Energy & Environment

Saturday, 23 July 2011 14:30

State of the Nation 2008

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State of the Nation: South Africa 2008 is the fifth in the HSRC’s much-lauded annual compilation of essays covering contemporary aspects of South African politics, economics, society and international relations. With new editors Peter Kagwanja and Kwandiwe Kondlo at the helm, the latest edition of this critical review features contributions by academics, researchers, commentators and analysts, covering topics ranging from post-Polokwane politics to South Africa’s role in the United Nations Security Council. The 13 chapters in the book tackle some of the central concerns that the nation is facing, as well as revealing fascinating research on topics that have not received major exposure, but pose equally important challenges. State of the Nation: South Africa 2008 continues the HSRC tradition of contributing to the ongoing dialogue and debates between researchers, policy-makers, public managers and policy activists, as well as revealing and revelling in the vibrancy of our democracy.
A portion of the essays were written before the dramatic outcomes of the 52nd National Conference of the ANC in Polokwane in December 2007, which marked a major turning point in the history of the ANC, with potentially exciting implications for South Africa’s democracy. Accordingly, the editors have included commentary on the conference in order to contextualise the chapters that make up State of the Nation: South Africa 2008. Essential questions, such as how to explain the defeat of Thabo Mbeki as ANC President, what the state of party politics is, and where South Africa is headed, are explored in the detailed Introduction to the volume, followed by essays which critically evaluate the state’s performance in several key areas. The compilation as a whole draws attention to nationalism as the salient issue that has framed the seismic shifts in South Africa’s politics, economy, society and foreign relations.

Section I, Politics, Somadoda Fikeni takes a sobering look at what he describes as “South Africa’s democracy at the crossroads”. The section continues with William Gumede’s essay on the modernisation of the ANC, and the legacy of President Thabo Mbeki. Thabisi Hoeane’s chapter on the PAC becomes all the more important in the post-Polokwane political arena, where he looks at the chances of the organisation posing an alternative to the ANC in the next election. Thiven Reddy’s essay on black consciousness in contemporary South Africa is similarly relevant.

In Part II, the Economics section, Sampie Terreblanche begins by focusing on the developmental state in South Africa and the difficult road ahead. Shaun Ruggunan writes about an unusual – but important – topic in his essay on the globalisation and transformation of the South African merchant navy. In their chapter, David Hemson, Jonathan Carter and Geci Karuri-Sebina analyse service delivery, state capacity and development as a measure of change. Donald Gibson, Amina Ismail, Darryll Killian and Maia Matshikiza weigh up the state of the South African environment with an emphasis on sustainable development, giving attention to eco-systems and human vulnerability.

In Part III, Society, Leslie Bank looks at the relationship between landlords, tenants and social power as played out in the backyards of an East London township. Scarlett Cornelissen looks at the contradictions of aspirationist urban policy-making, with a specific focus on Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban.

In the final section of the publication, South Africa, Africa and the globe, three essays focus on various aspects of South Africa’s international relations.

South Africa’s involvement in the Great Lakes mediation sessions is explored by Che Ajulu. South Africa’s role as one of three non-permanent holders of a seat on the United Nations Security Council is explored by Peter Kagwanja. Finally, and very topically, Peter Kagwanja and Martin Revayi Rupiya look at military relations between South African and Zimbabwe.

While the editors of State of Nation: South Africa 2008 concede that several burning issues are not considered in this edition – such as the state of crime and education – the publication nevertheless tackles some of the most important topics dominating discourse in contemporary South Africa. As HSRC President and CEO Olive Shisana says in her Foreword to the publication, “the exciting times we live in as South Africans never end”. Developments on social, political, economic and international fronts have generated much debate and the expression of a wide range of views. Once again, the annual volume provides essential information for scholars, politicians, policy-makers and civil society on the current South African condition.

State of the Nation: South Africa 2008 is edited by Peter Kagwanja and Kwandiwe Kondlo and published by the HSRC Press.

Copies of all of HSRC Press published titles are available from leading booksellers nationally, and from the online bookshop at

For a review copy of the book, or to make contact with the editors or contributors, contact:

Shaun Stuart
Marketing Co-ordinator
HSRC Press

Tel: +27 21 466 8002
Fax: +27 21 461 0836
e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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