in writing or KAYA 959 is permitted in terms of national legislation of general application dealing primarily with the protection of personal information. 

3.2.4. KAYA 959 will keep records of all personal Information collected and the specific purpose for which it was collected for a period of 1 (one) year from the date on which it was last used. 

3.2.5. KAYA 959 will not disclose any personal information relating to you to any third party unless your prior written agreement is obtained or KAYA 959 is required to do so by law. 

3.2.6. If personal information is released with your consent KAYA 959 will retain a record of the information released, the third party to which it was released, the reason for the release and the date of release, for a period of 1 (one) year from the date on which it was last used. 

3.2.7. KAYA 959 will destroy or delete any personal information that is no longer needed by KAYA 959 for the purpose it was initially collected, or subsequently processed. 

3.3. Note that, as permitted by the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act 25 of 2002, KAYA 959 may use personal information collected to compile profiles for statistical purposes. No information contained in the profiles or statistics will be able to be linked to any specific user.    

  1. Collection of anonymous data

4.1. KAYA 959 may use standard technology to collect information about the use of this website. This technology is not able to identify individual users but simply allows KAYA 959 to collect statistics. 

4.2. KAYA 959 may utilise temporary or session cookies to keep track of users’ browsing habits. A cookie is a small file that is placed on your hard drive in order to keep a record of your interaction with this website and facilitate user convenience. 

4.2.1. Cookies by themselves will not be used to identify users personally but may be used to compile identified statistics relating to use of services offered or to provide KAYA 959 with feedback on the performance of this website. 

4.2.2. The following classes of information may be collected in respect of users who have enabled cookies: The browser software used; IP address; Date and time of activities while visiting the website; URLs of internal pages visited; and referrers. 

4.3. If you do not wish cookies to be employed to customize your interaction with this website it is possible to alter the manner in which your browser handles cookies. Please note that, if this is done, certain services on this website may not be available. 

  1. Security

5.1. KAYA 959 takes reasonable measures to ensure the security and integrity of information submitted to or collected by this website, but cannot under any circumstances be held liable for any loss or other damage sustained by you as a result of unlawful access to or dissemination of any personal information by a third party. 

  1. Links to other websites

6.1. KAYA 959 has no control over and accepts no responsibility for the privacy practices of any third party websites to which hyperlinks may have been provided and KAYA 959 strongly recommends that you review the privacy policy of any website you visit before using it further. 

  1. Queries

7.1. If you have any queries about this privacy policy please contact us by emailing [email protected]