This paper explores how South Africa despite having one of the most lauded constitutions and legal frameworks in the world has been unable to advance as a developmental state in economic development and institutional building endeavours. The contention of this paper is that the South African government, prioritising law and development, did so at the expense of institutional building for economic development purposes. Law and development is conceptualised in this paper as States prioritising liberal actions such as separation of powers (judiciary, executive and legislature) and human rights. Consequently, this paper is not arguing against some of the tenants characterising the law and development agenda. Rather it asks, did South Africa lose its credentials as a possible developmental state by prioritising law and development initiatives over building developmental state institutions for local economic development purposes in particular? Ultimately, this paper contends that for South Africa to become a functional developmental state it needs to reconsider its constitutional/law and development aspirations, in favour of reconfiguring government institutions to prioritise economic development.
© 2017 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston