Parliament hosted a State Capability Conference recently on the theme “State Capability: Delineating Weaknesses, Devising Strategic Mechanisms to Accelerate Policy Implementation” attended by government ministers and members of provincial legislatures as well as municipal councillors and experts in the field. The aim of the conference was to analyse state capacity, assess public sector administration and bureaucratic weaknesses and propose solutions to strengthen state capacity.

Making opening remarks, the Deputy Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), Ms Sylvia Lucas, said it is important to define capacity-related challenges across all spheres of government. “Government defines itself as an interventionist, developmental state, which uses the bureaucracy and its resources as a significant facilitator of growth and development. The foundations of a capable state have been laid, but there are major concerns about weaknesses in how these structures function, which constrain the state’s ability to pursue and attain its key developmental objectives.”

In welcoming delegates to the virtual conference, the Chairperson of the NCOP, Mr Amos Masondo, said although the South African democratic state had the necessary policies to improve the quality of life of the citizens, it fell short on implementation. “Our aspiration is not to only become a state with the requisite capability. It is also to become a developmental state. This means that through state intervention the policies we adopt and implement should help us to overcome the root causes of poverty and inequality and to build the state’s capacity to fulfil this role.”

Ms Lucas said the state was particularly hard-pressed to redouble its capacity to implement policies aimed at economic recovery and social transformation. “State capacity should therefore not merely be viewed as an abstract concept that we make reference to when appropriate. It should be recognised as a fundamental determinant in the confluence of challenges that relate to policy implementation,” she said.

Sibongile Maputi
9 May 2022