We cannot carry our own poverty: Native Affairs, welfare reform and the development of an 'inclusive' social pension system in South Africa, 1936 - 1959
Gevers, Liezl Sarah
MetadataShow full item record
“We cannot carry our own poverty”: Native Affairs, welfare reform and the development of an ‘inclusive’ social pension system in South Africa, 1936 – 1959 An ‘inclusive’ system of state social pensions was introduced by the United Party - led government in 1944 and remained intact throughout apartheid. Scholars have argued that the delivery infrastructure of the old age pension system in South Africa – which pervaded National Party rule – became crucial to the rapid distribution of state social grants in the 1990s. This research focuses on the construction of a bureaucratic system of control that developed in the 1940s for the purpose of administering social pensions to black South Africans. Extant studies on the history of the old age pension system in South Africa have paid little attention to the politics of administration and the particular ways in which bureaucrats shaped old age pension policy. In this thesis, I historicise its development by paying attention to the system’s internal structures and administration. By focusing on the administration of these pensions in the initial years of old age pension policy implementation in the Native Affairs Department (NAD), this thesis examines the position of the old age pension system as one thread in the reticulation of policies and practices that came together to form the apartheid state. It elucidates the conjuncture of social assistance, modernising technologies and centralised registration and administration in the 1950s, outside of any grand plan, as a factor in what became one of the apartheid state’s insidious projects of social engineering and control: separate development. I argue that the shift in administrative practice that occurred toward the end of the 1940s (but before National Party rule) from a decentralised, manual system of administration to a centralised, mechanised one reined in the authority of local authorising officers and limited their previously-held ability to act as mediators in the administration and development of the system, shifting their roles from active mediators to passive intermediaries. The technologies introduced with the project of mechanisation enabled the National Party led-NAD to embark on a campaign to systematically review and limit the award of pensions to black South African while keeping intact a system that was politically, socially and economically expedient. In this thesis, I contend that the system of old age pensions bolstered the dominant economic and political structures in South Africa and suggest that this system played a significant role in enabling the persistence of these structures.