The Labour Studies Seminar Series – hosted by the Neil Aggett Labour Studies Unit (NALSU), the Department of Sociology, the Department of History, and the Department of Economics and Economic History – kicked off Part Two of its 2018 programme with the launch of a new book by Dr John Reynolds.
Dr John Reynolds is the founding head of the NALSU at Rhodes University. His new book, titled Development Planning in South Africa: Provincial Policy and State Power in the Eastern Cape, draws on his own immersion in the process of developing the Eastern Cape Provincial Growth and Development Plan 2004-2014 (PGDP) to reflect on the scope for fundamental policy challenge within the post-apartheid South African state. Dr Reynolds served as a member of the PGDP Project Management Unit that was funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), with additional financial support from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID).
Dr Reynolds emerged from the planning process with deep concerns, including about choices that were made and outcomes that were achieved. These concerns gave rise to questions about state power and state policy.
His book traces the opening and closure of the possibility of a fundamental policy challenge at an important conjuncture in the country, which was when the governing tripartite alliance came close to splitting, when social movements were most vocal and visible, and when the effects of South Africa’s macroeconomic policy choices were becoming increasingly clear. This moment was consciously seized to challenge hegemony, but this challenge unravelled in complex ways.
The book grapples with the exercise of agency in the midst of complex path-dependent processes, exploring how the planning process unfolded on the strategically selective terrain of the South African state. Dr Reynolds engages in great detail with the planning process, including the development of the PGDP Strategy Framework and Programmes. He engages unflinchingly with the persistence of the apartheid legacy of poverty, unemployment and inequality despite the commitment of all the provincial social partners to a set of provincial targets to be met through implementation of the PGDP.
What was at issue was not simply the failure to meet the PGDP targets. Of particular concern was the scale of that failure by a government run by a former liberation movement in alliance with the South African Communist Party (SACP) and Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU). A participatory review of the PGDP in 2007 blamed this failure on national policy fragmentation, lack of funding and technical resources that had retarded progress, insufficient public sector implementation capacity, and ineffective championing of the PGDP by the political leadership in the Eastern Cape Province.
“Although there is truth in all of these failures,” said Dr Reynolds, “What was at issue was something far deeper. What had to be questioned was the organisation of state power in ways that reproduce poverty, unemployment and inequality.”
The international publisher of this book, Zed Books, described the book as the “first work of its kind, … [providing] an indispensable micro-level study with profound implications for how state power is understood to be organised and expressed in state policy.” Prof Bob Jessop of Lancaster University and Prof Janet Cherry of Nelson Mandela University both endorsed the book, with Prof Jessop describing it as a “compelling policy analysis”.
Two copies of Dr Reynolds’ book will be made available in the Rhodes University library as soon as they arrive.