The Remnants of Apartheid: South Africa’s continuous struggle for ethnic equality
After painstaking efforts made by Mandela to end the suppressive and separationist regime embedded into South Africa’s judicial system, he was finally released from imprisonment in 1990 after having spent 27 years confined behind bars, an experience which he optimistically defines as a “long holiday” (Wooldridge, 2013). His release marked the commencement of a new era, an era in which the segregation and oppression would cease to exist. The transition out of apartheid was not launched smoothly, incurring much violence and resistance from oppressors: four years of negotiations took place, triggering numerous outbursts of political violence and protest killings. A multitude of obstacles delayed the process, the final impediments to peace being the Afrikaner extremists and the Zulu Nationalists of Inkatha, two parties with very opposing views. However, all was overcome, and on April 27th 1994, the first election where Blacks could vote was held, where the African National Congress (ANC) won a landslide victory.
More than 2 decades later, remnants of the apartheid notoriously boast their prevalence, continuing to create mass social & economic divide amongst South Africa’s citizens. It is of little surprise that the complete reformation of a nation’s way of life has been harder than simply signing a piece of paper; this was a system instilled into the South Africa’s customs, infrastructure and economy.
Improvements have been made, yet the African nation still has many milestones to reach. A recent advancement includes the National Development Plan (NDP), which aims to ‘eliminate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030’ (GOV.ZA) .Although the average income of black households has increased by 169% in the last 10 years, the average white household still holds an income of more than 6 times its black counterpart (Futurefact), thus a clear indication of the long-lasting effects of the apartheid. This is akin to the situation of African Americans in the United States, where although the law no longer directly promotes their oppression, there clearly exists an unjust distribution of wealth amongst black and white citizens.
The nation’s social framework similarly plays a role towards the hindrance of blacks in South Africa. For example, the Group Areas Act of 1950, a law which was not repealed until 1991 (LawConnect), mandated where people of different ethnicities were allowed to live and reside. South Africans of Black and Indian descent were made to live in townships, excluded from ‘white-only areas’, thus instigating the removal of many non-white people from their homes, and their forced relocation to these urban developments. All laws endorsing racial segregation were repealed in 1994 following the ANC’s victory; however, there still persists a social barrier that is clearly linked to ethnicity. This is supported by the fact that 55% of black nationals continue to live in these townships (Futurefact). Some have moved into previously ‘all-white’ neighborhoods, namely the middle-class blacks, yet the majority remains, many of whom are forced to stay due to a lack of necessary capital for relocation.
Employment trends also depict a grand unjustness within the nation. Statistics indicate that the unemployment rate of black South Africans stood at 40% in 2013, five times their white counterparts, where the unemployment rate stood at 8% (Statistics South Africa).This inequality is primarily attributed to the poor education received by blacks in South Africa, as the majority of the unemployed blacks are non-skilled workers. As they come from poor backgrounds, excelling in education becomes more difficult, be it due to financial constraints, poorer education systems in black-majority areas, or coming from a culture which doesn’t value learning as highly. Either way, it is evidently a case of the poor remaining poor whilst the rich get richer.
The ANC itself has attempted to implement policies to correct this ethnic inequality however it is not helped by developing a reputation as a laughing stock in contemporary politics, due to many rather ‘gut-busting’ incidences incurred with its leader President Jacob Zuma. This has been shown time and time again, such as through the president’s response when asked about the HIV epidemic, where he claimed that “a shower would minimize the risk of contracting the disease” (Cutting, 2016).Other examples include the fake sign-language interpreter at Nelson Mandela’s Memorial service, or using the nation’s money to build himself a swimming pool, which he preaches is a safety measure against a spontaneous fire.
The president himself claims that “the organization (ANC) is in trouble”, thus, this begs the question as to whether or not South Africa’s governing body remains the best party to take on the role of eradicating the remnants of the apartheid, or whether this situation requires external intervention. However, one cannot deny the efforts taken by the African National Congress to battle the inequality that continues to reside in the many neighborhoods and provinces across South Africa. Countless attempts have been made to battle this, through public investments, land redistribution, amongst other projects, yet the fact still remains:
Being born black puts you at a severe disadvantage in South Africa.
Cutting, R. (2016, November 2). 18 Ridiculous Jacob Zuma quotes that’ll make you seriously question his presidency. Retrieved April 23, 2017, from The South African: https://www.thesouthafrican.com/18-ridiculous-jacob-zuma-quotes-thatll-make-you-seriously-question-his-presidency/
Futurefact. (n.d.). futurefact - researching the minds and moods of South Africans since 1998. Retrieved April 23, 2017, from futurefact: http://www.futurefact.co.za/index.php?option=com_phocadownload&view=category&id=1:2008-conference-downloads&download=10:the-changing-face-of-suburbia&Itemid=137
GOV.ZA. (n.d.). National Development Plan 2030. Retrieved April 23, 2017, from South African Government: http://www.gov.za/issues/national-development-plan-2030
LawConnect. (n.d.). APRIL27, 1950: SOUTH AFRICA PASSES GROUP AREAS ACT, FORMALLY SEGREGATING RACES AND BEGINNING ERA OF APARTHEID. Retrieved April 23, 2017, from GETLEGAL.com: http://public.getlegal.com/legal-info-center/april-27-1950-south-africa-passes-group-areas-act-formally-segregating-races-and-beginning-era-of-apartheid/
Wooldridge, M. (2013, December 11). Mandela death: how he survived 27 years in prison. Retrieved April 23, 2017, from BBC NEWS: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-23618727