One of the main weaknesses of the critiques of education policies in post-apartheid South Africa is the tendency to overlook the analysis of the new state and the limitations imposed on it by the Interim Constitution. As such, critiques of policy have been framed in terms of literary or documentary analysis, i.e. by looking at the policy texts that have been released by government since the establishment of the
new dispensation. This article represents an attempt to move beyond this narrow analysis of policy and the policy process in the education arena to scrutinise the complex dynamics that have determined or at least conditioned particular directions and made particular policy practices prevail. In particular, it looks at the challenges of restructuring the apartheid education departments, the challenges of the
coexistence of the old and the new bureaucracy in the new Department of Education (DoE) and the impact this has had on the establishment of the new institutional memory and culture within the DoE in South Africa.