There seems to be this romantic illusion going around transcending the racial divide that somehow the apartheid government was soundly run. I hear a lot of people reflecting on how the government would always deliver basic services on time, how there were employment opportunities and other nonsense that is not backed up by history. I twinge at the spew posted by anonymous readers on South African news sites, reflecting on the joys of yesterday and how as said by one anonymous source ‘apartheid government, for all its faults, was much more competent.’
Beneath the romantic illusions and negative reporting by a white run media on our current government, is there any shred of evidence to back up this preposterous claim? Firstly, the economic policies of the ANC and the apartheid government – the National Party government – have remained almost identical. The difference between the two governments lies herein.
The apartheid government only had to keep a few million white people happy while the ANC lead government needs to keep over 50 million people happy with the same resources. To take it home, you are earning R8000 a month. Then out of nowhere, you have to carry the financial burden for your three siblings after the death of your parents. Is your standard of living not going to deteriorate? Why then do you think it would be any different with government? The employment illusion is brought about by the fact that half the white population had protected government jobs, with pleasant government, subsidized houses and the rest would get rich working for the corrupt Broederbond big business cartel.
Quoting columnist Ivo Vegter; 'The ANC of today is no more corrupt than the old NP. It is not less competent, no matter how different it might appear to whites who only noticed their own preferential treatment under apartheid, but now live as equals with their fellow South Africans. It is not more inefficient, either. The only difference is that the ANC’s problem is 10 times larger: it promised to provide a better life for all, not just some.’
According to a Business Day article titled The Silence Over Apartheid, Government Corruption – around R378 billion (current value) was spent to fund secret defence projects and procure weapons. This happened with limited oversight from the auditor-general. Given what we know about the international arms trade, it is fair to assume that this was open to possible systemic abuse by individuals, corporations and financial institutions – but there has never been an opportunity for public scrutiny.
The apartheid government did not foster economic growth either. Terence Moll, of the African Studies Centre at the University of Cambridge, in a paper published in the Journal of Southern African Studies states that “the apartheid economy and productivity record were poor and can be said to have failed partly because the apartheid government impeded economic development with imprudent economic policies“
In the 1970’s, South Africa was rocked by high levels of inflation, rising prices of basic foods and a stagnate economy. The ANC government on the other hand has staged strong economic growth and kept inflation relatively low with sound economic policy. While this economic growth hasn’t translated into meaningful change in the lives of ordinary people, it will over time.
Moaning about some non-existent good old days isn’t going to get us anywhere. I could list all the government’s achievements, such as the provision of electricity to millions of South Africans, the fact that we have produced more than double the number of graduates or managing billions of rands of debt that was left over by a very inept apartheid government – but I choose not to - less I be accused of blindly campaigning for the ANC.
Yes corruption levels are too high, with R25 Billion going ‘missing’ every year according to the auditor general. But we need to stop relying on government for service delivery though and get off our comfy couches and start implementing change by being productive. What we’re doing now is glorifying a system that benefited a few at the expense of everyone else, and that isn’t going to take South Africa forward.
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