Organisational Cloaking in Post-Apartheid Southern Africa: The Southern African Development Community (SADC)

Author(s): Evan Lieberman 

Status/Format: Published

Date: 1997

Publication Type: Journal Article

Publisher: Transformation: Critical Perspectives on Southern Africa

Volume and Issue: 34

Page Numbers: 86 - 107


The end of apartheid-style government presents the opportunity to explore a fascinating theoretical question for analysts of political change: What happens when organisations born out of a particular political mandate survive into a period characterised by severely altered circumstances? Given the high transaction costs of establishing new organisations and institutions, political leaders may justify the maintenance of an organisation whose original mandate has become obsolete. Can we identify analytically distinctive features of such organisations and their impact on political and economic outcomes? Employing insights gleaned from Philip Selznick's 'Old Sociological Institutionalism' (OSI), this paper examines the impact of the end of apartheid at the most macro-level of institutions and policy: the Southern African region's main development organisation. This case study of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) demonstrates that under such circumstances, an organisation may be 'captured,' and used to pursue goals quite contrary to those for which it was originally established through a process of 'organisational cloaking.' The argument may provide the theoretical basis for analysis of other organisations and institutions in South Africa - and elsewhere - where organisations have outlived their original mandate, particularly in environments of rapid, non-revolutionary change. A key implication of the theoretical argument is that the South African political arena is likely comprised of a patchwork of fully functioning organisations which operate in a manner wholly unrelated to their stated goals and policies.