In September the Presidency released its annual Development Indicators. The indicators are used as a means of measuring how far the government is from reaching its targets of delivering a ‘better life for all’, so to speak. Upon perusing the lengthy document the one major issue that was protruding in its obviousness was that South Africa’s inequality gap had been allowed to yawn once more. In fact, we have usurped Brazil as the most unequal society in relation to country that are within our ‘bracket’ of ‘emerging economies’. Although the indicators showed progress in many facets of a country that has described itself as a developmental state, the fact that our society is unashamedly unequal will in many ways set the country back.
In 1994 and the subsequent few years that followed, in fact the whole Nelson Mandela presidency, South Africa was herald as a ‘miracle’ nation. A nation that had ‘amazed’ the world on how it had carried itself as far as striking a racial harmonizing ‘reconciliation’ is concerned, when civil war was imminent. South Africa as the ‘last born’ of independence was birthed in the maternity ward of negotiated settlement with two accent ‘midwives’, namely the National Party and African National Congress. What a beautiful child South Africa was with her ‘new’ National Anthem and Flag and an inclusive government that purported to be in harmony. As compared to her older African siblings, South Africa was a darling. Enter the second ‘guardian’ to South Africa, President Thabo Mbeki with his audacious speech that said that South Africa, the paragon of Africa, was a country of two societies, one rich and white, and the other poor and black. From that point all manner of insults were thrown at Mbeki by those whose comforts he had shaken into reality.
It is well documented that during the Congress for Democratic South Africa (CODESA) the main concerns of the National Party’s constituencies was whether or not they would lose their private property under a democratic government? And needless to say they were assured none of their property would be tampered with. In fact they insisted that it be included in the interim Constitution that would later be fully adopted on May 8 1996, when Thabo Mbeki read his soul inspiring “I am an African” speech. The National Party only had to give up political power in 1994 and they ensured that they do not bend over backwards regarding the strong hold that they had on the economy of the nation. Celebrations of liberation victory came, and they took more than they should have, but eventually the dust would settle. When the dust did settle we found ourselves in a society whose economy that was still pale white and that couldn’t spell reform. The government and a few captains of The Old Boys Club devised a plan that would allow a few politically connected black people access to the Old Boys Club and the said plan was Black Economic Empowerment and later Broad Based BEE.
Because the ANC was the governing party many black people devised a plan to get a slice of the economic pie through flashing party membership cards when they submitted tender proposal for outsourced government contracts. The root of the ineffective public service administration that we are stuck with now and poor delivered services can be traced to the Mandela presidency and it obviously accentuated during Mbeki years as the president. In fact it was during the Mbeki era that the black middle class swelled to proportioned that had marketers calling them the ‘Black Diamonds’.
The economy was to enjoy unhampered growth of between 5 to 6%. It was the best of times which Charles Dickens narrates in his “Tale Of The Two Cities”, and all the while minimal attention was being given to the work horses at the periphery of the economic boom-the poor. Parvenus grew in numbers but unfortunately so did the number of people losing jobs because of privatization of former state steel parastatal, Iscor, now Ancelor Mittal, and many other firms which had ‘secured’ livelihood for many unskilled black people. The public service was left unchecked as to how tenders were allocated and when allocated were they going to the most prudent party or going to the one aligned to the party? Boom gates were installed in many a suburbia for privacy and to keep the distance between those who have and those who lack. Political analyst, Prince Mashele, says this of the private centric living, “A private sub state is populated by people who choose to insulate themselves from social ills. Yet their wealth owes a great deal to the sweat and toil of the workers and the poor.” It is this Me philosophy that has been an insidious contributor to the degeneration that has become South Africa.
It is rather unfortunate and seriously ignorantly and vociferously cheer when they see the rich lists been paraded on newspapers when the inequality of our country are perniciously too wide for anyone’s comfort. In fact, our affluent compatriots must be very worried when they see these disheartening levels of inequality simply because for as long as there are no equality in society, there will never to tranquillity. It was not shocking when the crimes statistic were released and that in Sandton , the affluent people’s residensia next to the ghetto that is Alexander, the burglaries had gone from 990 to 1191 and the vehicle theft had gone from 707 to 772. How do we expect people who live such contrasting lives of opulence and deprivation and divided by a mere street to maintain cordial relations? It’s not going to happen, at least not from a perspective of a person whose logic is clouded by despotic dictates of hunger.
According to the indicators there are nearly 10 000 people who still use the humiliating bucket system as a form of relief. It is such things that take away the dignity of fellow citizens, and invites diseases that end up leaving people terminally ill because of neglect our constitutional duty from office bearers. When adults have to share a 2 roomed ‘house’ with children, where does not leave the space for privacy? All these cases speak to the dignity of the greater populous before even they speak of unfulfilled electoral mandates. That’s why the moral fabric of South Africa has been torn to shreds and has become ignominious to say the least.
The upper class citizens of the republic do not have a moral duty in the strictest sense to help anyone but ethically it would be in their interest that they assist the government in arresting the relentlessly widening gap of inequality of our society because they, the well off, will not remain in their well protected estates forever. They have interface with their hungry and underprivileged compatriots and if the status quo persists, then, the collision will be ugly, brutal and inhumane. The average well off family takes home R23 000per month, while the poor one taking home a meagre R1080. This should not be happening in a country that boasted a budget surplus in 2006/07 financial year. We can not be satisfied when over 13million South African depend on social assistance from the government, and 8,8 million of those13million being for child grants.
Prince Mashele further laments that “We should be wary of behaving as if the poor are powerless. When the gap between the poor, the middle class and the rich is allowed to yawn, the poor have a way of outsmarting those who think know it all. The destitute have it within their power to take over society in ways that leave the middle class kicking and screaming from the margins as if they are little children crying for help.”