The State of the South African State: Capacity, capability, ethics

09 May 2023
call for abstracts
09 May 2023

The Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection (MISTRA) is currently undertaking a priority research project, The State of the South African State: Capacity, capability, ethics. This project aims to provide a comprehensive and up-to-date overview of where the South African state stands after three decades of democracy. A central component of the project is the production of an edited peer-reviewed volume, to be co-edited by Laurence Caromba, Musa Nxele, and Sandy Africa.

The volume will provide insight into the strengths and weaknesses of the South African state, examine the challenges it faces, and provide recommendations on how these challenges might be addressed. It will draw on a variety of disciplinary perspectives to offer a high-level, multifaceted understanding of the state and its capacity to promote the public good.

We are issuing a targeted call for abstracts from authors who want to contribute to this volume. Abstracts can be either sole-authored or co-authored and are welcome from both established and emerging scholars. Contributions to the volume must constitute original work and should expand our understanding of the capacity, capability, and ethics of the South African state. We invite contributions covering various themes including, but not limited to, the following:

  •  Theorising and conceptualising the South African state;
  •  Ethics and state capture in South Africa;
  • The changing nature of electoral democracy in South Africa;
  •  Legitimacy and civic trust in the South African state;
  • The evolving role of the South African Constitution;
  •  State capacity, planning, monitoring, and evaluation;
  •  Gendered perspectives on the state, its structures, and functions;
  •  The role of the state as a provider of public services such as healthcare and education;
  • The role of historical pathways, inherited structures, and critical junctures;
  •  Patronage politics, ‘gatekeeping’, and the South African state;
  • Gangsterism, organised crime, vigilantism, and the criminal economy;
  • The role of the state with regard to South Africa’s changing political economy;
  • The Covid-19 pandemic as a test of the state’s capacity;
  • The three levels of government and the importance of the local state;
  • Popular resistance against the state;
  • The South African state in a global context.

Abstracts should be submitted no later than 12 May 2023 to the Project Coordinator, Njabulo Zwane:

Authors who interested in submission but require more details are welcome to request a full research concept note outlining the scope and objectives of the project.

Abstract submissions should not exceed 350 words and must include the following:
• Title of the paper (reflecting a clear description of the topic and its importance or relevance);
• Names of the contributing author(s), institutional affiliation(s), and contact email address(es);
• The research methodology and the source(s) of data; and
• Confirmation of the originality of the chapter.

Should an abstract be accepted, contributors will need to adhere to strict timelines for submission. We ask prospective authors to consider this when submitting an abstract. A first full draft of the chapter would need to be submitted no later than 11 July 2023, followed by a second draft on 25 August 2023, and a final version submitted on 27 November 2023.

For any queries about the volume or abstract topics, you are welcome to contact the volume coeditors:
• Laurence Caromba:
• Musa Nxele:
• Sandy Africa: