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State-driven developmental state vs people-driven developmental state

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State-driven developmental state vs people-driven developmental state

by Lumko Mtimde

BSc (UWC), Postgrad Diploma in Telecommunications and Information Policy (UNISA)


The State must create an enabling environment, a roadmap for redress – as required by the Constitution of 1996 – and addressing problems such as high levels of poverty, unemployment and inequality linked, in part, to the history of apartheid. Whereas these challenges are central for redress by a People’s Government, communities are similarly key to the solutions in their own development, accordingly, community development must be people-driven and -centred. It is notable that one of the 6th Administration’s priorities is the building of a capable, ethical and developmental state. The assumption in the implementation of this priority is that it is only possible if key to it, is active citizenry.

The paper offers an analysis of the ANC Policy Conference draft discussion documents and policy proposals. It looks at scenarios of development and empirical evidence for such scenarios, where possible, and it acknowledges that for things to take a new turn in the field of policy analysis and scenario planning, much critical thinking and proper implementation must take priority. The paper reviews the literature concerning the definitions of a developmental state, a welfare state, the bottom-up approach to development, the nature of a state-driven development in light of safeguarding citizens, and building digital infrastructure at every corner of the country to facilitate inclusivity and enhance a people-driven democracy. A revolution is multi-layered like an onion, hence there is always a struggle within the struggle. Accordingly, the paper argues that a development state is a process of building the country; the endgame is a welfare state.

Keywords: ANC, RDP, Development State, Welfare State, Development Communication, Public Participation. People Driven, Digital Infrastructure, Data Revolution, Social Grants.


What I refer to as the People’s Declaration, the Freedom Charter (1955), a statement of core principles of the South African Congress Alliance – which consisted of the African National Congress (ANC) and its allies: the South African Indian Congress, the South African Congress of Democrats and the Coloured People's Congress – that is characterised by its opening demand, "The People Shall Govern!", lays a foundation for us to understand the kind of state we should have in the post-apartheid South Africa.

In its preamble, the Freedom Charter states:

We, the People of South Africa, declare for all our country and the world to know: that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white, and that no government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of all the people; that our people have been robbed of their birthright to land, liberty and peace by a form of government founded on injustice and inequality; that our country will never be prosperous or free until all our people live in brotherhood, enjoying equal rights and opportunities; that only a democratic state, based on the will of all the people, can secure to all their birthright without distinction of colour, race, sex or belief; And therefore, we, the people of South Africa, black and white together – equals, countrymen and brothers – adopt this Freedom Charter. And we pledge ourselves to strive together, sparing neither strength nor courage, until the democratic changes here set out have been won (ANC, 1955).

The Reconstruction and Development Programme (1994), echoing the dreams of a truly democratic society, states:

No political democracy can survive and flourish if the mass of our people remain in poverty, without land, without tangible prospects for a better life. Attacking poverty and deprivation must therefore be the first priority of a democratic government. (RSA, 1994)

Accordingly, the above quotations, therefore, affirm the central place and role of the State in democracy and sustainable development.

Sections 24 through 29 of the Bill of Rights in the South African Constitution (RSA, 1996) recognise the socio-economic rights of citizens, including the right to social security.

The National Development Plan (NDP) offers a long-term vision of South Africa. The NDP aims to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030. According to the plan, South Africa can realise these goals by drawing on the energies of its people, growing an inclusive economy, building capabilities, enhancing the capacity of the state, and promoting leadership and partnerships throughout society (NPC, 2012).

The NDP proposes that by 2030, South Africa should have a comprehensive system of social protection that includes social security grants, mandatory retirement savings, risk benefits (such as unemployment, death and disability benefits) and voluntary retirement savings. Part of our approach to social protection is through a social wage, which includes no-fee schools, free basic services and subsidised public transport. In addition to creating more jobs in the private sector, a significant broadening of public employment programmes will also help to ensure that fewer households live below a determined income level (NPC, 2012: Chapter 11).

It is acceptable that South Africa needs to build a state that is capable of playing a developmental and transformative role (NPC, 2012: Chapter 13).

The Congress of South African Trade Union (COSATU) in its Central Committee in 2005 noted that in South Africa, the concept of the “developmental state” refers to a state-driven development, in contrast to a free-market approach. It noted that the model of the developmental state originated with a U.S. Asian studies scholar named Chalmers Johnson. For him, the critical element of the developmental state was not its economic policy, but its ability to mobilise the nation around economic development within the capitalist system. In effect, these states endorsed a revolutionary project – although, in his view, “What distinguishes these revolutionaries from those in the Leninist states is the insight that the market is a better mechanism for achieving their objectives than central planning” (Johnson, 1999:53).

