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ideas have consequences

You are here:Home>>Stevie C. Chiakwelu>>Displaying items by tag: South Africa
Displaying items by tag: South Africa

Apartheid South Africa looked after white people and nobody else. Now some of its white communities face a level of deprivation, or of violence, which threatens their future in the country.


Everyone here, regardless of colour, tells you that white people are still riding high.


They run the economy. They have a disproportionate amount of influence in politics and the media. They still have the best houses and most of the best jobs.


All of this is true but it is not the only picture.


Look below the surface and you will find poverty and a sense of growing vulnerability.


The question I have come to South Africa to answer is whether white people genuinely have a future here.


The answer, as with so many similar existential questions, is "Yes - but…"


Read the whole story at BBC News





Saturday, 08 December 2012 18:13

South African icon Nelson Mandela hospitalized


South Africa's former President Nelson Mandela was admitted to a military hospital Saturday for medical tests, though the nation's president told the public there was "no cause for alarm" over the 94-year-old icon's health.

The statement issued by President Jacob Zuma's spokesman said that Mandela was doing well and was receiving medical care "which is consistent for his age." The statement offered no other details.

Mandela, who spent 27 years in prison for fighting racist white rule, became South Africa's first black president in 1994 and served one five-year term. He later retired from public life to live in his village of Qunu, and last made a public appearance when his country hosted the 2010 World Cup soccer tournament.

"We wish Madiba all the best," Zuma said in the statement, using Mandela's clan name. "The medical team is assured of our support as they look after and ensure the comfort of our beloved founding president of a free and democratic South Africa."

While the government sought to reassure South Africans about Mandela's health, he remains viewed as a father figure to many in this nation of 50 million people. Each hospital trip raises the same worries about the increasingly frail former leader of the African National Congress — that the man who helped bring the nation together is slowly fading away.

In February, Mandela spent a night in a hospital for a minor diagnostic surgery to determine the cause of an abdominal complaint. In January 2011, however, Mandela was admitted to a Johannesburg hospital for what officials initially described as tests but what turned out to be an acute respiratory infection. He was discharged days later.

Mandela contracted tuberculosis during his years in prison. He also had surgery for an enlarged prostate gland in 1985.

While Zuma's statement offered no further details about who would provide medical attention for Mandela, the nation's military has taken over caring for the aging leader since the 2011 respiratory infection. At 1 Military Hospital in Pretoria on Saturday night, the facility that previously cared for Mandela in February, everything appeared calm, without any additional security present.

Mac Maharaj, a presidential spokesman, declined to say whether Mandela had been flown by the military from Qunu to Pretoria. He also declined to say what the tests were for.

"It's quite normal at his age to be going through those tests," Maharaj told The Associated Press.

Mandela's hospitalization comes just days after the crash of a military aircraft flying on an unknown mission near Mandela's rural home in which all 11 onboard were killed.

The plane was flying to a military air base in Mthatha, which is about 30 kilometers (17 miles) north of Qunu. Military officials declined to say whether those on board had any part in caring for Mandela.







Monday, 03 December 2012 15:54

D-Day looms for South Africa's Jacob Zuma

South Africa's governing African National Congress (ANC) is preparing for a leadership contest which could decide whether it will reinforce the pattern of Africa's well-documented post-colonial failures or break away from a dark past into a bright future for Africa's largest economy.


The stakes could not be higher for President Jacob Zuma - he is up for re-election at the conference in Mangaung, where the ANC was founded 100 years ago. With the ANC's huge majority in South Africa, whoever leads the party is virtually assured of leading the country after the 2014 elections.


In 2007 President Zuma was catapulted into the top job at the previous such conference, in Polokwane, when he ousted his long-term friend and comrade, then-President Thabo Mbeki in a humiliating defeat by a majority of 61% to 39%.


Since the ANC opened nominations on 1 October, those who support a second term for President Zuma seem to be in the majority compared to those who support his much loved but somewhat reserved deputy Kgalema Motlanthe - the only other candidate.


President Zuma's successes in his first term have been partially overshadowed recently by the Marikana massacre, when 34 striking miners were shot dead by police during a bloody pay dispute at the Lonmin platinum mine on 16 August - the most deadly police action since the end of apartheid.


