Saturday, June 13, 2009
The after-effects of apartheid continue to be felt in South Africa
I was saddened and depressed to read a lengthy article in the Daily Mail on crime in South Africa, my former homeland, particularly as it affects the farming community. It's worth reading, if you have the time.
The truly sad thing about it is, much (if not most) of this problem stems from the days of apartheid. Under racist rule, Black education was deliberately 'dumbed down', underfunded and neglected, to the point where a Black Grade 12-equivalent education was no better than a White Grade 8 or 9. A White Prime Minister, Hendrik Verwoerd, famously went on record in the 1960's as saying that Black people were the Biblical children of Ham; that they were destined to be 'hewers of wood and drawers of water'; and that he intended their education to fit them for that role, and for nothing more.
As a result, millions upon millions of Black high school graduates weren't equipped to handle a modern working environment. They were - and many still are - not only unemployed in massive numbers, but unemployable in anything except menial labor or low-skill positions. Combined with a struggling economy that can't provide enough jobs, this has led to staggering unemployment rates - it's estimated that up to a third of the South African workforce is unemployed in the formal sector. Many make a living in the informal sector, or 'underground economy', but many more turn to crime.
Furthermore, under apartheid, Whites (less than 10% of the population) were given something like 87% of the land. Blacks (over 80% of the population) were restricted to the remaining 13%, much of it far from arable. Many Black individuals and communities lost their land through forced expropriation and resettlement, both before apartheid as such was implemented, and after it had become the law of the land. As a result, fierce resentment among many Blacks of White farmers and landowners became endemic. This, too, is now contributing to the crime wave against them.
The post-apartheid government in South Africa has tried hard to equalize education, and boost job opportunities, and redistribute land on a 'willing seller, willing buyer' basis: but faced with such a massive backlog, and limited resources, it's not surprising that its efforts are slow to bear fruit. I said in 1994, when apartheid was finally abolished and democratic rule achieved, that South Africa would take two full generations to undo the damage that apartheid had done. Now, halfway through the first of those generations, I see no reason to amend my forecast.
It's immensely sad, a tragedy of continental proportions, that a country with so much natural wealth and such wonderful prospects should have been driven into the ground by so vile and racist an ideology. Apartheid was as poisonous and evil, in its way, as Nazism in the 1930's and 1940's. Today's troubles demonstrate that all too clearly.