Development Studies Subject Conference
Theme of the 2013 SADSA Conference
Why should we characterize development in Southern Africa as a crisis? An election under a new constitution seems imminent in Zimbabwe; South Africa has joined BRICS and has stable conditions of government; African economies in general are growing fast, albeit from a low base. South Africa has a forward-looking, optimistic National Development Plan, which enjoys widespread support across society. For many in government and the development sector business is as usual. Problems, yes; crisis no. Yet we are subject to the crisis of global markets; there is brutal war for resources in the DRC, and while inequality grows, so does a mass of people who do not feel served by current political economies. This mass consists of landless, unemployed, poorly-certificated, undocumented and stateless and those suffering from HIV and/or AIDS and TB, living in broken down, violent and women-abusing non-communities. Military-political hegemony in Angola and Zimbabwe has sidelined the citizenry. In South Africa, protests have multiplied. There are unsolved crises of governance and management in particular ministries (health, safety and security and education for example) and crises of policy such as land reform); but there are also capacity problems in the civil service as a whole; and the ANC has differentiated into a polyvalent force that may not back all the steps that must be taken towards an effective, developmental state.
Conventional development does not adequately deal with these problems, either in theory or practice. Further, some recent theory has confused and problematized development as an aim. This includes neoliberal non-thought and new decolonial and neo-Marxist critiques of the very discourse of development. There are also other new strands of thinking in research institutes such as PARI and MISTRA, in communities of practice and in specific research projects in universities. Part of our crisis is a failure to rethink our context anew and rethink what can be done about it. Let us think anew. Crisis is dire, but it is also opportunity. What is our analysis of context, given new theories and the evolving southern African situation? What new forms of action and intervention are necessary? Who should the actors be?
Prof Geof Wood