His critics say that President Zuma's lethargic style of leadership is fuelling the decline of his ANC and the economy, which is struggling to maintain growth rates enjoyed elsewhere on the continent. Another dark cloud hanging over Mr Zuma, sometimes referred to by his clan name Msholozi, is his alleged use of public money to fund a multi-million dollar renovation at his private rural homestead in Nkandla.


Public Protector Thuli Madonsela is investigating whether a government department is funding home improvements amounting to 248m rand ($28m), at a time when miners are fighting to earn a salary of 12,500 rand ($1,400) per month.


Reports in local newspapers said the building costs include a clinic, helicopter pad and underground bunkers amongst other facilities. Mr Zuma denies any wrongdoing, saying he took out a mortgage for the development. Another charge which may affect President Zuma's support in Mangaung is that of widespread corruption.


There is a perception that under his leadership, corruption is on the rise and that his family is benefiting from nepotism by getting business deals purely because they are related to the president.

Enemy within?

His old friend turned political foe Mr Mbeki broke a four-year silence when he launched a scathing attack on Mr Zuma's lacklustre leadership style, saying he was "deeply troubled by a feeling of great unease that our beloved motherland is losing its sense of direction, and that we are allowing ourselves to progress towards a costly disaster of a protracted and endemic general crisis".


Mr Mbeki continued: "I, for one, am not certain about where our country and nation will be tomorrow, and what I should do in this regard, to respond to what is obviously a dangerous and unacceptable situation of directionless and unguided national drift." President Zuma's greatest challenge does not come from the opposition benches of parliament, it comes from within.


Mr Motlanthe, 63, is a quiet, popular former political prisoner who is a rather reluctant presidential candidate.

A former trade unionist in the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), he served as president for six months in 2008-9 after Mr Mbeki was recalled by a divided ANC.

In a BBC interview, he said he accepted that people were right to criticise the ANC:

"The harsher that judgement is, the better for the ANC. We ought to hear the truth as painful as it is and take steps to address the basis of those concerns," he told the Newsday programme.


"If we fail to stay on our toes because of the cries of the people, then we don't deserve deserve to hold these positions of responsibility."

Unlike Mr Zuma, who usually breaks into song and dance on podiums across the country, Mr Motlanthe is a very private and restrained man.

He has been nominated for the top job by most branches in South Africa's richest province, Gauteng, while those in six of the nine provinces have backed Mr Zuma.

He recently told journalists he was "agonising" over whether to challenge Mr Zuma.


Mr Motlanthe is supported by the expelled firebrand ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema, although the deputy president sought to downplay this, pointing out that the Youth League only had 45 votes in the Mangaung conference and so "is not a king-maker".


Mr Motlanthe does not want South Africa's rich mines to be nationalised, as Mr Malema has been demanding. If he decides to take on Mr Zuma and wins, he could breathe new life into the ANC. If he loses that would end his career in the party. But by failing to quash the speculation, it looks as though he may already have signed his political death warrant.

The pro-Zuma factions have now nominated Mr Motlanthe's former comrade in the National Union of Mineworkers, veteran of the anti-apartheid struggle and businessman Cyril Ramaphosa, for deputy leader. He has 65% of the nominations so far but this could change before the Mangaung conference.


If Mr Ramaphosa accepts the nomination and wins, Mr Motlanthe would lose his position in the party leadership. During the Marikana dispute, Mr Ramaphosa was criticised by some for his links to Lonmin but he remains popular in the business community and his nomination shows he has not lost his support within the ANC.


For Mr Motlanthe, who is described in Ebrahim Harvey's book Kgalema Motlanthe, A Political Biography, as a quiet man, a deep thinker, it is decision time. But what would Mr Motlanthe do differently from Mr Zuma if elected?


First and foremost, some say he would bring dignity to the highest office in the land, in contrast to the lurid headlines about the polygamous Mr Zuma's private life.

In the ANC, leaders can only bring their individual style but very little substance, purely because policy decisions are taken by the collective and therefore no leader can introduce policies that were not discussed at the ANC headquarters in Luthuli House.