On the 2nd of July 2022, representatives of civil society, faith-based and community organisations, academia, and media from all over the country met and made the following pledge:

Inequality, poverty, joblessness, and violence, which we inherited from apartheid, have been made worse by a decade of state capture, corruption, and maladministration by the government. We envisage a new economic model that is inclusive and leaves no one behind, that meets people’s basic needs and is characterised by values of empathy, solidarity, and social and climate justice.(Defend Our Democracy Campaign, 2022)

Other than the inequalities inherited by the South African democracy in 1994 – whose redress is enshrined in the Constitution’s Bill of Rights, in the Preamble – various other South African reports present a very worrying picture of the state of affairs in the country. The South African Social Security Agency (SASSA), in its report to Parliament, stated that about 60% of applicants for the R350-a-month Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant are young, and approximately 5% of all SRD grant applicants hold tertiary qualifications. Statistics South Africa’s (Stats SA) Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) for the first quarter of 2022, states that the unemployment rate was 64% for those aged 15-24 and 42% for those aged 25-34 years, whilst the national rate stands at 35% (Stats SA, 2022).

Prof Ingrid Woolard (Stellenbosch) argues and concludes that excluding the Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress grant, more than 18.3 million social grants are paid out each month, including 13.6 million for children and 3.7 million old-age pensions, totalling R193 billion, or 3.1% of the GDP (Woolard, 2022).

The ANC Policy Conference 2022 Discussion Documents (ANC, 2022) notes, the “provision of social grants reduces poverty and contributes to the reduction of income inequality in the country, and empirical evidence shows that the Child Support Grant (CSG), for example, contributes to improved school attendance, educational attainment and access to food. The Department of Social Development pays social grants to qualifying South Africans through the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA). Social grants reach more than 18 million people at a cost of R180 billion a year. The provision of social grants continued during nationwide lockdown with minimal disruptions” (ANC, 2022:97).

When scholars analyse the specific material conditions in our country – whether appropriately using Marx’s methods and tools of analysis – we must grapple with understanding the scientific material conditions and resolution of Africa’s problems with a view to changing Africa for the better, qualitatively, not quantitatively.

I submit that Marxism is not just about the economy; we must also be able to use its tools of analysis to understand the specific contexts and the consequences it spells out for inaction. This is a seminal point that Gramsci contributes to enrich the theoretical and practical potency of Marxism as a complex tool of analysis. Besides the objective economic and political variables, the Italian revolutionary introduced the equally important subjective variables in any revolution. Gramsci’s hegemony and counter hegemony perspective places an emphasis on these subjective variables, including culture as a weapon, education, religion, consciousness, media, etc. If these domains that affect individuals and institutions are not equally contested, the revolution will be seriously jeopardised.

Against the above background, it is imperative to understand and appreciate that the concept of a developmental state imagines the State in the driving seat managing the process of socio-economically building a country, driven by the goal of realising a welfare state.

Literature review and framework

Barrientos (2010) in an article that links social protection to new perspectives on poverty and vulnerability, identifies and discusses key issues in the emergence of social assistance programmes in developing countries, and assesses their potential contribution to addressing poverty and vulnerability in the South. Barrientos, in the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD), reports that societies all over the world recognise in the last decade that social protection has emerged as a policy framework employed to address poverty and vulnerability in the developing countries.

According to the Center for Theory of Change (N.d.), theory of change is essentially a comprehensive description and illustration of how and why a desired change is expected to happen in a particular context. It is focused in particular on mapping out or “filling in” what has been described as the “missing middle” between what a programme or change initiative does (its activities or interventions) and how these lead to the achievement of the desired goals. It begins by first identifying the desired long-term goals and then works backwards from these to identify all the conditions (outcomes) that must be in place (and how these relate to one another causally) to secure the desired goals.

It’s important to appreciate a theory of change model, as it captures all the essential elements needed to achieve long-term goals, all things being equal (Weiss, 1995). “To be successful, the theory of change model should communicate what’s required from participants to reach business goals, and the desired goals must be expressed in terms of measurable success-indicators. A theory of change model requires the active involvement from stakeholders and those involved in it should constantly test assumptions that can be measured in the pursuit of the desired goals” (WalkMe, 2018).

In the context of a history like that of South Africa, where our democracy emerges with the baggage of concerningly high levels of inequality, we should – in line with the NDP envisaged plan and vision – ensure to enlist a multipronged strategy and tactics to achieve the social outcome where no individual lives below the defined minimum social floor. As part of ensuring the upliftment of all individuals to be above the threshold of extreme poverty, we must begin by objectively evaluating our immediate situation, the challenges, opportunities and so on. The NDP Vision 2030 could serve as a good reference point as we imagine the future and goals we are trying to achieve as country. Having our vision for a better life for all, as the ANC puts it, we need to make a social impact that can deliver it.

