The new ‘swart gevaar’

2011-09-08 00:00

PERHAPS I should start off with some shocking numbers, which I'm sure some will tell me I haven't put in line with population numbers, education levels and other such factors. Well, there are other societies in the world that are similar to ours but hardly as unequal.

In 1995, just a year after the demise of apartheid, the average white income was R48 387, R9 668 for coloureds, R23 424 for Indians and a whopping R6 525 for blacks. Fast-forward to 2008. You think things might have improved because you see lots of black folks driving fancy cars and eating in fancy restaurants, right? Let's see if you are right. White per capita income in 2008 was R75 297, coloured was R16 527, R51 457 for Indians and a bling, bling R9 790 for blacks.

This is after BEE, AA and all sorts of other acronyms we have decided to put in place. None of them have made a dent. In fact, adjusted to inflation levels to the year 2000 per capita, blacks still don't make as much money as whites did in 1917. In the year 2008, blacks were only making R9 790. These stats are from Leibbrandt, M et al (2010), "Trends in South African Income Distribution and Poverty since the Fall of Apartheid". I didn't make them up. A white person made them up. I promise.

When then deputy president Thabo Mbeki made his "Two Nations" speech at the opening of the debate in the National Assembly, on reconciliation and nation-building in 1998, some accused him of being divisive, there was no such thing. Well, the numbers speak for themselves.

For those of you who are too young to know history swart gevaar is what the fear of a black revolution was known as during the apartheid era. Swart gevaar, the black threat. Free blacks were a threat for some odd reason.

It is also known as black entitlement these days. Not to say that there is no such thing as entitlement. There are people who feel as if they are owed something by someone, people who feel they don't have to work for anything. Unfortunately, some want to paint all black people with this brush. It is not true. We don't mind working hard to get what we want, but we mind having to work extra hard just to get a fraction of what a white person gets. But if it means we must work extra hard, we do it anyway.

It is a mistake to think that economic transformation is a black issue: it is a South African issue. Every South African should be trying to make it happen. We can no longer afford to delay.

It is the will to transfer skills, it is to teach others how to create and make wealth. It is about ensuring that we avoid the day when a populist, charismatic and angry leader will lead angry, hungry masses on the streets. On that day, it won't just be the whites who will lose out, my fellow black brothers and sisters, it will be everyone who lives in Sandton and any other such fancy abodes.

This is why economic liberation is the duty of every South African. If you forget the forgotten for too long, they will make us remember them.

In the twenties, in the Eastern Cape, black people started talking about having their land back and opposition to white rule was mobilised. A series of crop failures, cattle disease, locusts and drought put pressure on people. A newspaper of the time wrote: "These are the general conditions of life; poverty growing into hunger, debt with no hope of escape. No people under the sun who have not been tamed and weakened by centuries of low diet and despotism can fail in such conditions to get into a state of unrest."

Maybe what we can say about today is that poverty is growing into hunger into anger. There it is up to the private sector to be proactive to ensure that it is opening up to grow the pie, so that more can access it. The private sector is very quick to point fingers at the government when it does naught. The private sector needs to do more to aid the government before it is forced to by legislation.

Black economic liberation is essential for the survival of this country and continued white prosperity. Those who think that economic transformation is about taking from the whites to give to the blacks don't get it. I believe that economic freedom is about giving everyone the opportunity to create jobs and to make money.

We are not trying to take from the whites so that they have nothing. We just want a chance for as many people as possible to be prosperous, not just to showcase a few wealthy black people and pretend that that is true economic transformation. It's not. It's black economic window dressing.

All black people want really is the ability to make money in their land. They want to feel like they own their own country by owning its wealth. That is all. There is no need to fear black prosperity. No need for the black economic gevaar. Let's fix this. — News24.com

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