On Wednesday the 27th of April, South Africa celebrated 22 years of freedom under a dark cloud of growing political unrest. With a President under fire, a growingly disgruntled populace and racial division in Universities, one then wonders if this is the South Africa Mandela envisioned. Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa took the opportunity to politic and “assure” thousands gathered in Giyani, Limpopo that President Zuma would finish his term. “No one is going to remove President Zuma from office,” were the exact words he used.
Mthethwa’s assurance does not matter, what matters is what the President of the young Republic himself said. Zuma said, “For freedom to be complete, the economy of our country must not be skewed along racial lines…” No one could have said it better. His Presidency aside, the bigger issue in need of serious contemplation is the black man’s position in South Africa. What of the black woman who has always been at the bottom of the food chain? Are blacks economically free in South Africa?
The Economic Freedom Fighters is the biggest beneficiary of the imparity that is a fact of independent South Africa. The legacy of apartheid is not in the way whites look at blacks in the streets, it is in the lack of blacks in the corridors of economic power. EFF has been heard to suggest that true freedom in South Africa can only be achieved when land distribution has succeeded.
“Without the land, our democracy traps the whole society into a fast-approaching time bomb,” the party said in a statement. The party had argued that, “The poor, who are black in their majority, remain in desperate poverty and dire living conditions because our democracy fails to translate into economic freedom.”
Just last year, the Commission for Employment Equity announced that white males continued to dominate management positions in South Africa, while the movement of Africans into managerial posts was moving “at a snail’s pace”. The then Acting Chairperson of the Commission, Tabea Mogodielo said state owned entities were embracing equity in the workplace but the private sector was not making any noticeable strides.
Her exact words were, “There is no effort to embrace the spirit of employment equity.” Precise and concise truth, verified by a commission! The report showed that 70% of leadership positions are in the hands of whites while fricans take a paltry 13.6% representation. To put this into perspective, Africans constitute 76.2% of the working population while whites take a low 10.3%. How the whites then end up dominating leadership positions is a wonder.
President Zuma claimed that his government would “continue to implement black economic empowerment programmes, as well as affirmative action programmes”. At the end of apartheid when around 90% of the land was in the hands of white South Africans, the African National Congress vowed to redistribute the land but twenty years later, government officials were postponing the deadline for shifting a third of the country’s land from white farmers to blacks to 2025. How is this happening? The party clearly promised the people in The Freedom Charter that, “The national wealth of our country, the heritage of South Africans, shall be restored to the people; the mineral wealth beneath the soil; the banks and monopoly industries shall be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole; all other industries and trade shall be controlled to assist the well-being of the people.”
The promises are still just promises. The empty-promises lend credence to the EFF’s movement which would have no cause not for the South African freedom that shamefully secludes black economic freedom. President Zuma’s ANC is facing a huge challenge to its political relevance if it does not address the unfair nature of the economy. With the rise of a growing militant “born-free” generation which is opting for the red berets of EFF rather than the empty promises of ANC, the ruling party has to go out of its way to have economically inclusive policies. It would be a shame if the freedom fighters themselves end up being accused of selling out the revolution they stood for since time immemorial. For now, hearty congratulations to the nation of South Africa for twenty-two years of political freedom. The hope is that the “Rainbow nation” includes black in its economic rainbow soon.