Economically, South Africa is apartheid without the guilt


Posted on May 22, 2015 08:18

South Africa has race issues. I know that’s kind of obvious, like telling you the Middle East has religious conflict or that Jeremy Clarkson’s a bigot. I’m not saying our Facebook feeds give us quotas – ‘You have reached your limit of white friends, please try the Indians.’ Our problem is more endemic.

Our dream of a Rainbow Nation is exposed by some of the world’s most structurally violent inequality.

Apparently we have the world’s worst Gini coefficient, with inequality still predominantly along race lines.

Basically, the new South Africa, economically, is apartheid without the guilt.

Of our 14 wealthiest people, only two of them are black in a country where 90% of the people are black.

And, according to the census in 2012, black people on average earn six times less than white people.

Basically, the new South Africa, economically, is apartheid without the guilt.

To put it simply, the only white people who didn’t benefit from apartheid are the albinos.

Back in the 1990s, Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu coined the term ‘Rainbow Nation’ to give us some form of national identity outside of ethnicity, colonialism and ‘whites only’ signs.

The Rainbow Nation was a Tellytubbyesque happy land where we all suddenly didn’t have race.

This, of course, is a very convenient situation if you have spent 350 years benefiting from race. It’s kind of like when it’s your turn to do the dishes and you get a licence to go “There are no dishes.”

This is not to say white South Africans are evil or to blame, merely that the Rainbow Nation narrative often helped cover up inequality, in some ways pro-longing socio-political breakdown rather then fixing it.

To put it simply, just because you didn’t order the apartheid pizza, doesn’t mean you didn’t eat. Our legacy didn’t vanish.

Racial categories may be false, but their impact on people’s lives is not – kind of like the Kardashians: fake, but powerful.

The Rainbow Nation is our goal, not our current state. Of course, none of this will make sense if I don’t also explain apartheid. It’s very jolly.

Apartheid was in essence 50 years of affirmative action for white people, which came off the back of 300 years of affirmative action for white people, slavery and colonial conquest.

Forced removals and severe controls around movements of black people in the country meant that today most poor black people are still stuck in townships on the outskirts of town, where travel to work is difficult and there are fewer resources.

Black people also had their land taken from them, were severely restricted in what jobs they could have and businesses they could run, and African people in particular were deliberately given substandard education. Wonderful people, these settlers.

Politically, the main player is the party of Mandela, the African National Congress (ANC).

Commission Impossible

They have been around for a hundred and something years and are jam-packed with ‘comrades’ who devoted their entire lives to freeing the country from some evil, racist schmucks.

Unfortunately, not all of them have stayed so morally upright.

The ANC is also now jam-packed with opportunists, many of whom have a penchant for pointy shoes and shirts with double collars.

They have turned aspects of the party into a huge pyramid scheme involving government tenders. If it were a movie, it would be called Commission Impossible.

Taking it back a step or two, one has to understand that the ANC – influenced by African nationalism, Steve Biko’s Black Consciousness Movement and communism – arrived from decades of armed struggle to lead what was then Africa’s largest economy.

It was like going from a riding a bike to a Ferrari overnight, albeit a broken, unserviced, whites-only Ferrari.

To say they did a left turn is an understatement. In- stead of broad nationalisation and turning us into a mini-China, the ANC, after 1994 (when apartheid fell, in case you have been living in MTV-land), applied some very liberal economic policies.

Business loved it. Some comrades made oodles of dough in huge black economic empowerment deals, and economically apartheid went on.

The black middle class grew a bit, with most of their livelihoods tied to white wealth, effectively becoming a buffer for this system.

The plan was that the money would trickle down. Hahahahahaha. They lied.

This is not to say the ANC utterly failed. Huge infrastructure, housing, medical, schooling and social grant systems have massively changed the lives of the poor.

The economy grew dramatically.

Smurfs and beret-wearers

The ANC, however, also has a president who seems to have used millions in taxpayer money to pimp his private home, deploys some very incompetent cadres to key positions and is fighting corruption like fighting with a pool noodle at a knife battle.

Our opposition politics has developed two main players.

The one is a group of highly organised and very whiny Smurfs called the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the other is a bunch of passionate, beret-wearing and occasionally hypocritical revolutionaries called the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).

There are others, but really, life and this piece are too short.

The DA are the official opposition, a badge they wear like a bunch of school library monitors.

They have grown well in the past few elections, nailing 23% last year.

They run the Western Cape Province and use it as a billboard for their debatable awesomeness.

They will tell you they are the ‘most diverse party,’ which is code for being the whitest one.

Their black support has grown, but they often struggle not to look just a little apartheidish on account of their liberal economic stance, initial resistance to supporting race-based affirmative action and occasional racial faux pas by their recent former Grand Dragon, I mean former leader, Helen Zille.

The EFF are the bastard child of revolutionary politics and the ambition of a guy who used a province as a slush fund, one Julius Sello Malema.

Julius was President Jacob Zuma’s number-one henchman until he got too big for his boots and was expelled from the ANC.

He also had a $1$.3m tax bill and likes Louis Vuitton and Breitling, while at the same time claiming to represent the poorest of the poor.

Game plan

The party has huge street cred amongst some youth. But with just 6%, they can’t expropriate your farm, they can just do a time share.

Their game plan is that the land and wealth must be given back, although they seem to spend most of their parliamentary time shouting at President Zuma to pay back the tax money that was blown on his house.

It sounds like a vendetta because it is one.

South Africa’s funniest reality TV show is when we get these three under one roof, although I am sure ours is not the only parliament resembling a circus with a buffet.

The big question is how long can the ANC keep speaking left while walking right like a schizophrenic tour guide.

I suspect the real solutions lie with ordinary people, but hey, I am just a puppet.

Chester Missing, Puppet political analyst. As told to Conrad Koch

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