The Decline of African Nationalism and the State of South Africa – Professor Ivor Chipkin public lecture

12 May, 2016

The Public Affairs Research Institute held a public lecture, at the Wits Anthropology Museum, on the Decline of African Nationalism and the State of South Africa. Chipkin’s lecture explored the electoral performance of the African National Congress (ANC) to argue that there is evidence of a two-fold movement. On the one hand the ANC is weakening as a national organisation, and on the other it is strengthening as a regionally-based party in KwaZulu-Natal. The lecture explored what these contradictory forces mean for South African society and the nation.

In the run up to the 2016 local government elections, this lecture provided a unique insight into the electoral prospects of the ANC and the importance of institution-building for the future of a democratic state.

The lecture was chaired by Dr Carin Runciman, with Professor Mcebisi Ndletyana, Associate Professor of Political Science, at the University of Johannesburg, as the discussant.


Brian Levy to present at PARI Reading Group
1 April 2016

PARI hosted professor and author Brian Levy at one of its weekly reading groups. Levy presented his book ‘Working with the Grain: Integrating Governance and Growth in Development Strategies’.

Re-imagining local government: What are the major challenges facing municipalities today? – 18 February, 2016

In South Africa today multiple contradictions (economic, social and political) are increasingly playing themselves out at the local government level.

What are the implications for municipalities and how are they responding to these challenges?

Ahead of the upcoming local government elections, the Public Affairs Research Institute held a special public dialogue on the inner workings and hardships of South Africa’s municipalities.

PARI will also share its report on the 2013/14 municipal audit outcomes.

Speakers: Ivor Chipkin (PARI), Mohammed Lorgat (SALGA), George Seitisho (COGTA), Roland Hunter (CSP)

Both CNBC Africa and Times Live covered the event.

National Dialogue Forum – 31 July, 2015

The Public Affairs Research Institute (PARI) and the Archival Platform hosted a National Dialogue Forum to discuss, debate and share ideas on:

  • The critical importance of efficient and effective government record keeping. This discussion will drew on the findings detailed in the Archival Platform’s State of the Archives analysis, and on the extensive experience and expertise of the PARI team.
  • The status and placement of public archives, asking how and where these may best be positioned to deliver effectively on their legislative mandates.

Inside Government: How can it work better? – 25 June, 2015

PARI hosted a panel discussion to consider the challenges of governance from the interior life of public institutions, asking what can be done to get them working better.
The panel consisted of: Michael Sachs, DDG Budget Office at the National Treasury; Carol Paton, Journalist at BusinessDay; David Lewis, Executive Director at Corruption Watch and Mcebisi Ndletyana, Head of the Political Economy Faculty at Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection.

Launch of PARI’s research projects on State Procurement and Local Government and Water Delivery – 30 May 2014

PARI is pleased to announce a workshop on recent research completed on the state. The event will launch and invite debate on PARI’s recently completed study on public procurement and water and sanitation provision for the Ford Foundation and Open Society Foundation respectively. Both studies raise important questions for civil society organisations and public sector reformers working to transform the state and ensure public accountability. See here for more information.

Bantustan Research Workshop – 20 June 2014

For the past 9 months, PARI has been running a reading group on the Bantustans. It has generated great excitement and interest among scholars and researchers working on and in South Africa. To round off the reading group and develop a research agenda going forward, PARI is hosting a day long workshop for Bantustan-researchers on the 20th of June at Wits. If you are interested in being involved email Laura Phillips.

Oxford Conference: 20 Years of South African Democracy – April 2014

PARI presented at Oxford’s 20 Years of  South African Democracy Conference in April 2014. We hosted a panel titled New Perspectives on the South African State , with Ivor Chipkin, Njogu Morgan, Sarah Meny-Gibert and Ryan Brunette. Laura Phillips also spoke on the Bantustans and Idah Makukule presented on the social institutions of Zandspruit. To find out more, see here.

PARI and Chris Hani Institute host Alfredo Saad Filho on ‘Neoliberalism: Its Crisis and Alternatives’

PARI and the Chris Hani Institute are pleased to announce Alfredo Saad Filho speaking on ‘Neoliberalism: Its Crisis and Alternatives.’ Filho is a Professor of Political Economy at School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. His research interests include political economy of development, industrial policy, neoliberalism, alternative economic policies, Latin American political and economic development, inflation and stabilisation, and the labour theory of value and its applications.

