Land reform, rural development and developmental state policies in South Africa:

Betwixt and between integrated development
13 October 2017

South Africa’s National Development Plan (NDP) describes the country as a low-growth, middle- income trapped economy, characterised by high inequality, high unemployment, low savings and poor skills levels. It aims to eliminate income poverty and reduce inequality by 2030, and pleads for an integrated and inclusive rural economy and a capable and developmental state to coordinate this effort.

This article explores the relevance of developmental state characteristics in the promotion of such an integrated and inclusive rural economy. Both aspirations are briefly put in theoretical and comparative perspective. Then follows an analysis of how government actors assess from within the state’s capacity to fulfil the mandate of coordinated and integrated land reform and rural development from a developmental state perspective. The intervention logic of a development state approach is supported, but found wanting in critical areas. Further clarification and elaboration of policies,adequate financial and human resources, further coordination, and an improved public image of government are to be prioritized. These findings support the elaboration of the conceptual framework to refine the understanding of the enabling role of developmental state building blocks in integrated and coordinated land reform and rural development in South Africa. More diverse and refined information on stakeholders’ perspectives and modalities of joint action can render the explanation of the officially acknowledged gap between policy formulation and implementation from a developmental state perspective more succinct.