In Search of a Constitutional Democratic Developmental State in South Africa?
Isaac Khambule (University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa)

The South African National Development Plan envisions a capable democratic developmental state as the only response to the country’s deteriorating triple challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality. These developmental challenges burden the state and the country’s social cohesion because of the disgruntled masses as 27 years of democracy have not delivered meaningful economic benefits to their lives. Some of these developmental challenges are compounded by the failure of the government to provide basic services and corruption in the public sphere, thereby making it impossible for the millions languishing in poverty to believe in the democratic project. Against this backdrop, this paper explores a constitutional democratic developmental state model as a possible solution to the country’s developmental impasse. Most successful developmental states were led by authoritarian regimes, which requires us to dream of developmental states outside of authoritarian ambits in search of a democratic developmental state model embedded in constitutionalism, democratic development and the pursuit of economic growth, while also protecting human rights. The paper argues that by virtue of South Africa’s constitution, the government is mandated to improve socio-economic standards by facilitating and promoting socio-economic development to promote economic equity. South Africa is an emerging constitutional democratic developmental state because it is underpinned by the developmental ideology of a developmental state; by assigning the state with the ideological component through recognising the state as the most important player in accelerating socio-economic development and growth, and the structural component, by giving the state the necessary administrative power, political influence, resources and capacities to achieve transformative and redistributive economic development. This is evident as the Constitution instructs the subnational government to promote social and economic development, structure and manage their administration, budgeting and planning processes to give priority to the basic needs of the community.