In 1994 the new South African government started a policy process in the fisheries sector. It was acknowledged that although the fisheries resources were reasonably well managed, the distribution of wealth and power within the fisheries was extremely uneven in favour of a few white-owned companies. A large national commission (FPDC) with members from all stakeholders worked out recommendations that later were turned into a White Paper and eventually into a new fisheries act. South Africa's new fisheries policy is based on a modified ITQ system, which to a large degree accommodates existing owners. New entrants have been offered a small part of the available resources and some state support in a transitional period -- a result falling far short of the expectations of the formerly dispossessed groups. Our key concern is to explain why institutions, in this case fisheries management institutions, change so slowly, even in a "revolutionary" context. The evident paradox in the case of South Africa is that the state, which was supposed to represent "the solution" in terms of a new and more equitable fisheries policy has turned into being "the problem".