Wednesday, April 29, 2015

MANDELA MUST HAVE SEEN THIS COMING

The latest episode of xenophobic attacks seems to be dying down in South Africa.

A few weeks ago some South Africans in protest over their having to forfeit economic opportunities to African immigrants, went on a bloody rampage that accounted for at least seven people and dozens of injuries.

Pictures and footage of the bloodied victims with deep gashes to all parts of their bodies or writhing in agony as flames consumed them or literally being stalked and stabbed to death by their persecutors, raised an international uproar.

Understandably the roots of this flare up are driven by the deep economic fissures in South African society, a legacy of almost half a century of apartheid policies, which denied Africans access to land, suppressed their wages to make mining and industry more  profitable and allowed them less than basic social services.

"The net effect of these policies continue to reverberate through society two decades after majority rule was adopted....

In negotiating this new dispensation, former President Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress (ANC) were well aware of the economic divide. A divide particularly galling for the black South Africans because it was a situation that did not come about by mistake but by design.

In fact the enormity of the task to even up society must have been at the back of Mandela’s mind when he said, “After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.”

As it is after 20 years in power the ANC has barely dented the huge inequality they inherited from the white minority government.

According to Statistics South Africa, the unemployment rate stands at 24.3 percent with blacks bearing the brunt of these woeful statistics with nearly three in ten blacks between 15 and 64 years jobless.

In addition white capital controls 70 percent of all land in the country, a figure largely unchanged from 1994 when Pretoria embarked on a distribution policy that despite the great demand has stuttered badly missing all targets.

The idea to maintain the status quo after 1994 albeit with an official determination to redress the inequalities, was a good one but the execution has fallen way short of expectation.

The idea was, instead of dismantling the white grip on the economy, let the most developed private sector in Africa continue doing what it was doing – creating wealth, and through official and moral intervention begin a process of redistribution while not upsetting the apple cart will ensure the resources needed to finance education and other social services and develop infrastructure into the marginalised rural areas.

However the execution of this project run into two major shortfalls.

One, that the philosophy that grew this immense wealth did not go away with the ascendance to power of the ANC. Through a combination of inertia and deliberate subversion --- including co-opting a new politically connected black elite, the redistribution was slowed or even halted.

Secondly, the growing corruption among the black elite means that resources are once again being concentrated in a few hands rather than being spread out to the majority.

Education, health and infrastructure necessary to improve opportunities for the majority blacks are qualitatively poor even for newly developed projects as public officials have corrupted the procurement process and paid little heed to value for money.

The combination of a legacy of inequality, being perpetuated by an increasingly corrupt bureaucracy whose members are not averse to flouting their new found wealth around their poorer cousins was always going to be a recipe for disaster.

They say revolution or upheaval does not come from poor conditions but more from unmet expectations, the bloodletting --- while unjustifiable, is an expression of this disappointment and sense of betrayal.

"Stranger things have happened but South Africa going the way of Zimbabwe is, after the recent spate of bloodletting, not too farfetched a prospect....

The forceful redistribution of land was a last gasp effort by a growingly unpopular government to stave off the pressure of opposition. Cloaked as an economic solution by gutting Zimbabwe’s industrial class Robert Mugabe brought the economy to its knees, suffering the ignominy of abandoning the hyperinflated, local currency for the US dollar in effect surrendering his country’s monetary policy.

They say nationalism is the last resort of the scoundrel. It is not unthinkable that with its waning popularity and its back against the wall the ANC may resort to such underhand methods to hang on to power.

Now that would be one more thing for Mandela to turn over his grave about.

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