Academic journal article Journal of Third World Studies

Endorsing Intellectual Development in South Africa's Affirmative Action

Academic journal article Journal of Third World Studies

Endorsing Intellectual Development in South Africa's Affirmative Action

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

After the end of apartheid, South Africa was saddled with a lot of responsibility. The new political dispensation had to redress protracted racial injustice. In 2014, South Africa celebrated two decades of democracy and attempted racial integration after more than three hundred years of white domination and racial injustice. Under the generic phrase of "racial injustice" are found its particular but equally sinister manifestations of political, economic and social inequalities. (1) Over the last two decades, the post-apartheid South African government has made immense efforts to redress these inequalities. The time is ripe for South Africa to engage in a sober assessment of what has happened in the last twenty years of South Africa's post-apartheid reconstruction effort. This is to value, relinquish or tinker with, certain policies that are geared towards promoting national unity and equality. There are a number of initiatives that the new political dispensation devised in order to achieve some sort of redress after years of racial stratification.

Affirmative action is one of the policies through which South Africa seeks to excise racial inequalities through a strategic racial favoritism that favors previously disadvantaged groups. The moral intent of affirmative action cannot be besmirched. Previously disadvantaged groups have justifiable claims to better opportunities in the aftermath of apartheid, and the new political elites have a moral and legal responsibility to make good the promises of the new South Africa. Furthermore, affirmative action is not exclusive to South Africa; it has been justified and applied in other nations as well. While justifying the American case of affirmative action, Appiah asserts that "morally acceptable procedures sometimes take account of the fact that a person is a member of a certain (i.e. previously disadvantaged) social group". (2) The 1965 speech that President Lyndon B. Johnson delivered at Howard University, the illustrious Black American institution at the time, was a landmark in the history of affirmative action. The president rued the widening gap between the between black and white unemployment rates and income. (3) President Johnson further emphasized that crucial steps were needed to bring black Americans to an acceptable form of existence in comparison to the historically favored white people. It was not enough to merely give black people the franchise and to grant them other civil triumphs without acknowledging the fact that they were on a more desperate footing than their white compatriots. Affirmative action was then mooted as a framework through which black people could access opportunities that were previously the preserve of the white populace.

A similar scenario plays out in contemporary South Africa, where black people suffer the ills of historical injustices. By favoring disadvantaged groups, affirmative action in South Africa presents an avenue for South Africa to attain national unity, reconciliation and equality by bridging the gap between the previously advantaged and disadvantaged groups. It is realistic to note that South Africa cannot be expected to completely solve three hundred years of racial inequalities and stratification in just two decades. The remarkable work that the African National Congress (ANC) government has done through its post-apartheid reconstruction measures cannot be gainsaid. The post-apartheid leadership has managed to transform South Africa from an international pariah into a viable business and investment destination. (4) Under the auspices of the Reconstruction and Development Program (RDP), more houses have been erected for previously disadvantaged groups that lacked decent shelter. The practice of affirmative action has helped to somewhat empower disadvantaged groups economically, socially and politically. (5)

The practice, however, has also being criticized for its poor and myopic execution. …

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