So why does Mr Zuma remain the favourite to win?

Honeymoon over

He is a populist, good with crowds and with some noted success in the fight against HIV and Aids, getting South Africa recognised as one of the Brics group of developing nation (joining Brazil, Russia, India and China), getting his ex-wife and former Former Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma elected as chairperson of the African Union commission.

Under President Zuma, 70, also a former Robben Island prisoner, the HIV infection rates have drastically come down and he is currently overseeing the largest HIV/Aids treatment programme on the planet.


But more than 18 years after the end of apartheid, Nelson Mandela's "Rainbow Nation", has clearly come to the end of its honeymoon period. Can the beloved ANC of Madiba - the clan name used to refer to Mr Mandela - survive in the hands of the man from Nkandla? Some in the ANC believe that if Mr Zuma continues to lead for another term which translates into seven years, including a five-year presidential term, then it could prove to be the beginning of the party's demise.



South Africa's President Jacob Zuma has appealed to his ancestors to help him hold on to the leadership of the ruling African National Congress (ANC). Mr Zuma attended a ceremony at his village on Sunday, where 12 cattle were slaughtered and incense burnt as people prayed for his re-election.


His opponents are pushing for him to be ousted as ANC leader at the party's conference next month. Mr Zuma, a polygamist with 21 children, is a well-known Zulu traditionalist. He beat his predecessor Thabo Mbeki in a bitterly contested election in 2007 for the leadership of the ANC.


Spear and shield

He later forced Mr Mbeki to resign as South Africa's president, installing Kgalema Motlanthe as caretaker leader until the 2009 general election, when he took power.


The ANC's influential youth wing and several government ministers are now campaigning for Mr Motlanthe, the deputy president, to run against Mr Zuma at the ANC conference in Mangaung next month.


The Zuma family slaughtered 12 cattle and burnt incense at a traditional ceremony at their village in Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal province on Sunday to appeal to the ancestors to guide him ahead of the elections.


"We are here to give our father a send-off to Mangaung. With this ceremony we are now sure he is protected and he will come back to celebrate with us," Nomthandazo Zuma is quoted by South Africa's The Mercury newspaper as saying.


Traditional leader Inkosi Bheki Zuma gave the president, who was dressed in leopard skins, a Zulu spear and shield and told him to use the weapons to protect himself from his ANC opponents, the newspaper reports.


Mr Zuma has been dogged by corruption allegations throughout his term, but he is expected to be re-elected as ANC leader, analysts say.

South Africa's Auditor-General Terence Nombembe and Public Protector Thuli Madonsela are investigating whether taxpayers' money has been improperly used to upgrade Mr Zuma's residential complex in Nkandla, reportedly at a cost of about $27m (£17m).


It includes chalets, a security bunker, and bulletproof windows.


Earlier this month, Mr Zuma - who has four wives and 21 children - said he taken out a mortgage to pay for the renovations and he objected to being "convicted, painted black, called the first-class corrupt man, on facts that are not tested".


The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) dropped corruption charges against Mr Zuma shortly before his election as president in 2009.


He was accused of taking bribes from an arms company and his financial adviser Schabir Shaik - allegations he strongly denied.


Earlier this year, Mr Zuma's government unveiled The Traditional Courts Bill which would allow local chiefs to act as judge, prosecutor and mediator, with no legal representation and no right of appeal in certain cases.


It has been widely criticised for being unconstitutional, especially by women's groups, which argue it would take South Africa "back to the dark ages".


But Mr Zuma says the legislation will help "solve African problems the African way, not the white man's way".


Khaya Dlanga ponders why the face of poverty remains black, and what needs to be done to ensure a more equal and just society in South Africa.


Poverty is black. Under apartheid, to be born black meant to be born into poverty, injustice and inequality. Poverty was black under a white government and it remains black under a black government.


According to the most recent Economist, South Africa is the most unequal society in the world. In fact, South Africa is even more unequal now than it was in 1980. What makes it even more disturbing is its division by race even 18 years after democracy.


It is shameless and in your face. It is so blatantly clear by the juxtapositioning of Sandton and Alexandra township. The one rich and white and the other poor and black. A few rich black people do not make South Africans any more equal, nor blacks any more equal to whites. We may be equal on the paper upon which the Constitution is written but not where it matters – wealth ownership. There is no dignity or romance in poverty. Yet the poor can be dignified and are not precluded from romanticism. Those who say the poor are happy have never experienced poverty.


We are told of course not to talk about poverty and inequality in terms of black and white. When we do, some ask why everything must be about race. The ones who say that are of course not affected by poverty and inequality. We would love to not talk about poverty by race if it were not so blatant and in your face. To deny what we see is to deny ourselves progress.


Thabo Mbeki angered many when he was state president with his Two Nations speech, where he said: "We therefore make bold to say that South Africa is a country of two nations. One of these nations is white, relatively prosperous, regardless of gender or geographic dispersal. It has ready access to a developed economic, physical, educational, communication and other infrastructure.


"The second and larger nation of South Africa is black and poor, with the worst affected being women in the rural areas, the black rural population in general and the disabled.


"This nation lives under conditions of a grossly underdeveloped economic, physical, educational, communication and other infrastructure."


But it is true, and the two nations continued to be so even under his presidency. The rich stayed white and the poor stayed black. The country got richer but the haves got more and the have nots' continued to own less in comparison to the rich.


Nowhere is the gap between the haves and have nots more obvious than the mining sector, where the extremely rich bosses are white and the extremely poor are black. Naturally some will say Patrice Motsepe is black and extremely rich and he owns mines. Rich blacks are like the chocolate sprinkle on top of white cream, to paraphrase Gwede Mantashe. It should be no wonder then that we see those who are striking in the mines poor, uneducated, and black. The rich miners appear to be entitled the their wealth and give no pause to think of the poor beneath them.


The face of poverty was black because of the historical injustices of the past, and it remains black because the current government has not done enough to ensure that the gap between the rich and the poor decreases. And asking executives to curb their pay is not a way to ensure income equality – well-executed implementation of well-thought out policies will get people out of poverty and on to the road towards equality.


According to Bill Freundman in his book, Developmental Dilemmas in Post-Apartheid South Africa, "government grants are the main source of income amongst the poorest 50% of the population, not salaries, not the informal sector and certainly not peasant livelihood activities". We should aim to be a society where we will no longer have to have people living mont to month from one government grant to another. We need to create opportunities for them.


Inequality breeds inequality. The poor get fewer opportunities and barely get a chance to make it out of their situation. One of the ways we keep excelling at inequality is the quality of education – or lack thereof – we keep providing the poor with. We all know of the textbook saga as case in point. When we give our children an education (not just any education, but a great quality one) we also give them opportunity. Denying them an opportunity is a crime – it is stealing a whole future from them.


Our politicians, who are something of celebrities to many of our people, have to be careful how they spend their own money in the face of poverty. When they splurge, it is as if they are out of touch with the realities many South Africans live in. Nkandla is a case in point. The cost is difficult to fathom, and even harder to justify. Whether or not the building of Nkandla is justifiable, one still has to question the wisdom of it.


We need to invest in the poor and provide them with the skills and ability so that they can help others out of poverty. This alone won't be enough without rooting the evil of corruption and maladministration. Corruption is shamelessly taking from the poor. The poor are rarely corrupt, it is those who have opportunity who often deal in corruption, and continue to take from the poor the little they have – f we can call what they already have "having". If we do these two simple things: give more opportunities to the poor by equipping them with education; and rooting out corruption and maladministration, we will be well on our way to a more equal and just society.


Khaya Dlanga writes for Mail and Guardian, South Africa

The economic linkages between sub-Saharan Africa’s two largest economies, Nigeria and South Africa, and the rest of the region, and  how developments in these countries can affect other countries in the region.


Developments in one economy can spillover to other countries through several channels, depending on the depth of the underlying economic linkages. Key channels include: (i) trade in goods and services, both formal and informal; (ii) financial sector interconnections; (iii) flows of capital, whether in the form of foreign direct investment, portfolio flows, or loans; and (iv) labor movements and (in the reverse direction) remittance flows.


