Magazine article New African

A Tarnished Rainbow

Magazine article New African

A Tarnished Rainbow

Article excerpt

THE FAILURE OF SOUTH AFRICA'S post-apartheid economic and social policies, and an inability to make the public service more effective, have kept racial inequalities in wealth distribution inherited from the apartheid system the same--there is a mainly poor black majority and a generally well-off white minority. To a large extent it is to blame for persistent violent antipoverty protests, such as those at Marikana mine.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The new South Africa was founded in 1994 on brittle foundations. The economic, political and individual self-worth inequality ran along racial lines, and was deliberately fostered so by apartheid governments.

The success of the post-1994 democratic project depended on this racially-based inequality, specifically the economic element of it, to be quickly addressed. If not, rising black resentment would threaten the foundations of the new South Africa. In recent years, predominantly black communities have regularly protested, sometimes very violently, against poor public services, the lack of employment or poorly paid jobs, corruption and indifference by political leaders and officials across the country. There appears to be a general feeling that political party leaders and democratic institutions (such as parliament) are ignorant of their plight. Furthermore, there appears to be a feeling that protective institutions, such as the police and judiciary, remain as hostile as they were for blacks under apartheid--the police's shooting of protesting miners at Marikana is a case in point.

Frustration often spills into violent protests

Marikana may present the tipping point where black anger spills over. Last year, South Africa replaced Brazil as the most unequal society, with the gap between the poorest and richest individuals the highest in the world.

Many black South Africans hoped that the ending of the obscenity of apartheid would bring jobs, effective public services and clean government. In many instances, such hopes have been dashed.

The ANC government has provided free public healthcare, education, low-cost housing and welfare grants to some of the most indigent. However, the "free" public services: education, healthcare, police and other services, have often been of poor quality, simply non-existent in many parts of the country, and often requires user fees.

However, a small black elite, from the ranks of senior ANC leaders, public servants and trade unions have become fabulously rich since 1994, mostly through the phenomenon of "political capital". This is the seniority, or closeness to it, in the ANC hierarchy that can be traded for senior positions in the public service, government contracts, and shareholdings in established white companies (called black economic empowerment, or BEE).

Wealthier black and well-to-do white South Africans can circumnavigate poor public services by subscribing to private ones: security, private healthcare and education, "safe" gated communities. Economic growth since 1994 has failed to meaningfully increase employment opportunities for the masses. Several global crises since 1994, when the new South Africa's economy entered the global economy--first the Asian financial crisis of 1997/1998, then several global commodity crises, and most recently the global financial and Eurozone crises--have hit the country like a tsunami.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Since 1990, the mining sector has declined from 800,000 to around 300,000 jobs. Those who lost their jobs were mainly black, low-skilled workers. Since the start of the global and Eurozone financial crises alone, almost a million jobs have been lost--most of these are black people with low technical skills, and with little possibility of securing another job.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The global financial and Eurozone crises have also affected the black middle class, particularly those working in the private sector. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.