Making institutions work in South Africa

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About the book

  • Can institutions withstand corrosive interests?
  • Are current institutions appropriate and relevant to society?
  • Can institutions sufficiently protect the rule of law to enhance open and transparent public accountability?

Making Institutions Work recognises that institutions are the pillars of a constitutional democracy; they evolve through the actions of persons; and as organisations they form structures of dynamic, shared social patterns of behaviour. The book offers interdisciplinary critical commentary by scholars, analysts and experts regarding strategic thinking, structural and functional impediments and facilitators to institutions

About the authors

Daniel Plaatjies was a full-time Chairperson of the constitution’s Financial and Fiscal Commission, South Africa. Visiting Professor at the School for Business Administration, University of Free State and former Head and Director of the Graduate School of Governance (formerly Public and Development Management), University of Witwatersrand.

He was the editor of three books: Building State Capacity in Democratic South Africa (Jacana 2011); Governance and Public Accountability in Democratic South Africa (Jacana 2013) and State of the Nation 2016: Who is in Charge? Mandates, Accountability and Contestations in South Africa (HSRC 2016).

Recently (2018) chaired the Inter-Ministerial Task Team’s Special Advisory Panel on ESKOM and Municipal Debt and was a Commissioner on the Presidential Remuneration Review Commission on the Public Service.

Plaatjies was a scholar and practitioner in financial and fiscal policy, governance, leadership and management. He worked in the public finance unit of the National Treasury and co-administered the establishment of the South African Social Security Agency.

Sadly, Daniel passed away in October 2020 during the production of this Making Institutions Work in South Africa.


Following the ushering in of a democratic state on the 27 April 1994, ‘world class’ legislation and policies were introduced and highly acclaimed public institutions were created in South Africa as part of the state machinery. Daniel Plaatjies and the contributors have produced a very timely, opportune and pertinent publication, that interrogates a very critical and rudimentary global governance theme, Making Institutions Work in a South African context. Reflecting on our experiences and lessons, both good and bad post-1994, the book maps a way forward in terms of getting ‘back to basics’ in the broader context of Constitutional imperatives and a developmental state.

Purshottama Sivanarain Reddy, Senior Professor, School of MIG – Discipline of Public Governance,

University of Kwa Zulu-Natal


Foreword – Judge Dennis Davies

  1. Where to with Institutions? – Daniel Plaatjies
  2. Trust in South African Institutions – The Role of Leadership as Primary Trust Building Institution – Erwin Schwella
  3. Independent oversight bodies lessons from Fiscal productivity and regulatory institutions – Sean Dougherty
  4. Governance in representative democracies: Attitudes to Technocratic versus Democratic Governments – Luiz de Mello
  5. Economic Institutions and the frustration of economic policy – Neva Makgetla
  6. Institutional Analysis of the Prospects of a social compact for growth, Employment and Equity in South Africa – Kenneth Creamer
  7. The Department as Institution. The National Treasury and its institutional role – Steven Friedman
  8. Separation of Powers and the dangers of judicial underreach – Narnia Bohler-Muller, Gary Pienaar and Michael Cosser
  9. Remedy, Recovery, Relaunch Legal Aid South Africa as a successful Post-Apartheid Institution supporting the Rule of Law – Jonathan Klaaren
  10. Rebuilding our State-Owned Enterprises – The institutional, organisational and governance reforms necessary for Success – Mohamed Adam
  11. From the Bewysburo to the biometric state: Public institutions in and critiques of migration policies and practices in South Africa – Temba Masilela, Rachel Adams and Stephen Rule