Stability and change in South African public policy: 1994-2014
Shangase, Generous Mabutho
This thesis narrates the exercise of state autonomy to achieve macro-economic stability and effect incremental policy change in South Africa between 1994 and 2014. Employing a composite case study of the macro-economic policy framework; the Growth Employment and Redistribution (GEAR) (1996) strategy, and two micro policies, Free Basic Electricity (FBE) (2003) and No Fee Schools (NFS) (2006), it demonstrates how the post-apartheid state introduced reforms at macro and micro policy levels. Taking a historical institutionalist approach, it emphasizes the importance of ideas, context, configurations, temporal arguments and path-dependence to recount a story of policy change. The main sources of evidence comprise semi-structured elite interviews conducted with senior politicians, public servants, trade unionists and academic researchers as well as secondary data such as Hansard, government documents and other research reports. Data collection in South Africa was undertaken over a period of twelve months across various sites such as state departments, parliament, the South African Reserve Bank, university libraries, municipalities, private companies, parastatals and schools in the Gauteng Province. The context of transition from apartheid to a democratic dispensation, 1990-1994, with the negotiation processes forms a backdrop to the study whereby compromises and important policy choices set the scene for the formulation of new policy infrastructure culminating in GEAR in 1996. The implementation of GEAR in 1996 and the achievement of macroeconomic stability in turn prepared the ground for intervention at micro policy level. Consequently the introduction of incremental policy change through micro policies such as FBE (2003) and NFS (2006) became possible. Importantly this thesis reveals that whilst incremental policy change has been achievable, it is not totally transformative but rather built upon policy legacies as it proffers gradual adjustments which do not reverse earlier policy decisions and compromises nor effect fundamental change. Nevertheless, even in a difficult international and domestic environment, the South African state has shown a capacity to initiate and sustain incremental change in key areas of public policy.