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Challenging Mandela’s post-Apartheid legacy

By Jehron Muhammad -Contributing Writer- | Last updated: Jun 9, 2016 - 4:02:16 PM

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Doing something few South Africans have dared, opposition leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters party (EFF), and former president of the ANC’s Youth League, Julius Malema in December of last year challenged Nelson Mandela’s post-apartheid legacy. 

Mandela, Malema said, during the democratic transition, abandoned elements of the 1955 Freedom Charter. The charter consists of the ANC, and the coalition it was a part of, core principles, including returning the countries national or mineral wealth and land that was stolen back to its displaced residents and providing the indigenous population with free “higher education and technical training.” 

In May of this year during an interview at the British Council’s Going Global conference on higher education, in Cape Town, vice-dean of the faculty of education at Stellenbosch University, Lesley Le Grange, discussed the importance of “post-colonial states” including South Africa “interrogating” both the substance of its educational system and the form of government, with its market economy they are being manipulated by.  

Giving a synopsis of  the system of colonialism, a system that was used by Whites to subjugate the people and control the land of South Africa, he said, the “first phase was colonizing of the land, then followed by colonizing of the minds of the people whose land had been appropriated. “There were disciplines that were used (taught) by the colonialist to receive help with their particular administration.” This was done, according to Le Grange, “to discipline the minds of the colonized.” Throughout colonized Africa you had local people, Le Grange continued, trained to run institutions that continued the process of colonialism.

“After the rise of the nation state,” or after South Africa received its independence, he went on, “the market is now playing the role of monitoring and controlling, almost by remote control,” how the state is currently run, he explained.   

A case in point, coming out of prison, many said Nelson Mandela was a nationalist. But by the time he became president, according to published reports, he insisted that the African National Congress had been “cleansed” of this sort of ideology—an obvious response to being schooled on the reality of the global economy. The ANC’s new market economy commitment even was given the appearance of a payoff: Five months before the ANC came into power it signed a letter “of intent with the IMF (International Monetary Fund) committing itself as the future government to a program of fiscal austerity in return for an $850 million loan.”

In addition, the ANC Department of Economic Policy received its training at the investment banking, securities and investment management firm, Goldman Sachs in New York. Under Goldman Sachs tutelage they developed a policy relying on the conventional wisdom of the IMF and World Bank “emphasizing”—according to former South African President Thabo Mbeki’s biography “A Legacy of Liberation”—a limited state and the encouragement of private sector growth. 

In a recent  South African Sunday Times article titled: “Rise of South Africa’s Ultra-rich reveals a talk of two nations,” back in 1988 then president Thabo Mbeki addressed parliament with his famous “Two Nations” address. 

“One of these nations is White,” Mbeki said, “relatively prosperous, regardless of gender or geographic dispersal. It has ready access to a developed economic, physical, educational, communication and other infrastructure.

"This enables it to argue that, except for the persistence of gender discrimination against women, all members of this nation have the possibility to exercise their right to equal opportunity, the development opportunities to which the constitution of '93 committed our country," Mbeki said.

"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.”

A glance at current S. African government statistics reveals that 22 years after the dismantling of apartheid, only 16.9 percent of Blacks in SA had tertiary or college education, and only 17.1 percent of Black women and 14.7 percent of Black men have skilled jobs. 

What can be done to shore up South Africa’s economic inequality?  

During an e-mail exchange, from his London office, James Schneider, whose publication has reported on South Africa’s land reform program, said to finally right this historic wrong “radical action was/is required.”

“The post 1994 government, (including President Zuma) has not had the political will to do so. The basic framework for the government… has been ‘the market.’ Using market mechanisms will not redress the fundamental inequalities in South Africa’s land distribution because current economic outcomes mirror and were in part built on those vast inequalities,” the editor-in-chief of the London-based online magazine said.

Dr. Edward Lahiff, an expert on South African land, agrees that less emphasis should be placed on the market and more on satisfying the food needs of individual households.

“The state agencies must get over their obsession with large-scale, commercial production and accept the need for a radical restructuring of current land units. The strategy of settling large groups of relatively poor and inexperienced people on large commercial farms and expecting them to manage those farms effectively has clearly failed. Land reform beneficiaries should be given the option to identify their own preferred means (and scale) of production and, within reason given the support necessary. Less emphasis on production for the market and more on meeting household food needs would help greatly. Training and credit opportunities should be provided in a gradual way so that small farmers can expand production at a pace that suits their individual circumstances,” said Dr. Lahiff on PBS’s Point of View. 

Schneider believes that any program focusing on land reform should “be about food security and social, economic and environmental efficiency.” The fact that the “current distribution of land leaves millions of South Africans reliant on potentially volatile food prices and low nutrient food without employment or even the possible prospect of employment within (the current) economy” shows how ill equipped the SA governments land redistribution program is in its current form.

In 22 years only about 7 percent—between 5-6 million hectares (12,355,219 acres) of land of a proposed 30 percent —has been transferred to land claimants and land reform beneficiaries. (Note: The 30 percent figure was always intended as an interim target, with the idea that the ultimate target should be in line with the country’s demographics.)