The NDP has prioritised social protection as a critical intervention to improve the quality of life of South Africans by eradicating poverty, reducing inequalities and addressing unemployment (NPC, 2020). In this light, the South African government, as part of a social wage package, approved a National Municipal Indigent Policy in 2005, which is intended to guide the national initiative to improve the lives of indigents and to improve access to free basic services. The policy recognises the need for intergovernmental cooperation in the process of dealing with indigents, but places a specific emphasis on the municipal sphere, recognising the important role local government has in effectively addressing the needs of indigent households (DPLG, 2012). The indigents are defined as lacking the necessities of life to survive, like water, electricity, food, clothing, sanitation, etc. According to Stats SA’s recently released report of its Non-financial census of municipalities, the number of indigent households across the country’s 278 municipalities registered 3,56 million in 2016, the highest number on record since figures were first published by Stats SA in 2004 (Stats SA, 2020).

South Africa provide social grants – the applications for which are administered by the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) – that strengthen and support the safety net, to improve standards of living and redistribute wealth in order to create a more equitable society. The social protection approach adopted by the South African government:

has a number of sub-programme elements that reduce the cost of living for the poorest households. These are a combination of social assistance grants, minimum wages (through waged work in private or public sector) and the social wage (education, health care, free basic services, Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) houses, transport subsidies, school feeding schemes, etc). All these elements make a significant impact on poverty and inequality and reduce the cost of living for the poorest households, especially the 17 million who receive social cash grants. (NPC, 2020)

A developmental state must provide social protection as an important intervention by providing income support to low-income citizens and a lifeline for the unemployed, poorest and most vulnerable households, as demonstrated during the Covid-19 crisis, as well as during recurring global economic and financial crises.

What is a developmental state?

There is no consensus on the definition of a developmental state. One will find, however, many useful definitions of it in the literature. There is no doubt that the many and different definitions will draw and reflect the various ideological orientations that undergird it. Developmental state has become a “generic term to describe governments that try to actively ‘intervene’ in economic processes and direct the course of development rather than relying only on market forces” (Stubbs, 2009:5). Jeremy Seekings (2015:1) observes that “enthusiasm for the idea of a 'developmental state' emerged in South Africa in the early 1990s, re-surfaced in the mid-2000s, and re-emerged yet again after 2007”. The enthusiasm to embrace a state-centric development path was animated by the desire toward “shifting the economy onto a more inclusive and faster growth path” (ibid.).

Consider also Kaname Akamatsu’s (1962) argument that it is impossible to study the economic growth of the developing countries in modern times without considering the mutual interactions between the developing economies and the developed countries. This approach to conceptualising the role and position of a developmental state finds corroboration among many scholars’ views, whose argument for state intervention in the economy takes advantage of the fact that there is access to the economic conditions, performances and weaknesses of developed countries. The challenge and responsibility of developing states is how to position one’s country, in light of the global economic trends, threats and opportunities, to advance national and public interests.

As much as there is a promising case for a developmental state, one often is pressed to consider which route is more preferable in social and economic development: Is it one that is state-driven (developmental state) or a citizens-driven developmental state? Accordingly, a case is made in this paper for a citizens-driven developmental state.

In 1994, South Africa produced a Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP), which was referred to as the end of one process of subjugation and oppression and the beginning of another political era of freedom and development for all. The RDP included an integrated, coherent socio-economic policy framework that emerged out of many months of consultation within the ANC, its alliance partners (the South African Communist Party (SACP), COSATU, South African National Civic Organisation (SANCO), etc.) and other mass organisations in the broad civil society.

We have seen what a state-driven developmental state can look like. Measures taken to protect state officials, for example, whilst very important, must occur in equal measure to protect citizens and avoid the lawlessness, increasing crime and criminality, thus also safeguarding the citizens.

Another case that requires urgent attention and intervention relates to the appointments in key public entities – like the National Health Insurance (NHI), the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), etc. – wherein citizens nominate their proposed leaders to govern the entities and through the people’s representatives in Parliament, the appointments are made, and the Executive Authority effects the appointment. This approach seems a unique South African tried-and-tested working model. In terms of which, then the Boards appoint the required Executive Management like Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) without interference from the Executive Authority. The above approach does still equally give the political parties (including the ruling party), the right to nominate and subject their nominated candidate to the above people/citizens-friendly approach.

Other preferred examples of citizens-driven elements include the post-1994 safety and security approach to policing. It urges us to move away from apartheid military kinds of policing towards the kind of policing that is humane, and one where there is collaboration with communities via the concept of Community Policing Forums. This people-driven agenda towards policing, for example, is not top-down, but rather it is bottom-up, where the citizens play a crucial role in directing the fight against crime and building safe and peaceful societies.

