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Failure by the Numbers? Settlement Statistics as Indicators of State Performance in South African Land Restitution

The World of Indicators (Cover)

The World of Indicators (Cover)

Zenker, Olaf – 2015

On 30 March 2011, the South African Department of Rural Development and Land Reform presented its Draft Annual Performance Plan: 2011–2012 to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Rural Development and Land Reform. When referring to its land restitution programme, the presentation indicated that the ‘purpose’ of this programme was to settle land restitution claims under the Restitution of Land Rights Act (Act No. 22 of 1994) and to provide settlement support to restitution beneficiaries, further highlighting as ‘key priorities’ the reduction of the backlog of land claims and the settlement of all outstanding land claims (Department of Rural Development and Land Reform 2011a: 29). The presentation then displayed a table containing its annual targets for backlog claims to be implemented, totalling 360 claims, as well as 90 new outstanding claims to be settled (Department of Rural Development and Land Reform 2011a: 30). The title of the table column containing these numbers read: ‘Performance indicator’. Increasingly, we are living in a world informed by indicators. Indicators are statistical measures used to consolidate and standardize complex data into a simple number or rank that is meaningful to policy-makers, civil servants and the public (Merry 2011: S86). Thus constituting emerging technologies of knowledge quantification, indicators and their circulation support new forms of ‘evidence-based’ governance at the national, transnational and international levels (Davis, Kingsbury, and Merry 2010; Merry 2011). Embedded in epistemic environments that appeal to ‘new governance’ – a form of governance characterized by participation, flexibility, data-based monitoring and evaluation within an overarching ‘audit culture’ (Power 1997; Strathern 2000) – this recent upsurge of indicators is arguably based on a migration of basic technologies from corporate management and control into the realms of the state and civil society (Merry 2011: S90–S92). As a form of governance, indicators induce those subject to their measures to take responsibility for their own actions. They are meant to lead to forms of self-discipline and self-regulation that can be easily read and monitored from the outside, and as such, contribute to an increase in public accountability.

Failure by the Numbers?
Zenker, Olaf
DOI: 10.1017/CBO9781316091265.005
Appeared in
Rottenburg, Merry et al. (Ed.) 2015 – The World of Indicators: The Making of Governmental Knowledge through Quantification
Size or Duration
pp. 102–126