Institutional factors can also play an important role: examples include the revenue-sharing arrangements in the Southern African Customs Union (SACU); the regional bond market that has been established in the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU); and the exchange rate arrangements of the Common Monetary Area in southern Africa, where the three smaller member countries have long-standing exchange rate pegs to the rand. Quantifying the significance of these channels in sub-Saharan Africa is challenging given data limitations: trade statistics fail to capture what are often large volumes of unrecorded informal trade; data on capital flows and stocks are often of very poor quality; and information on labor flows and remittances typically understate the scale of activity involved by sizable margins. That said, some facts can be noted:


credit: Wikepedia Nigeria green, SA brown


• South Africa plays a significant role in the structure of intra-sub-Saharan African trade. Recorded exports to South Africa exceed  ++1 percent of domestic GDP for at least a dozen countries, with links most noticeable for countries in the SADC sub-region .


•Some clustering of trade flows can also be seen between Nigeria and its closest neighbors and within eastern Africa. The large amount of informal (unmeasured) cross-border trade in these sub-regions, particularly in agricultural goods, suggests closer ties and linkages than indicated by official trade statistics.


•Although trade within the region remains modest as a share of countries’ total trade, the ratio of intra-regional trade to national GDP has generally risen significantly in the past decade (Figure 2.1). Going forward, improved regional infrastructure and vigorous implementation of existing free trade agreements—including the use of less restrictive rules of origin and eductions in non-tariff barriers—would likely produce a further sharp increase in the scale and importance of such trade.


•The expansion of investment within the region by South African companies and institutions— both financial and nonfinancial—has brought with it a deepening of trade and other linkages within sub-Saharan Africa, while also helping to diversify the market orientation of South African exports.


•Banking groups headquartered in South Africa and Nigeria have rapidly expanded their operations across the region in recent years— although the business models used (focusing on local funding and lending) may act to contain the scope for financial contagion within the region.


Although available data on remittances suggest quite modest financial contributions from migrant workers to their home countries, estimates of migration across African borders point to large, mostly informal flows. Adverse shocks to host countries, such as South Africa and Nigeria, would likely lead to a fall-off in transfers in cash and in kind to the migrants’ home countries and at least some return of migrants.


•Domestic policies such as highly distortive tax and subsidy regimes, and institutional arrangements such as  customs revenue-sharing arrangements, can play important roles in transmitting shocks between countries.






Pictures of the Miners marching to Lonmin Platinum Mine near Rustenburg, South Africa, Monday, Sept. 10, 2012.

"Labor unrest spread in South Africa on Monday with a wildcat strike by 15,000 workers stopping operations at a gold mine while few workers reported for duty in the fourth week of a stoppage at the world's third largest platinum mine. Gold Fields International said its strike started Sunday night and that senior managers were at the scene Monday trying to find out what is wanted by miners at the west section of its KDC mine. The east section of the mine was operating normally. At a second platinum mine, Implats, 15,000-plus workers are demanding a 10 percent pay rise although they are continuing to work, spokesman Johan Theron said. Lonmin PLC platinum mine said just 6 percent of its 28,000 workers turned up Monday morning at its mine in Marikana, west of Johannesburg. Mine drivers drove around looking for workers to pick up, but the buses returned to the mine empty. Strikers have threatened to kill any miners or managers who do not respect their demand for all work to stop until Lonmin agrees to a monthly take-home pay of 12,500 rand ($1,560), about double their current wages."  - AP

Lonmin, South Africa  violence: It's D-day for the unions


What a coincidence that, in the week The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU)  conceded to a growing distance between trade union leaders and their members, workers chased away union leaders who wanted to address them and became involved in one of the bloodiest labour disputes the post-1994 era has seen.


This week many people, including two policemen, have died in a dispute at a Lonmin mine in North West where rock drill operators are demanding that their salaries be increased from R6 000 to R12 000 a month. The seemingly frustrated workers embarked on an illegal strike and made tough demands on mine management. For the most part, they were leaderless and refused to be addressed by anyone except management - and only to announce that their demand would be met.


That prospect was always slim, but it led to a protracted and ugly battle.


However, the workers at Lonmin and other platinum mines near Rustenburg seemed to be rejecting, in particular, the leadership of the Nation Union of Mineworkers (NUM), which historically was the leading and most well-respected union.


It is now coming across as a voice of reason and is expected to mop up after "reckless" actions of radical workers.


But, although it might still command the respect of mine management, which wants the impasse resolved, and of broader society, which wants the killings stopped, it does not command the respect of the people who matter most in all of this – the workers.


Ceding its majority

The union must ask itself how it reached a position where it has lost control of the mineworkers and is ceding its majority to an even more disorganised unit calling itself the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union.


In the political report prepared for Cosatu's national congress on September 17, general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi points out the trends and scenarios the unions are facing. In particular, he warns about the social distance between workers and the leaders: "Different lifestyles and material realities are creating a leadership which is not fully in tune with what members are facing," he writes.


"Crises faced by working-class communities, for example, in the areas of dysfunctional hospitals, the textbooks saga, the winter electricity cut-offs, prepaid water cut-offs, etcetera, do not appear to be taken up by our unions working in those sectors with the same vigour as if there had been a problem with wages. If they were, we could expect to have seen strikes, or at lease high-profile campaigns, erupt around some of these crises."

Leaderless: Striking miners at Lonmin. (Oupa Nkosi, M&G)

He also warns that the battles relating to the ANC's elective conference in Mangaung in December could be having a negative effect on the unions, with some of their leaders paralysed by the fear that their actions could be interpreted as supporting one or the other faction.



Other unions also caught up in political battles have failed to notice that they have labour-related duties to perform. The Communication Workers' Union, which has been vocal on SABC matters, often trying to dictate the choice of board members, has been deregistered by the labour department.


An episode that can only be embarrassing for the labour movement is taking place in the transport union, Satawu, in which part of the conflict is about who should be benefiting from the massive multibillion tenders under way at the passenger rail agency, Prasa.


The union's battle with management has nothing to do with the interests of workers. This week the resignation of Satawu president Ephraim Mphahlele to form a rival union was attributed to fights about how the transport union should relate to Prasa.


One can only imagine that Prasa management, which has been accused of corruption, is not too distressed about the mudslinging in Satawu. And the management of Lonmin was content this week to attribute the impasse at the mine to a turf war between rival mine unions.


The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU)  holds its congress in three weeks' time and this might just be one of the most crucial platforms it has ever had to redirect its focus.


Rapule Tabane  is the Mail & Guardian's political editor.

34 Dead: Mine "bloodbath" shocks post-apartheid South Africa

"Police chief Riah Phiyega confirmed 34 dead and 78 injured after officers moved in against 3,000 striking drill operators armed with machetes and sticks and massed on a rocky outcrop at the mine, 100 km (60 miles) northwest of Johannesburg. Phiyega, a former banking executive who was only appointed to lead the police force in June, said officers had acted in self-defense against charging, armed assailants at Lonmin's Marikana platinum plant. "The police members had to employ force to protect themselves from the charging group," she told a news conference, noting that two policemen had been hacked to death by a mob at the mine on Tuesday. However, the South African Institute of Race relations likened the incident to the 1960 Sharpeville township massacre near Johannesburg, when apartheid police opened fire on a crowd of black protesters, killing more than 50." - Reuters

A policeman gestures in front of some of the dead miners after they were shot outside a South African mine in Rustenburg, northwest of Johannesburg, August 16, 2012. South African police opened fire on thousands of striking miners armed with machetes and sticks at Lonmin's Marikana platinum mine, leaving several bloodied corpses lying on the ground.  REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Some SAfrican miners vow to fight to the death

A policeman (R) fires at protesting miners outside a South African mine in Rustenburg, 100 km (62 miles) northwest of Johannesburg, August 16, 2012. REUTERS-Siphiwe Sibeko

European Pressphoto Agency :Striking South African miners, armed with machetes and sticks, chant slogans on Thursday, near the Marikana mine in South Africa.

Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters South African women protested on Friday against the killing of miners by the police.

                                     An unidentified woman protests against the police near a shooting scene at the Lonmin mine near Rustenburg, South Africa, Friday, Aug. 17, 2012. Police chief Mangwashi Victoria Phiyega says 34 miners died and another 78 were wounded when police opened fire on strikers in one of the worst police shootings in South Africa since apartheid. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)                                A woman protester AP

Women carry placards as they chant slogans, as they protest against the killing of miners by the South African police on Thursday, outside a South African mine in Rustenburg, 100 km (62 miles) northwest of Johannesburg, August 17, 2012. REUTERS-Siphiwe SibekoProtesters

Paramedics carry an injured man after protesting miners were shot outside a South African mine in Rustenburg, 100 km (62 miles) northwest of Johannesburg, August 16, 2012. REUTERS-Siphiwe Sibeko


Pictures credits: Reuters, AP



Saturday, 04 August 2012 18:26

FW de Klerk: defender of the white man


South Africa is trying to move on from apartheid. It’s a shame its former president is not


The last undemocratically elected president of South Africa, the Nobel Peace laureate FW de Klerk, has in recent months been holding forth on the state of the nation. It’s a familiar view: that South Africa is becoming yet another post-colonial country destined to fall into maladministration, corruption, famine and finally war because the white man has lost political power.


In his utterances, it seems, the only thing that can save the nation from this preordained state of affairs is continued protection of white minority privileges and rights. All attempts to discuss a South Africa that is not riven by the terrible inequalities wrought by apartheid are seen, by him, as a threat to these privileges.


We heard elements of this narrative again this week. “The Mandela and Mbeki era of reconciliation is over,” de Klerk warned darkly. “White males are quite unjustly blamed for the continuing triple crisis of unemployment, inequality and poverty.”


He did not ask South Africans to come together and find solutions to these problems. Instead, he asked them to “get [on to the] playing field and become politically active”. The message is clear: they must fight and stop the ruling ANC’s talk of speeding up measures to stem unemployment and poverty.


These utterances come in the wake of De Klerk’s interview on CNN in May when he claimed that black people under apartheid “were not disenfranchised, they voted”. In this he was defending the heinous homeland system, under which Africans were “cleaned out” from “white South Africa” and confined to impoverished “black reserves”.


It increasingly seems that De Klerk cannot change from the person an angry Nelson Mandela identified during the democracy negotiations in 1991: “His weakness is to look at matters from the point of view of the National party and the white minority in this country, not from the point of view of the population of South Africa.”


Though De Klerk chooses to appoint himself defender of the country’s white males, they need very little defending. Almost all of the 20 best-paid directors in Johannesburg Stock Exchange-listed companies are white men. This is not to vilify them, but it is a reminder that all of us South Africans need to do something, urgently, about inequality and poverty. After all, just this week the World Bank said South Africa is one of the most unequal countries in the world, with the top 10% of the population accounting for 58% of its income and the bottom half less than 8%. “Circumstances at birth are important drivers of inequality in South Africa,” said the bank’s report.


South Africa faces massive problems of unemployment and poverty. The ruling ANC has spectacularly failed the poor after 18 years in power. Under President Zuma things are getting worse: the challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality need a new vision and new leaders. But the De Klerk soundtrack, that South Africa is on the verge of collapse because the white man is allegedly under threat, is tiring and depressing. It does nothing to solve these urgent and collective problems.

Philadelphia Peace Medal (4 July 1993): Pres FW de Klerk, Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela  Photo: www.

De Klerk still believes he is the leader of a threatened white minority. He should learn to think of not just the white males whose survival he so energetically claims to defend, but also of the poor and marginalised who every day stand on our street corners and beg for alms.


That is the complex narrative of a country that has defied stereotypes and had three democratically elected presidents in 18 years; which has avoided racial conflagration; which has given more electricity to more people in the shortest space of time than any other in the world. It is not the narrative of a country whose sole obsession is the survival of a white minority’s privileges.



Picture of Justice MalalaJustice Malala is a political analyst in Johannesburg. He was founding editor of South Africa's ThisDay newspaper, publisher of the Sowetan and Sunday World, and Sunday Times correspondent in London and New York.


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