There are many other examples of a citizen-driven developmental state, but the main argument in this paper is for a bottom-up approach to development, which takes the views of the citizens and their broader participation seriously, in conceptualising and realising a developmental state.

What is a welfare state?

To begin our discussion of a welfare state, we note that it has several defining features. Firstly, a welfare state is one that plays a central role in the extension of the socio-economic conditions of its citizens. It does so, guided by its commitment to “the principles of equality of opportunity, equitable distribution of wealth, and public responsibility for those unable to avail themselves of the minimal provisions of a good life. Social Security, federally mandated unemployment insurance programmes, and welfare payments to people unable to work are all examples of the welfare state” (Kenton, 2022).

The state has a duty to extend the safety net to secure all its citizens. According to Assar Lindbeck (2003), it can do so in terms of two types of government spending arrangements: (i) cash benefits to households (transfer, including mandatory income insurance) and (ii) subsidies or direct government provision of human services (such as childcare, pre-schooling, education, healthcare, and old-age care). Lindbeck (2003) further argues that by definition, the welfare state may also include price regulation (such as rent control and agricultural price support), housing policies, regulation of the work environment, job security legislation, and environmental policies.

In this paper, a case is therefore made for a welfare state system, where the state undertakes to protect the health and well-being of its citizens, especially those in financial or social need, by means of grants, pensions, and other benefits. This case is supported by the perceived weakness in this country of the socio-economic elements of a robust society, where it has a functional state, many firms that afford widespread employment of the working population, functional and stable family units, and the generally robust market. In South Africa, with its history of inequality, many of the weakness of these elements necessitate the welfare. In fact, the role of a state that delivers to the welfare of its citizens is enshrined in the Constitutional Act of 1996 (Bill of Rights) in South Africa.

The literature indicates that the term ‘welfare state’ first emerged in the UK during World War II (Kenton, 2002). The foundations for the modern welfare state in the UK were laid by the Beveridge Report of 1942. Proposals such as the establishment of a National Health Service and the National Insurance Scheme were implemented by the Labour administration in 1948.

Singapore: an example of a welfare state

Yunmin Nam (2020) examined the diverse pathways of welfare development in the East Asian region. Nam argues that the existing regime’s approaches characterise East Asian welfare states as possessing low levels of government intervention and investment in social welfare. “However, democratisation in the 1980s changed the socio-economic structures of East Asian countries – leading them to rethink their welfare commitments. The late 1990s financial crisis and globalisation also accelerated the reorganisation of their welfare systems.”

Soo Ann Lee and Jiwei Qian (2017) in their paper discussed the major social policies in Singapore that have been designed to accommodate the political rationale and economic growth strategies. They conclude:

Singapore has made outstanding achievements in social development with a relatively small government social expenditure … The welfare institutions in the Singaporean welfare state, as an East Asian ‘productivist’ welfare regime, are designed to support economic growth. Furthermore, this study discusses the policy responses in Singapore to the recent developments of economic and social conditions as an example of the evolution of welfare states. (Lee & Qian, 2017)

John Goodman (2015) noted that “about 90% of Singapore households are homeowners – the highest rate of homeownership in the world. In healthcare, Singapore started an extensive system of ‘Medisave Accounts’ in 1984 – the very year that Richard Rahn and I proposed ‘Medical IRAs’ for America in the Wall Street Journal. Today, 7 percentage points of Singapore’s 36% required savings rate is for healthcare and is deposited in a separate Medisave account for each employee. Individuals are also automatically enrolled in catastrophic health insurance, although they can opt out. When a Medisave account balance reaches about $34,100 (an amount equal to a little less than half of the median family income) any excess funds are rolled over into another account and may be used for non-healthcare purposes” (Goodman, 2015).

The social welfare policy interventions by the state in Singapore are in the best interest of citizens and therefore yield an economic growth that best serves the national interests.

South African social welfare policy is also worth noting. In addition to its social grants programme, the number of informal settlement dwellers has been growing on an average of 9 million since 2000. This long passage shares some of the advances that have been made by the South African aspirant welfare state:

Since the dawn of democracy in 1994, about 4.8 million houses have been delivered in South Africa providing safe shelter to over 25% of South Africa’s households. Globally 1 billion people live in slums in 161 countries. More than 30% of the urban population live in slums and informal settlements. Approximately 2.8 million households in South Africa do not have access to improved sanitation services. The ANC has resolved to eradicate the bucket system in order to improve sanitation services. By December 2020, a total of 41 290 out of 52 249 bucket sanitation systems were eradicated. Furthermore, a total of 14 235 rural households were served to eradicate sanitation backlogs. The DWS has developed the Water and Sanitation Master Plan, which provides a 10-year roadmap for eradicating the bucket system, providing adequate sanitation, innovative solutions and generating economic opportunities. The DWS provides the Water Services Infrastructure Grant (WSIG), which is used to assist municipalities to procure intermediate water supply to ensure the provision of service infrastructure (e.g. spring protection, drilling, testing and equipping of boreholes). Through this grant, 802 projects were funded for construction nationally, with 142 of these projects completed. (ANC, 2022:100).

