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Exploring Conditions in South Africa

April 26, 2018

This is a thought provoking hour of discussion on post-Zuma South Africa. I am sharing it because it gave me food for thought and made me question my own understanding of the country as it stands right now:

It’s almost an hour so if you can’t listen to it here are some key points I digested from the conversation:

  • Zuma was problematic but it is the responsibility of the beneficiaries of Apartheid to do something about inequality in South Africa

A lot is made of the ineffectiveness of the ANC in reducing inequality (SA is one of the most unequal places in the planet) but how much are they supposed to achieve in 20 years when white supremacy was practiced for 300 years – and is still being practiced today? It is for the people who benefited economically and socially from those centuries of oppression to correct injustice. The SA government could be the least corrupt authority on earth, it would make no difference the efficacy of democracy if the people who lived good from apartheid do not concede their ill-gotten gains.  This means the money from reconstruction needs to come from rich whites and the few wealthy Coloureds and Africans – not the middle and lower classes.

  • Western complicity in Apartheid needs to be acknowledged

Both Thatcher and Reagan were happy endorsers of the regime, even if through ambivalence. Positioning Apartheid as an anomaly and not a system that western capitalism was entirely comfortable with puts countries on a moral high ground which is entirely undeserving. It also means the current economic practice in the country, which mirrors western capitalism, goes unchallenged.

  • How can we expect South Africa to be a socialist country if no other country in the world is?

This is an excellent point! Wealth redistribution and fairer economic policies sound great on paper, but those ideas couldn’t even win an election in the UK. We also know that socialism, particularly on the African continent, get’s undermined via the west’s steadfast commitment to  intervention and environmentally unsustainable practices. For example, having a workforce available who will accept low wages and industrial jobs which keep them in a cycle of poverty, damages the environment, but keeps business owners wealthy.

Before western presence, African nations practiced social and economic systems based on communalism, small states and harmony with natural resources.  The western model that presses nations to prioritise economic growth over economic parity, that also insists the state has a monopoly on violence will always fail South African and other transitional democracies.

  • Post apartheid deals were too generous – they avoided a race war but at what cost?

De Clerk was awarded the Nobel Peace prize alongside Mandela which is crazy when you think about it because he was an active participant in apartheid (and you don’t get more active than being the president!). So the tone was already set for post-apartheid politicking, acknowledging the centuries of injustice whilst not holding enough people to account for it. This can be seen as reasonable;  creating a wider divide would have been catastrophic. White south Africans who believed in apartheid had proven themselves to be depraved enough to fight a race war viciously,  and would have won as they had money, weapons, education and allies. And they had plenty of allies, don’t forget western capitalism had no problem with a segregated South Africa, western capitalism invented it. So the formation of the ‘Rainbow Nation’ was prescient on the perception of mercifulness on behalf of the Africans who white people had been kind enough to emancipate – which is how some people saw it.


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