After Twenty Years - We Can Now Explain Apartheid and Inequality

2014-04-30 10:30

After two decades of generally inept and corrosive rule at the hands of an ANC led government, the initial rationale for the doctrine of apartheid and the reality of inequality are highlighted in our nation's plight to survive. A failed South African state is an increasingly realistic prognosis, and without voter intervention probably inevitable - because the capacity for governing and managing a complex state enterprise has been critically lacking for much of the past two decades. There are good reasons for this. Firstly we are devoid of a democratic culture because the institution of the nation state has evolved logically throughout history following protracted periods of sociological assimilation, drawing from tribes, clans, language groups, or communities with religious or other affinities in common. Such conditions did not happen in South Africa. Alternatively, nation states have from time to time been the outcome of conquest - with communities either succumbing to outside cultures and assimilating them or galvanising against outside domination. In South Africa neither occurred in full measure. In short, the benefits of promoting political commonality between component groups have to outweigh the disadvantages of staying separate and independent of each other for the state to be viable. With the age of discovery during the 15th and 16th centuries, voyages to the New World and the advent of colonialism, everything changed for the nation state as a new dynamic was unleashed on the less developed world. At the same time "Inequality" was discovered - else why did Africans not explore Europe, American Indians colonise Asia or the Inuit conquer Scandinavia?

The reality is that on account of their curiosity and technological superiority, Western European powers discovered corners of the globe which caused it to shrink in the first wave of what has come to be recognised as globalisation. Some anecdotes illustrate obvious asymmetries in human capacity.

> In 1532 at Cajamarca in the Peruvian Andes a rag tag bunch of a couple of hundred Spanish horsemen overcame the most powerful empire in the Western hemisphere in a single battle. Such was the domination of European powers that the Portuguese and Spanish had split the New World between them at the Treaty of Tordesillas, assuming that it would forever be under their hegemony.

> Britain and Holland colonised the east and parts of Africa, subjugating the Indian sub-continent, and opened new markets and brought new insights and technologies to remote parts of the (then known) world and enriching their nations in what has come to be known as the mercantilist period.

> Southern Africa's own Voortrekkers overcame overwhelming odds at Blood River through the use of firearms unknown in Africa, contributing to the formation of a new nation in Southern Africa.

> The Pioneer Column initiated by Cecil Rhodes opened the southern African hinterland and explorers such as Livingstone and Stanley penetrated the African bush in quest of the unknown and international prestige, in the process laying the foundations for the nation state.

In all these instances cultural asymmetries between the vanquished and victors; explorers and indigenous peoples; those bearing technologies and those bound by tradition and superstition were exposed and the world became a place of pervasive inequality.

Causes of Inequality

Much has been written on the subject but essentially human evolution outside of the African environment is recognised as the ultimate cause of cognitive growth and the appropriate cultural attributes for technological advancement as we know it.

It is widely accepted that Africa was the crucible of humankind and that between 70000 and 100000  years ago, dozens - or possibly scores - of people started a migration out of Africa that inhabited the globe, caused human population to grow many times faster than in did in Africa itself, and bred populations able to deal with newly hostile climatic and predatory environments.

Genetic DNA studies support this link between Africa and the world beyond - yet conclusively, inequality remains a fact of global life. Developmental disparities driven by environmental imperatives during the intervening aeons are the sole explanation. South Africas take on Inequality - a Political Fiction In sharp contrast to recognising and addressing the reality of inequality as a social challenge, the "sin of inequality" has today become a buzz word for politicians aspiring to office based on a liturgy of confiscation and numerical superiority to coerce outcomes. For finding disgruntled, disenchanted or unemployed people is relatively easy to do and provides a convenient political platform. "Inequality" should logically be addressed by education, galvanising ambition and promoting the urge to better compete or contribute; it is a long term goal. But when directed at voting fodder it promotes an ethos of entitlement and unrealistic demands, and serves as a harbinger of economic failure and protracted inequality. South Africa is a case study in the unfolding dynamics of just such a society - an assortment of culturally inept and economically incompetent ideologies that have elsewhere been left for dead. Apartheid? Surprisingly - and controversially - apartheid might have contributed intellectually to socio-political thought through the recognition of fundamental differences between peoples and a quest for political solutions to their situation. Consider, for example the disintegration of societies far more culturally homogeneous than our own -

> the fragmenting of nations in the previously defined USSR

> the secession of East Timor

> the secession of Southern Sudan from greater Sudan

> the balkanisation of Yugoslavia into many states

> ongoing Chechen unrest

It is impossible to deny that "apartheid" - that dread ideology - actually recognised such inappropriate associations - and addressed them, albeit clumsily and exploitatively through a badly designed but arguably logical policy of separate development.

 Quo Vadis?

Practitioners of apartheid recognised the reality of inequality and tried to address it politically. But they failed because they did not promote societal values consistent with an evolving intellect and appropriate cultural values. They were ungenerous in its implementation.

That said, the ANC is immeasurably more clueless - failing to grasp inequality's causes and with no idea how to fix them. It can identify no cause beyond the "sins of apartheid" or exogenous influences (the world financial crisis for example) which it exploits politically.

It lacks the intellect to address inequality as a socio economic issue, condoning instead its exacerbation - promoted by poor public education, an ethos of dependence, patronage and protective underemployment.

It cannot connect the dots.


If we are honest with ourselves, we are in a far tighter spot in 2014 than in 1994 because no one had seriously thought that apartheid could be sustained once the implementation of its blueprint had floundered. So better times beckoned in April 1994 and much was expected.

What happened?

On the positive side, during the past 20 years the poorest have enjoyed what was denied them under apartheid - running water, electricity, etc. But the tanks have now run dry. Patronage and redistribution are expensive, as are corruption, economic mismanagement and poor public education.

And tax revenues are finite.

Because the ruling elite has been unequal to the challenges of the modern nation state - as we see in the selection of thieves and criminals even in the presidency, and the erosion of important democratic institutions - we are by consensus of many top economists, on skid row.

But to make things worse, the electorate will probably endorse the trajectory of the nation on 7th May with sixty percent or more of the vote - explaining to a large degree why apartheid came to exist in the first place. It will also explain - following 20 years - how profoundly the notion of "inequality" is misunderstood and how ordinary people have been exploited by unscrupulous leaders and false ideologies into believing that they dare not show dissent from the dogma of "the Struggle".

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