What do we mean by inclusivity?

The RDP process, explained above, was a unique, inclusive, people-driven policymaking attempt in South Africa. South Africa needs to continue with this citizen-driven approach as it brews ownership of challenges and solutions by the people – which approach is key to a robust democracy. An important aspect of a robust democracy is that of inclusivity. Susanne Ricee (2017) defines inclusivity in this fashion:

the idea that all types of people, for whatever differences, must be included as much as possible in work and other institutions and must be assimilated. It means that whatever benefits afforded to others must be afforded to everyone, and if possible, if ever they are disadvantaged, society must address that deficiency to ensure equality. Promoting inclusivity is easier in theory than in practice, for biases abound against the marginalised, minorities, women, and people of different genders and mental and physical disabilities. They have been victims of the patriarchal society, majority, the powerful, and the dominant classes throughout history. (Ricee, 2017)

The idea of inclusivity involves a society that equally recognises all human beings. It is one that extends opportunities for survival and thriving to all. It identifies those that are weak, marginal, oppressed, women, minorities, disabled, and seeks to create conditions that fully accommodate them.

The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, in its preamble, commits South Africa to lay the foundation for a democratic and open society in which government is based on the will of the people and every citizen is equally protected by law; to improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person. Therefore, inclusivity is embraced by the Constitution of South Africa and is a commitment to economic development and equality through a value system that embodies the social and national democratic principles associated with a developmental state. Inclusivity deepens democracy.

What does the ANC Policy Conference Discussion Documents propose?

On the 20th of May 2022, the ANC published the Policy Discussion Documents as part of preparations for the National Policy Conference, towards the ANC December 2022 Congress (Elective Conference). These discussion documents outline the ANC’s strategic approach to policies and how it shapes and impacts our transformation agenda.

ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa states that the new policy frameworks must be underpinned by a comprehensive social compact underpinned by a capable and ethical state, for us to succeed in our undertakings (ANC, 2022:3).

The ANC acknowledge that the political and other generations of rights – including social, economic, gender and environmental rights – enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic, derive their origin from the demands of the 1955 Freedom Charter. The ideals of the Freedom Charter are therefore embedded in the country’s Constitution (ANC, 2022:6).

The ANC Discussion Document Chapter 6 dealing with Social Transformation notes that “in addition to the social grants, the DSD portfolio provided an additional social relief package, consisting of the following:

  • Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress (SRD) of R350 per month to adults aged 18-59 with no income from May 2020 to April 2021

  • Caregiver Social Relief of Distress (CSRD)

  • Child Support Grant (CSG)

  • Top up of existing grants – The Old-Age Grant, Disability Grant, Care Dependency Grant and Foster Child Grant were each topped up by R250 per month in May to October 2020 inclusive. The CSG was topped up by R300 per child in May 2020 only.

  • The introduction and roll-out of a new Special COVID-19 R350 grant for those between 18 and 59 reached 6 million new individuals who have not had access to a grant, in a very short space of time. The top-ups on existing grants have provided a cushion to the most vulnerable individuals. Social grants overall proved to be the most effective mechanism available to government to cushion millions of the most vulnerable individuals and households from the dire socioeconomic impact of Covid-19.

  • The Social Development portfolio is also introducing and strengthening policies that are aimed at reducing high levels of poverty, inequality, vulnerability and social ills. These policies include:

    • The Green Paper on Comprehensive Social Security – it seeks to integrate social grants, mandatory social security contributions and voluntary contributions into a coherent system that ensures that all South Africans are included.

    • The Maternal Support Policy – it seeks to integrate the relevant systems from key departments such as DHA, DoH, DBE (ECD and Education), DSD, Employment and Labour, and SASSA. The linkage of pregnant women to comprehensive social protection packages would further contribute to the ongoing development of synergistic linkages between services provided by the DSD.

    • The Policy on linking children grants beneficiaries to government services will integrate social welfare services, education, and health within the cash transfer system.

    • Draft Policy (Basic Income Grant) Proposal on Income Support to 18-59 Year Olds will expand the safety net to this additional vulnerable group, whilst also ensuring improved targeting of government services that will assist in empowering social grant beneficiaries.

