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Title: The things we lost in the fire : the political economy of post-apartheid restructuring of the South African steel and engineering sectors
Author: Zalk, Nimrod Elijah
ISNI:       0000 0004 7960 6098
Awarding Body: SOAS University of London
Current Institution: SOAS, University of London
Date of Award: 2017
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This thesis examines competing explanations for weak post-apartheid industrial performance through the lens of the restructuring of steel and engineering and the three private and public conglomerates - Iscor, Anglo American and Rembrandt - that dominated these sectors over South Africa's transition to democracy. The twentieth-century evolution of these groups is illustrative of apartheid accumulation processes rooted in mining and heavy industries like steel, and their exertion of increasing control across the economy. Confined to a subordinate role, conglomerate engineering subsidiaries developed significant but truncated industrial capabilities. Orthodox explanations for weak post-apartheid industrial performance, based primarily on the persistence of market distortions and skills deficits, are found to be unsatisfactory. Rather underperformance is better understood through a political economy framework emphasising the influence of ideology and interests. Advocacy by the largest conglomerates for orthodox policies amenable to unfettered restructuring were legitimated by ideological claims and asset transfers to politically influential black individuals. Unguided by national strategies and performance requirements, industrial restructuring was undertaken by the conglomerates themselves in concert with increasingly influential institutional investors. This process resulted in widespread destruction of engineering industrial capabilities; the foreclosure of opportunities to develop globally competitive engineering firms; underinvestment and ultimately crisis in the steel sector; and weakened manufacturing linkages and multipliers with the rest of the economy. Furthermore, efforts since 2007 to mobilise industrial policy at scale to promote diversification from heavy industry has been impeded by these lost opportunities and the political economy conditions that spawned them.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral