As South Africa Reels from Mine Shootings, Social Inequality Threatens to Undo the Post-Apartheid ‘Miracle’

To the extent that the ANC becomes identified with injustice, rather than emancipation, the ruling party is in deep, deep trouble.

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SIPHIWE SIBEKO / Reuters

Striking miners listen to the ministerial task team,not pictured, outside a South African mine in Rustenburg, 100 km (62 miles) northwest of Johannesburg, Aug. 21, 2012.

A series of police massacres from the 1960s to the 1980s helped seal the fate of white minority rule in South Africa, so it’s hardly surprising that last week’s killing of 34 striking mine workers has left the ANC government politically paralyzed: It was the erstwhile liberation movement — now  the ruling party — that sent the police to break up a strike at the Marikana platinum mine outside Rustenberg, where the resulting confrontation turned into a bloodbath. In the days since, the ANC leadership — so quick, usually, to rally in support of traumatized communities — has reportedly been conspicuous by its absence, only fueling the rage of the miners and their supporters. President Jacob Zuma has called for calm, for mourning and soul-searching, and for an investigation. But Zuma will know as well as anyone that the Marikana shootings may yet prove to be the symbolic moment that signaled the unraveling of South Africa’s post-apartheid social contract.

“The shootings at Marikana symbolize the failure of the promise of the ANC in the eyes of many of those that voted for it,” says Nic Borain, a Cape Town-based political risk analyst for BNP Paribas Cadiz Securities. “There’s rising anxiety within the ruling party over its failure to improve the lives of the poorest South Africans, among whom there’s a growing sentiment that liberation has been a mirage, that they’ve been tricked by an ANC leadership that has busied itself with taking personal advantage of every economic advantage that flows from its control of state power. In many state-owned enterprises and the public sector, there is activity that’s very difficult to distinguish from looting.”

(PHOTOS: In South Africa, Police Fire on Striking Mineworkers)

But such “redistribution” is hardly reaching the vast majority of black people, more of whom live below the poverty line today than did under apartheid. The World Bank this year named South Africa as one of the most unequal societies in the world, with the wealthiest 10% of the population earning almost 60% of its total income, while the bottom half of the population earns less than 8%. There are currently 18 million people working in South Africa, and 20 million of working age with no jobs.

Even President Zuma was forced to acknowledge, in a speech two months ago, that a result of decisions taken by the ANC to secure economic stability and investor confidence when it first took over the reins of government, “the economic power relations of the apartheid era have in the main remained intact.” That, of course, was the subtext papered over by what was hailed in the Western media as “Mandela miracle” of national reconciliation.”In the negotiations that had followed the release of Nelson Mandela and unbanning of the ANC, the parties sealed an unspoken deal,” writes the BBC’s Martin Plaut. “This handed political power to the black majority and left economic power in the hands of whites. There was to be no seizure of white assets, although there were, of course, plans to gradually achieve a more equitable balance of wealth.”

But under the stewardship of Mandela’s successor, former President Thabo Mbeki, the ANC abandoned plans for a more social-democratic redistributive strategy for economic growth, and embraced the neo-liberal orthodoxies that pleased global capital markets whose investment was deemed essential. The emphasis in redistribution, under the rubric of the policy known as Black Economic Empowerment (BEE), was on promoting black ownership within the existing — highly unequal — economic structure. BEE made instant tycoons of a handful of politically connected black power players. If the apartheid-era economic inequalities were to remain in place, at least their beneficiaries would now include — as a very junior partner — a small black elite associated with the ANC. The deal worked for those it benefited, and also for the corporate titans who saw the obvious benefit in giving the ANC a stake in maintaining the economic status quo.

(MORE: South Africa’s Police Open Fire on Striking Miners: The Video)

Today, when poor South Africans look at the ANC, they no longer see a party led by people just like them; instead, they see a party led by a new black elite that has enriched itself by virtue of its access to political power. “Senior ANC officials, politicians and ministers now see holding public office as no bar to owning outside interests,” notes Plaut.  “In August 2011, it was reported that about three-quarters of the cabinet had financial interests outside their main occupations. So did 59 per cent of the country’s 400 members of parliament. Mr Zuma has been criticised for allowing his family to become so overtly involved in business.”

There was a sense of irony, but no surprise, at the fact that among the shareholders of Lonmin, owner of the Marikana mine, is Cyril Ramaphosa, founder of the powerful National Union of Mineworkers in the 1980s and erstwhile heir-apparent to the ANC leadership — and, since liberation, one of the richest men in South Africa. Ramaphosa’s company pledged R2 million to help with the funerals of the slain miners, but political rivals such as the ousted ANC Youth League president Julius Malema, weren’t about to let pass an opportunity for populist demagoguery, charging that the miners had been killed to protect Ramaphosa’s shares, and calling for the resignation of President Zuma, Malema’s arch nemesis. Malema also reiterated his signature demand for the nationalization of the mines, taking advantage of the absence of the mainstream ANC from the scene to make a canny comeback into the national spotlight.

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26 comments
drdov
drdov

If you do a survey asking black south africans if they were happier under a white government, many people will be surprised and shocked with the result.

agarron
agarron

Economic Apartheidt.....that's what's going on here.

But, South Africa isn't to blame for this apartheit.

Altus Pienaar
Altus Pienaar

When will we realize that it is not a battle between black and white but one between rich and poor and another between we the people and they the government oligarchy.

Winston Smith
Winston Smith

End the monetary system. We all have the same basic needs. The current system is morally indefensible assures the destruction of all resources while covering the needs of just a few. Perpetual wars for greed. One billion people are starving on the planet right now and 10 thousand children will die today simply for lack of sewage/clean water. It is time. It is past time.

borisIII
borisIII

As long as government officials can have side businesses there will always be this kind of problems.  And they will never give up there money making government jobs easily.

funnyboy911
funnyboy911

anywhere you have blacks in your country you going have 

Social Inequality. They are just lazy and not that smart of people.

drorbenami
drorbenami

Hey Tony Baloney, I forgot:

The throats of syrian children are being cut and south african miners are been shot down in cold blood....why do 9 out of 10 of your tweets have to do with football???

When Israel fires a phosphourus shell to light up the night sky you become absolutely hysterical !!!

drorbenami
drorbenami

hey Tony Baloney,

You haven't been in South Africa for 20 years , right.? Since that time almost a million south africans have died of aids, yet you haven't written one word. Tens of thousands of south african women have been ganged raped, so many that they even have a name for it: "jack rolling", yet you don't write about that either.

All of a sudden, because you friends in the ANC are under attack, you spring into action....

But  tell me Tony Baloney, I 'm curious:who has a higher standard of living: 1) a black person living under the ANC or 2) a Palestinian living under Israeli occupation?

AlJezza says that "In Ramallah it's like a boom town" and they should know, because, unlike yourself a reporter for Al Jazerra has actually been in Ramallah....

Fatah says an un skilled worker in the west bank earns 22 dollars a day. How much does an unsilled worker in South Africa earn, Tony Baloney???

robert10001
robert10001

Gee, there's a surprise; the new ruling class is worse than the old ruling class.

julis123
julis123

SA has simply benefited from good press since Apartheid ended. The minister of health due to his wacko ideas about the causes of AIDS was directly responsible for the death of hundreds of thousands. In addition over 30% of all SA males have committed at least 1 act of rape. These facts are rarely reported in the Western press.

Samian
Samian

What 'miracle'?  South Africa went from a developed nation into a middle-developing nation over a decade. 

YehudaElyada
YehudaElyada

Shame on you, Tony! You too fell to this Zionist propaganda! Everyone (namely everyone from Abu Mazen to Jacob Zuma) knows that these so-called miners were undercover Mossad operators, in SA to spread HIV! Shooting them was an act of solidarity with the oppressed Palestinians, the evergreen victims of Zionism.

Colnef
Colnef

Please note the South African Government and the ANC are perpetuating the social inequalities in South Africa.Why is it that previously disadvantaged Indians and Coloureds are doing well, on average, in SA. The ANC promote a 'can't do' attitude and 'beggar' mentality with their voters, who are mainly Black.  This in turn shifts focus way from their failings, which includes racism, which is causing large scale unemployment and lost opportunities for their voters. If the ANC focussed the Black population positively on the available opportunities and got their 'house in order' their voters would be much better served. A Government that cannot even deliver textbooks to school-children has a lot to answer for.

keitha917
keitha917

Nothing (for a black person) is worse than the Apartheid regime. Nothing

keitha917
keitha917

Please provide proof of your rape statistic from a well noted report / source (not wikipedia). Or at least admit that you got that fact from an anti African (anti black) website and you are simply regurgitating it as fact. 

keitha917
keitha917

Please provide proof of your rape stat from a well noted source or admit to the fact that you are simply regurgitating a "fact" you saw on some neo - nazi, anti black person website.

keitha917
keitha917

Developed for you maybe, at the expense of 80% of the actual population.

keitha917
keitha917

Please qualify what doing well means? The only population actually doing well was and remains the white minority and a select few connected black people who effectively shook hands with the devil. That's a simple fact. 

No doubt the ANC has its problems and the people of SA would be better served by a more competent government but the fact remains that there was no real reckoning at the end of Apartheid and the only thing that changed was the complexion of those in office. 

RontheEvilCanadian
RontheEvilCanadian

http://www.time.com/time/world...

Over 1/4 South African men in this study carried out by South Africa's own Medical Research Council admitted to being rapists. The number of actual rapists (including those who will not admit to it) is doubtlessly higher. If TIME magazine is too "anti-African" for your liking, here are some alternate sources on South Africa's rape crisis:

The BBC: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/afr...

The Root (a WaPo owned site founded by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.): http://www.theroot.com/views/r...

Al Jazeera: http://stream.aljazeera.com/st...

Samian
Samian

Now in South Africa, 90% of the population is struggling. How is that better?

temzil
temzil

Keith....you admit the ANC is a dismal failure. Profess that "whities" still have a strangle hold on the economy...what is your say to improvement.

Remember when Zuma visited a white township on the outskirts of Pretoria...yes shacks n' all...no RDP houses for these outcast "whities"

Perhaps Keith you are over sensitive...perhaps you are a closset Jimmy Manyi.

keitha917
keitha917

I did not say rape is endemic in SA and it is a national shame. HOWEVER your stat of saying 30% of men have done is WRONG. Even the 1 in 4 is not a proper sample - rural and urban (read squatter camps) of the Eastern Cape and Kwazulu Natal . Until you can show me their methodology I will have to disagree with you based on pure logic.

DrJM
DrJM

Keith, you must be one of the politically connected individuals, have you bothered to get out of your BMW to look at the rural areas or have your stake in the mines blinded you to the inequality in education, HIV statistics etc?

keitha917
keitha917

90 Percent? Are you sure about that? As a black South African I can most definitely see the improvements in the previously disadvantaged areas and I can attest to the fact that the black middle class is growing. Go sprout your lies somewhere else.