    • The Fundraising Amendment Bill seeks to consolidate the various Relief Funds into one National Social Development and Relief Fund that will enable the Fund to be more proactive and developmental in disaster mitigation.” (ANC, 2022:99).

This paper, in the next section, “Analysis of the ANC propositions”, looks at what the ANC proposes, an analysis thereof, and the outline of my argument. The ANC proposals are consistent with its caring mandate and mission to promote a better life for all. Given the historical background of South Africa, the social welfare benefits are critical in transforming the economy.

The document, under “Organisational Renewal: Progress and Challenges” (ANC, 2022: Chapter 2), refers to a challenge of existential crisis. Accordingly, “Renewal, re-engineering and regeneration therefore has to focus on the vital matters of the renewal of the values and integrity of the Movement, identifying and developing cadres who would be loyal to those values and the strengthening of our common vision for South Africa and the achievement of our organisational mission” (ANC, 2022:27).

The document goes further, stating that “despite these existential challenges, there is ironically agreement about the mission, character, and tasks of the ANC in the current period. This consensus is contained in Strategy and Tactics (1997/2017), which articulates the central mission of the ANC as the liberation of Africans in particular and black people in general from socioeconomic bondage, by resolving the fault lines created by apartheid colonialism and patriarchy, and the creation of a National Democratic Society” (ANC, 2022:28).

The draft document proposes, “A diverse and inclusive capacitated collective of public representatives, at each sphere of government, with a collective minimum skillset, which enables them to govern a modern state, at that level, has become an imperative. At present we use the exact same electoral process in the ANC to elect our internal leadership collectives and to elect ANC public representatives, from the same pool, members in good standing. The result being that we mostly duplicate the internally elected leadership as public representatives. An almost mirror image. These processes are further exacerbated when factional wars are raging in the movement. This is very restrictive and limiting on the ANC” (ANC, 2022:34).

The ANC in Chapter 6, Social Transformation, proposes that “the comprehensive strategy for and the coordination and monitoring of the protection of vulnerable groups led by the Department of Social Development must be resourced to enable effective protection of children, the elderly, people with disability, and people with Albinism across relevant departments and spheres of government” (ANC, 2022:95).

On social protection, the document proposes that “child-headed households including street (homeless) children must be prioritised in social protection policy, in EPWP opportunities. The child support grant should be extended from the age of 18 to 21 for beneficiaries that are still studying in order to eliminate the advent of vulnerability” (ANC, 2022:96).

On housing subsidisation, the ANC proposes that “the sale of subsidised houses by beneficiaries should be prevented and beneficiaries who no longer need the house must be assisted to return the house to the State for compensation or allocation of an alternative opportunity in another area. The rental of subsidised houses to non-beneficiaries must be discouraged especially in the face of growing need. Accelerate the issuing of title deeds and registration of subsidy houses in favour of the ‘family’ rather than the individual beneficiaries” (ANC, 2022:97).

The discussion documents noted again that the report of the 54th National Conference states, “The ANC’s approach to state power is informed by the Freedom Charter and the principle that ‘The People Shall Govern’. The attainment of power by the ANC is a means to fulfil the will of the people and ensure a better life for all”.

Analysis of the ANC propositions

The ANC discussion documents reaffirm what the ANC 54th Conference resolved on, which is to build a democratic and capable developmental state, with the agility and resolve to drive and implement the programme of social transformation and the creation of a National Democratic Society (ANC, 2022:31).

With regard to the Theory of Change, the ANC need to acknowledge that the renewal is not going to succeed if it overemphasises (which is necessary) internal organisational dynamics. It needs to equally focus on building a new cadre system and capacity at all levels (locally and nationally) to radically improve on its capacity to deliver services to the people, and to focus on the objective of change, which is delivering on its organisational mission to better the lives of the citizens.

The ANC as it recalibrates – digitising its membership systems, empowering each member to actively and equally participate in its activities through using automation and new technology platforms – needs to understand that empowering its members will also require creating an enabling environment for a citizens-driven democracy and development.

Whilst the discussion documents propose a diverse and capacitated public service, the same efforts should be spent on capacitating all citizens, in particular the youth, so they are empowered to actively participate in governance. Digital skilling should be mainstreamed at schools, TVETs and universities, and society readied to effectively use new technological platforms and improve efficiencies.

The ANC recommends the adoption of adaptable, flexible and transparent government policies needed for a capable developmental state, with a bias towards policies which benefit the marginalised, poor and unemployed, and directed at narrowing inequality (ANC, 2022:31). Digitisation will go a long way to improve efficiencies and enable the ANC to achieve these recommendations.

In line with the digitisation interventions, the ANC proposes the modernisation of SASSA’s national administration to be more effective and efficient in line with government’s overall objectives for the public service, whilst maintaining seamless integration with provinces to ensure that there is adequate support, decision-making, and to ensure accountability through the organisation. “The use of pay points also needs to be phased out to support financial integration of communities by the use of a more modern payment system” (ANC, 2022:97).

