South Africa in Africa: The post-apartheid era / James Hentz / African Affairs

Vol. 180, No. 431, 2009 pp. 336-337

South Africa in Africa: The post-apartheid era, edited by Adekeye Adebajo, Adebayo Adedeji, and Chris Landsberg. Pietermaritzburg: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, 2007. 339 pp. £24.95 (paperback). ISBN 978 1 86914 134 9.

This edited volume is an evaluation, and reflection, of South Africa's progress since the end of apartheid in 1994. It is both timely and incisive. The volume addresses how successful South Africa has been, and how well it has been able to fulfil its promise as a leader of Africa.

Part I, 'Context', looks inside South Africa, focusing on three issues: South Africa's political economy, black empowerment, and race and reconciliation. This is a good place to start because before South Africa can begin to effect change in Africa, it must address the effects of nearly half a century of apartheid rule. In Chapter 1, Adebayo Adedeji lays out the economic challenges inherited by the bifurcated South Africa. He challenges the neo-liberal Growth, Employment, and Redistribution Programme (GEAR), because it may exacerbate economic inequality. Of course, black economic empowerment, the topic of Chapter 2 by Khehla Shubane, is one solution. He argues that, in fact, the black middle class is growing, albeit within a country with too much poverty. Race, of course, is still an issue because the whites continue to dominate the economy. As Yasmin Sooka argues in Chapter 3, reconciliation between the races will not be complete until economic inequality and economic opportunity have been levelled.

Part II, 'Challenges', describes the role that South Africa could play in Africa, given the context of Part I. The first three chapters of this section share the theme of what is sometimes called the 'hegemon's dilemma'. South Africa is expected to be an engine of growth, and sometimes the 'night watchman', but without dominating the subcontinent of southern Africa, and without casting a shadow over sub-Saharan Africa. Given South Africa's legacy of destabilization of southern Africa during the apartheid era, and its concentrated economic wealth that transcends that era, the way South Africa projects power into the region and beyond is a central concern. As Maxi Schoeman's nuanced chapter notes, South Africa's self-perception and others' perception of South Africa may differ. Part of this is the paradoxical effect that South Africa's investment in the rest of Africa is both welcomed and threatening. The title of Chapter 6 by Judi Hudson, 'South Africa's economic expansion into Africa: neo-colonialism or development?' captures the problem. She shows that South Africa is fanning out into the continent through both private and public investment. The question remains, who benefits from this? The same can be said of South Africa's role in fostering regional security. As Khabele Matlosa explains, South Africa must bear much of the security burden, while not being threatening. The chapter on land reform in southern Africa, by Sam Moyo and Ruth Hall, relates both to the challenges outlined in Part I, and by analogy to regional problems, most evident in Zimbabwe. The final chapter of this section, authored by Angela Ndinga-Muvumba and Shaua Mottiar, tackles the issue of HIV/AIDS in South Africa and Africa. This is a complex topic to which a short review cannot do justice, but, as they note, with a 23 percent HIV infection rate in the South African National Defence Force, how can South Africa play the leadership role in Africa's peace and security institutions?

The final section of the volume, Part III, consists of a series of case studies. Possibly the most important chapter in this section, because it captures what I see as the key theme of the volume, is Chris Landsberg's chapter on South Africa's role in creating the African Union (out of the OAU), and the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD). The AU and NEPAD are proof of South Africa's leading role in Africa. They also show how a 'hegemon' can gain legitimacy through creating and participating in international institutions.

The final four chapters by Adekeye Adebajo, Augusta Conchiglia, Devon Curtis, and Iqbal Jhazbhay deal respectively with South Africa and Nigeria; South Africa and its lusophone neighbours; South Africa and the Great Lakes region; and South Africa and North Africa and the Horn. These are excellent, topical chapters that show how South Africa has used its position to help solve some of the continent's most serious security problems. Each reveals that South Africa is walking across two tightropes. First, even as it must face its own domestic challenges, it has tied its destiny to the rest of Africa. Second, it must do so without dictating to the rest of Africa. For the most part, this volume suggests, it has been relatively successful.

This volume is an excellent review of the current state of Africa, and of post-apartheid South Africa's role in Africa. It is appropriate for scholars, policy makers, and those interested in Africa. The volume is more descriptive than theoretical. It is, however, at times prescriptive. For better or worse, it sometimes reads as a critique of economic liberalism in Africa. For instance, it revisits the Lagos Plan of Action (LPA) versus the World Bank's Accelerated Development (AD) debate. Some of the authors were intimately involved in that debate. It would be interesting to see what some of the authors might think about the argument that we have now moved beyond old dichotomies such as these. If there were to be a concluding chapter, it might speculate on where we go from here. That said, this is an important contribution to the study of Africa in the post-Cold War era.

James Hentz
Virginia Military Institute Lexington

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