Complexities of governance formality and informality for developing countries : editorial perspective

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 17
  • SDG 16
  • Abstract:

    The shift from government to governance, which was expected to be inclusionary and empowering to multiple actors, has not been unproblematic, especially for developing countries that have experimented with liberationist democratisation (Givens 2013; Croucamp & Malan 2016). Africa, in general, and South Africa, in particular, have not been exceptions to the norm, notwithstanding the latter’s international acclaim for its democratic dispensation. In recent years, South Africa has been afflicted with seemingly intractable governance problems wherein informal processes have evidently trumped formal constitutional and institutional frameworks. To this extent, perceptions of the liberationist-democratic experiment being exploited to legitimise distributive regimes and patronage through, among other modes, state capture have become stronger. To this extent, the governing party, the African National Congress (ANC), is now openly acknowledging governance challenges, which require indepth insight beyond the generalised rhetoric of good vis-à-vis bad. To this extent, this Issue of the Journal delves into the complexities of governance to uncover the associations of the shift from government with the overcompensation of formal constitutional and institutional frameworks with the informalised networks that legitimise a diversity of societal ills such as corruption, governing party ill-discipline and so on. Governance structures, systems and strategies are underwritten by philosophical tenets, therefore raising theoretical and pragmatic questions about domestic and foreign policies of nations (Buscher & Dietz 2005; Givens 2013; Jinping 2014; Croucamp & Malan 2016). Such questioning cannot be framed outside the parameters of the relationships of the party, state and society. China has, for example, sought to “modernise the national governance system” the Chinese way (Jinping 2014); therefore, South Africa’s ongoing crises of governance could as well be traced back to the unfettered endeavour to emulate the Western philosophies without couching them with Africanism or Africanist characteristics. According to Buscher & Dietz (2005:5), decisional and regulatory powers have traditionally been attributed to the state; and, the shift from government to governance implies that the majority of subjects of traditional authorities had to re-orientate themselves overnight as they were then expected to be actors in publicly contested power relations. Discursive power, which has traditionally resided with the state, has shifted significantly to non-state actors with the transition from government to governance in the contexts of globalism and localism. To this extent, Strange’s (1996 cited in Buscher & Dietz 2005:6) concept of hollow state has tended to gain traction in Africa as most states failed to manage their obligations. As a result, non-state actors, especially those that command resources, have increasingly developed “their own sets of rules or standards to fill ‘institutional voids’ where rules to guide behaviour are needed but not provided by the state” (Arts 2003 cited in Buscher & Dietz 2005:6). Generally, countries that trotted with democratic experimentation after long periods of liberationist struggles have commonly exploited the later logic to create a bond between the governing party and state in ways that serve distributive regimes and patronage on behalf of the elites and private financial interests. Notwithstanding South Africa’s democratisation, questions need to be asked: Has a democratic South Africa degenerated into a hollow state? This question does not deserve simplistic responses; instead, they entail convoluted yet rigorous analyses because insinuations of state capture, corruption of the elite, party and state patronage cannot be taken for granted.