The National Infrastructure Plan 2050 (NIP 2050), published by the Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure in March 2022, is very welcome. The goal of the National Infrastructure Plan 2050 (NIP 2050) is to create a foundation for achieving the NDP’s vision of inclusive growth. This phase of the NIP 2050 focuses on four critical network sectors that provide a platform: energy, freight transport, water and digital infrastructure. The Plan notes that there has been good performance in digital infrastructure rollout over the past decade; by 2019, 93% of the population was covered with 4G/LTE, up from 53% in 2015. Over 85% of the population live within 10 km of a fibre access point. This coverage bodes well for NIP 2050 efforts to improve digital access for low-income communities.

The NDP envisages a seamless information infrastructure that is universally available and accessible, at a cost and quality at least equal to South Africa’s peers and competitors. Whilst South Africa is far off the NDP’s goals from 2021, the 2030 goals must remain in place. There is evidence of sufficient capacity to deliver on these objectives if they are implemented through private-public cooperation. To achieve the vision for digital infrastructure, the NIP 2050 says that:

High-speed broadband will be universally accessible. Regulation will enable competitive and universally accessible broadband public sector capacity will be strong and able to drive the required policy agenda. Partnerships will be strong and there should be centres of digital excellence promoting a growing knowledge base of delivery and innovation. The information and communications technology (ICT) skills base will be broad, robust and ready for the future. Government services and buildings will be digitally enabled. Private sector participation in achieving universal broadband access will be prevalent.

The NIP 2050 further notes that the digital SIPs will be deepened and augmented and 3-year priority actions to 2023/4 are outlined. For example, digital migration and spectrum auctions will take place in 2021/2, in that sequence; that the policy for rapid deployment of electronic communications networks and facilities will be finalised in 2021/2; that arrangements will be made to enable private participation in public interest digital delivery projects from 2022/3; that 80% of public buildings will be digitally enabled by 2024/5; that high-speed broadband will be accessible in every community by 2024/5; that there will be consideration of free basic data for low-income users; that government services be digitised; that a data centre strategy will be finalised in 2021/2; and that a satellite communications strategy will be finalised in 2021/2 for implementation beginning by 2022/3.

If the ANC government was to deliver on its commitment to the NIP 2050, ensuring each and every corner of South Africa is connected with access to high-speed broadband and internet, the digital skills rollout throughout the country will enable a people-driven and citizens-driven development state. Citizens in villages, townships and everywhere else in South Africa should have access to stating their development needs, shaping policy, and participating in the implementation thereof. The rollout of this NIP 2050 is a priority to improve where things are going in the country, as it will contribute to the creation of a knowledgeable and informed society. The Economic Recovery and Reconstruction Plan (ERRP) also asserts that the infrastructure rollout is a key driver to the recovery and will facilitate inclusivity.

The ANC in Chapter 3, Digital Communications and the Battle of Ideas, notes the NDP 2030 highlights that “access to information via print, broadcasting and the internet are vital for building an informed citizenry. It also contributes to education and economic development” (ANC, 2022:54). High-speed broadband rollout, investment in digital infrastructure, building a digitally skilled workforce, enhancing digital transformation, creation of an effective competition, promotion of universal service and access, improved government communications, support for community and small commercial media, will contribute to a citizens-driven developmental and welfare state. For the District Development Model (DDM) to succeed, the citizen participation must be guided by the very concept of the Freedom Charter, “The People Shall Govern”.

Most notably, the ANC Discussion Documents stated that “the economic challenges have been worsened by a recent series of negative economic shocks including the Covid-19 pandemic, violence and looting in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, massive flooding and damage in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape and fraught geopolitics, including the conflict between Russia and Ukraine” (ANC, 2022:141).

These developments coupled with some reported failures in respect of service delivery, as expressed in several Presidential Imbizos and Auditor-General of SA (AGSA) reports, are contributing to citizens’ impatience, and present the potential for instability and social strife. The ANC needs to adopt policy interventions that will fast-track the redress of these challenges and bring hope, to bring trust to the public. Further, the ANC needs to decisively deal with corruption, criminality, end loadshedding, fix embattled state-owned entities (SoEs), recover the economy, reduce unemployment, and rebuild a people-driven state.

The ANC Discussion Documents also note and recommend that “to further consolidate and advance the progress made in implementing the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan (ERRP), the ANC must play a leading role in deepening the processes of social compacting around economic policy interventions for long-term and sustainable growth and job creation. Such a process of social compacting should build on the foundation established among social partners in the development and implementation of the ERRP. Further, the process should be more explicit about the trade-offs, timeframes, contributions, and sacrifices to be made by specific constituencies towards rebuilding the economy. Mechanisms to ensure accountability for non-delivery on the commitments made must be established” (ANC, 2022:143).