Date: Wednesday 19 February 2014

Time: 12h00 for 12.30pm until 2pm

Venue: Wits University, Seminar Room, South West Engineering Building, East Campus

RSVP to Anthea Metcalfe: or 083 660 1432. Refreshments will be served before the seminar

Public Lecture on Capitalism and Communalism in Contemporary South Africa – 20 January 2014

Ivor Chipkin will be giving a public lecture on ‘Capitalism and Communalism in Contemporary South Africa’ at the Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany on the 20th of January. For further details see:

International Sociological Debates Seminar at the University of Barcelona – 11 December

Ivor Chipkin gave a presentation to the prestigious International Sociological Debates Seminar at the University of Barcelona on the 11th of December. The seminar series is a major intellectual form in Europe – previous speakers have included Jurgen Habermas and Loic Wacquant. Ivor presented an experimental paper, offering a critique of the principle of popular sovereignty in favour of another way of ‘generating the people’. You can see the presentation here.

Joint workshop on New Communities with PARI and UFS – 30 October 2013

PARI and the UFS are jointly hosting a workshop on New Communities in the Free State and Gauteng on the 30th of October.  The workshop will be held on the UFS campus and will bring together researchers and students from the NRF Chair in Local Histories and Present Realities, PARI students and researchers and social scientists from UFS.

‘When Government Works’. A Panel Discussion – 16 September 2013. 

PARI, the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) and the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection (MISTRA) are bringing together a panel of major African and Asian scholars and thought leaders to share their views and experiences on the fortunes of post-independence governments. The panel discussion inaugurates a two day conference on African State Formation and Bureaucracy in Comparative Perspective. The panel with be chaired by Ferial Haffajee, with Joel Netshitenzhe, Eghosa Osagahe, Eun-Jeung Lee and Ketso Gordhan.

African State Formation and Bureaucracy in Comparative Perspective. A Conference hosted by PARI, FES and MISTRA –  17 – 18 September. 

PARI, the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) and the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection (MISTRA) are very pleased to announce a jointly hosted conference on African State Formation and Bureaucracy in Comparative Perspective to be held in Johannesburg from the 16th – 18th of September.  The conference will bring together a wide range of scholars from across the African, European and Asian continents and initiate a conversation about varied processes of state formation from the pre-colonial to the contemporary period. To see speaker’s abstracts, click here. To see speaker’s biographies, click here.

Where is South Africa now? A Panel Discussion – 13 May 2013

The Public Affairs Research Institute (PARI) and the Trajectories of Modernity research project (TRAMOD) at the University of Barcelona opened the workshop on ‘Trajectories of South African Modernity’ (see below) with a panel discussion facilitated by Eusebius McKaiser with Jacob Dlamini, Shireen Hassim, Dilip Menon and Peter Wagner. Click here for a summary of the panel discussion and the joint workshop.

The Trajectory of South African Modernity: Recent Past and Near Future. A Joint workshop with PARI and TRAMOD, from the University of Barcelona – 14 – 15 May 2013

PARI jointly held a workshop with Peter Wagner and the TRAMOD project (Trajectories of Modernity) from the University of Barcelona. The workshop focused on the history and sociology of South African society, and gave researchers an opportunity to present work to a critical and engaged audience. For more information about the programme, click here.

FES sponsored media breakfast

On Monday the 28th of January, the Friederich Ebert Stiftung (FES), hosted a breakfast discussion between PARI and a group of representatives from the South African media.  Noting the new kinds of research that PARI is doing and its bearing on how we understand contemporary South Africa, FES asked PARI to present its work to media and facilitate a discussion on what this may mean for the kinds of stories to be reported on.

Symposium with Princeton – International Comparative Perspectives on Corruption, August 2012:

The symposium focused on getting to grips with corruption in South Africa and identifying the kinds of interventions needed to meaningfully reduce it. The event    included presentations from ISS (Princeton) working on case studies of successful anti-corruption initiatives around the world. Local speakers included Deputy Minister of Public Works, Jeremy Cronin; Linda Chisholm, the advisor to the Minister of Basic Education (who provided an excellent analysis of the text book crisis in Limpopo);  Bongani Ngqulunga, private advisor to the President and Ivor Chipkin, who presented   some of PARI’s analysis and more. At the symposium’s close, Wits Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Loyiso Nongxa, launched the Wits Public Accountability Forum. The symposium received very positive feedback in a survey PARI circulated to participants after the conference.

