by Mark Angelides
After the ending of Apartheid, South Africa looked set to become the driving force of the African continent. It had the developed world’s support behind it, popular support from almost everyone, and yet it has sunk to the very bottom of the world’s equality rankings (in terms of economic disparity). And it’s not only economically that South Africa is struggling. Political corruption is rife, violence is high, and the threat of insurrection is never far away.
When the charismatic Mandela came to power as the head of the African National Congress (ANC, the present ruling party), many in the Western governments and media predicted a “great leveling” (Nelson was after all an avowed Communist), they assumed that all people would grow richer and that South Africa’s problems would soon be solved. But this wasn’t to be.
Soweto (now famous as the setting of the movie (District 9), has now become an almost unmanageable sprawl of poor housing spreading into barely stable shacks and lean-tos. Blacks, Whites and Coloured,* who have any money at all, move into gated communities with armed guards, and the incredible rise of gun crime, carjacking and home invasions affects almost every aspect of day to day life.
The politics of South Africa has become a battlefield. Only last month, after President Jacob Zuma fired yet another Finance Minister, the Rand was declared a “junk currency” and millions took to the streets in protest, demanding that he steps down. A vote for “no-confidence” was called (again), but defeated. And the ruling ANC party still remains in majority control.
The Zuma government is often criticized for its corruption and ties to the billionaire Gupta brothers, who seem to regard African Nations as their own personal playgrounds and resource banks, using, abusing and exploiting at whim (all enabled by Zuma). During the protests, people flew banners saying “End Zupta Now!” (“Zupta” being a mix of Zuma and Gupta).
Hot on the heels of the ANC is the EFF (the Economic Freedom Fighters party), whose main policy could be fairly described as “One Boer, One Bullet”. Basically calling for the execution of all whites and the seizure of their land. They were formed by an ex ANC politician and are now the 3rd largest party. They are a Socialist, Nationalist Group.
It is easy to see South Africa as a failed experiment in multi-culturalism, with 11 different official languages, and many more tribes. A fair few of these groups carry hatred for other groups. It is a wonderful place filled with wonderful people, but it is sliding into a chaos that was never envisioned. Is it perhaps a glimpse into the West’s future where “all cultures are equal, and none is above another”
* The term Coloured refers to an actual recognized race in South Africa. It is people who are (usually) Bantu but with some white ancestry.
by Mark Angelides