SA is a unitary state rather than a federation. We elect provincial parliaments with great solemnity, and blue light convoys choke the streets of our provincial capitals, but provinces do not much pass laws, levy taxes or control their own budgets. Policy is made at the centre and provinces are hooked up to a drip-feed of national resources.

Fantasies circulate about how this might change. Well-meaning development specialists say we can abolish provinces altogether. Secessionists say provinces can simply opt out of the republic. A larger group of dreamers in the ANC yearn for the day when “certain provinces” can be merged with their neighbours...

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