- Burkina Faso
- Cape Verde
- Central African Republic
- D.R. Congo
- Equatorial Guinea
- Guinea Bissau
- Ivory Coast
- São Tomé and Príncipe
- Sierra Leone
- South Africa
- South Sudan
Monday, June 01, 2015
Time for revolution
A few years ago South Africa overtook Brazil as the most unequal society on Earth. This week Statistics South Africa’s quarterly labour force survey reported that South Africa’s unemployment rate in the first quarter of 2015 was at 26.4 percent, the highest level since 2003, when it hit 30 percent.
What is politically significant is the increasing inequality between rich and poor blacks. Before 1994, the majority of blacks saw other blacks, with exceptions, as mostly equally poor. The ANC’s coming to power in 1994 brought advancement in the private sector for the educated, and fabulous wealth to the small group of politically connected through “narrow” black economic empowerment (BEE).
There is a rising perception that key ANC political leaders in charge are uncaring, dismissive and arrogant of the struggles of their poor black brothers, sisters and cousins while at the same time living a nauseatingly bling lifestyle. There is a rising perception that black people in political and business leadership who are doing well have little understanding of the harsh realities of their poorer cousins.
Young black people who have been unemployed for extended periods are increasingly unable to identify with the ANC. The majority of black youth, poorly educated at government schools, often have very little relevant skills, social capital or political connections, with little prospect for gainful employment. Yet they can see a connected small black elite getting fabulously rich, with little effort, through their political connections – and flaunting it, and the old white elite continuing to prosper.
Not surprisingly, this section of black youth is increasingly outraged, resentful and open to populist messages. The ANC breakaways – whether they were politically effective or not – from the Congress of the People (Cope) to the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) have made it increasingly socially and politically “acceptable” for many black people not to show allegiance to the ANC. In the past many black ANC voters, whether young or black middle class members who were unhappy with the party, stayed away from elections rather than vote for another party. For example, if all ANC supporters eligible for voting, but who stayed away from last year’s national elections, had voted for another party, that party would have won the elections by a clear margin. It is no surprise that the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), are mulling over the possibility of breaking away to form a new trade union federation and possibly a new worker-based political party. If the Numsa group form their own political party, it will mean significant sections of the black working class will also turn their back on the ANC.
The black working class is equally under financial distress. They have suffered the brunt of all the big waves of job retrenchments in the past three decades. Many are low skilled or unskilled and as South Africa’s economy changes from manufacturing, some face the prospect of never getting a job in their lifetimes again. They, in most cases, did not and do not have access to opportunities to upgrade their skills, whether from their employers or the state.
The struggle continues. Time for revolution