International best practices

Internationally, as seen above in terms of the East Asian and Scandinavian countries, a people-driven development and welfare state cares for its citizens, people take care of the social net. Partnership with the private sector is value adding, but citizens must be the main actors. “The idea that the state should play a leading role in economic development was central to early development economics” (Chang, 1999:182-199).

China is one of the countries in the world with a large population. It is developing and its drive to develop seems to be an incentive for it to be a developmental state model. Its economy is state guided, or a socialist market economy as it defines it. The other interesting model is that of Denmark and Japan, but I will not expand on these cases given limitations of space in this paper.

What further thoughts need to go to the ANC proposals and recommendations?

The ANC needs to strengthen civil society participation, create dialogues that cover all stakeholders, ensure active community participation in local economic development forums, build capacity of public officials orientated towards partnerships, and create an enabling environment that promotes meaningful public participatory processes and a balance of less talk and more action in regard to implementation.

The political will must be open to new ideas and have the ability to listen, not just tell, and try to understand where people’s input is coming from. Leadership should have the ability to put themselves in the position of the people and keep their calm. South Africa must avoid tilting towards a state-driven developmental state, as that will not work and will lead to more instability. The state must not erode the people’s power.

For example, a people-driven developmental state must promote both rural and urban sustainable human settlements and turn rural areas into hubs of agricultural production – with villages developed to compete favourably with commercial farmers.

Different scholars have different takes on defining and understanding a developmental state and Gumede (2010), in his paper, refers to the Mkandawire (2001b) argument, that developmental states are “social constructs” by different role-players in a particular society.


The above picture painted in this paper of continued poverty, inequality and unemployment, confirms that the situation regarding the poor and vulnerable households in South Africa requires state intervention. In addition, with the population of about 64 million, the number of dependants exceeds the number of social grant beneficiaries by a considerable margin. Therefore, grant money will continue to make a contribution to the challenges of poverty and inequality, forming an integral part of the support of households, beyond just the beneficiary. Whereas some argue that a social security grant system targeting about 19 million people is not sustainable, similarly, others argue that the absence of such an intervention is not sustainable.

South Africa must prioritise deployment of digital infrastructure – in addition to the other infrastructure requirements such as roads, electricity, sports and recreational facilities, etc. – digital skills, and access to high-speed broadband throughout the country, in order to create a meaningful environment for public participation, efficiency, improved access to public services and operation of digital platforms, thus enhancing a people-driven developmental state.

The state power is critical and imperative to drive change and the state role in changing society for the better is fundamental, but by itself, state power is not sufficient. There is similarly a need to populate people’s power, through mass participation and involvement. Appreciating both in a citizens-driven developmental state concept, I must admit that people’s power on its own, without state power, is equally insufficient – they must be complimentary and work together in a democracy.

The Basic Income Grant (BIG), or Universal Basic Income Grant (UBIG), must be ventilated, robustly discussed, as discussions are raised to extract South Africans from the perceived mentality of dependence and entitlement to a people’s culture of self-sufficiency. The welfarist approach must be interrogated, having regard for its good and bad, for all to see so that resolutions, plans, programmes and actions of the ANC and government become developmental, promote self-reliance, self-sufficiency, and not dependency, but caring, and respond to citizen’s reality and needs.

workable approach must bring to life the aspirations of the people enshrined in the 1955 Freedom Charter and the 1962 SACP Road to South African Freedom (SAHO, 1962). Social spending must be classified and understood to support production and productivity. A development state is a process of building the country and the economy, the endgame is a welfare state. A development state is not an end in itself, but a transition to a welfare state, a caring state serving the interest of the people.


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This report has been published by the Inclusive Society Institute

The Inclusive Society Institute (ISI) is an autonomous and independent institution that functions independently from any other entity. It is founded for the purpose of supporting and further deepening multi-party democracy. The ISI’s work is motivated by its desire to achieve non-racialism, non-sexism, social justice and cohesion, economic development and equality in South Africa, through a value system that embodies the social and national democratic principles associated with a developmental state. It recognises that a well-functioning democracy requires well-functioning political formations that are suitably equipped and capacitated. It further acknowledges that South Africa is inextricably linked to the ever transforming and interdependent global world, which necessitates international and multilateral cooperation. As such, the ISI also seeks to achieve its ideals at a global level through cooperation with like-minded parties and organs of civil society who share its basic values. In South Africa, ISI’s ideological positioning is aligned with that of the current ruling party and others in broader society with similar ideals.

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