Workshop with Princeton and the Gauteng Planning Commission – Planning Ahead: A Gauteng Public Service, August 2012:

The workshop explored the kind of public service required to drive and facilitate   Gauteng 2055 – the vision and strategic plan for the Gauteng province. The workshop brought together researchers and practitioners in the South African and more specifically, Gauteng, context with researchers from Princeton’s ISS who shared insight of public sector reform initiatives in the USA, Asia and Africa.

Symposium – City, Identity and Governance in Post-Apartheid South Africa, April 2012:

Using PARI’s research on social change in Johannesburg as a platform for discussion, PARI hosted a two day symposium at Wits University to explore important social changes in urban post-apartheid South Africa. The symposium was preceded by a public lecture by Professor Phil Bonner at the PARI office. The symposium and PARI’s research received extensive coverage in City Press.

Workshop with Studies in Poverty and Inequality Institute – Civil Society and the State: What Sites of Engagement? November 2011:

PARI and the Studies in Poverty and Inequality Institute hosted a workshop with civil society organisations which discussed how civil society can best play a more strategic role in influencing the development agenda and holding government to account. The workshop focused primarily on points of leverage rather than constraints to working with government.

Conference panel – One Hundred Years of the ANC: Debating Liberation Histories and Democracy Today Conference, September 2011:

PARI hosted a panel at a conference organised by Wits University and the University of Johannesburg. The panel situated the challenges of public sector performance and the transformation of the South African political economy in a broader discussion of the nature of the South African state.  The panel included Ivor Chipkin and Sarah Meny-Gibert from PARI, as well as Dr Bongani Ngqulunga from the Presidency and Lisa Vetten from the Tshwarang Advocacy Centre.

Workshop panel – Johannesburg Workshop on Theory and Criticism, July 2011:

The Johannesburg Workshop in Theory and Criticism, drawing on a theme being explored by PARI, hosted a panel on Topographies of the Extra /Ordinary as part of their annual workshop and summer school. The workshop explored the concept of ‘the ordinary’ in the context of contemporary politics, culture and aesthetics. As part of the panel, PARI took participants on a tour of the western edge of Johannesburg, where PARI is engaged in research. The workshop was attended by renowned international scholars such as Judith Butler and John Comaroff, as well as a wide range of international postgraduate students.

Conference panel – Conference on the New Growth Path, May 2011:

The Department of Economic Development hosted its first annual conference in May this year, with a focus on the New Growth Path. PARI was invited to host a panel at the conference, which explored the institutional conditions of the growth model. The panel included Isobel Frye, Director of the Studies in Poverty and Inequality Institute, Dr Richard Levine, then Director General of the Department of Economic Development and Ivor Chipkin from PARI.

PARI- Princeton symposium on ‘Comparative, International Perspectives on Public Sector Reform’, January 2011:

In January 2011, PARI hosted a symposium in collaboration with Princeton’s Innovations for Successful Societies Programme. The symposium was also intended to stimulate discussion and research about public sector reform in South Africa from an international comparative perspective. The symposium was designed in such a way as to facilitate a conversation across and between academics and public servants. For more information about the symposium, click here.


PARI hosts a fortnightly internal seminar series which provides a safe, but critical space for PARI postgraduate students and researchers to present their research, workshop fresh ideas and spark debate about relevant theory and research practice.  Presenters at these seminars have also included:

  • Simon Dagut, Standard Bank on New Institutional Economics
  • Ingrid Hurwitz, First National Bank, on ‘Organisational culture: theory, critique’
  • Lwazi Lushaba, Wits University on ‘Development as modernity, modernity as development’
  • Peter Wagner, University of Barcelona on ‘South Africa and Modernity’
  • Peter Hudson, Wits University, on ‘The colonial unconscious’
  • James Ball, Wits University, on his historical research on organisational change in Johannesburg’s apartheid pass office
  • Velisubuhle Buti, National Treasury and Masters student at University of Pretoria, on his research on the National Treasury.
  • Sylvia Croese on ‘Local Governance in the African City. The Case of Luanda, Angola