Researching the politics of development



Governance and inequality: Benchmarking and interpreting South Africa’s evolving political settlement

Working paper 51

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Brian Levy, Alan Hirsch and Ingrid Woolard
Has South Africa’s political settlement provided a constructive platform for successfully addressing the country’s deep-seated economic challenges in an inclusive way? Or is it increasingly consolidating as a settlement which is narrowly of and for elites (albeit in importantly different ways from its apartheid predecessor)? This paper addresses these questions, and reexamines the foundations of the democracy in an attempt to understand the obstacles to South Africa moving into a truly sustainable democracy. It provides a broad overview of South Africa’s evolving political settlement and the capability and commitment of the South African state (and the elites which underpin it) to deliver inclusive development. The political settlement analysis is anchored in a comparative assessment of evolving patterns of income distribution across countries and over time. The paper offers reflections on how the challenges going forward for South Africa might be addressed.