Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Reconceptualizing the rainbow nation: The post-ANC South Africa.

It is almost 20 years since that historic Nelson Mandela swearing in ceremony as South Africa's first majority President. Back then,the ANC could no wrong. It was the popular vanguard of the people's struggle against the evil that was apartheid. But 1994 seems like a really time ago. I have been resident in South Africa for a month now and have had a rare first hand insight into the changed South Africa. The black majority has become increasingly weary of the ANC. Unfulfilled dreams, dashed hopes, disillusionment and a hideous corruption streak among the ruling elite are partly to blame. President Jacob Zuma has been demonized in the press for having a swimming pool at his country home built on tax payer dimes. To be fair, the current South Africa is way better than the pre-1994 South Africa but it could have been even miles much better. It is surprising how much the ANC is struggling win an election that it should labour too much to win given its recent dark history. But getting a decent result come 7th May 2014 seems like an uphill task. To be sure, the ANC will carry the day. However it will be the smallest majority since 1994. When I pear into the future, say in 20 years, the ANC will hardly be unassailable. South Africans will have moved on. They already seem to be doing that. South Africa is really two countries in one-a country of stark contrast. The classic tale of haves and have-nots finds its most illustrious example here. And privilege is reproducing itself through generational cycles. The economic super structure from the days of apartheid is almost intact. There is clearly a growing black middle class and even a high-end entreprenuer class such as Cyril Ramaphosa of the MTN group connection but South Africa's inequality looks to be a problem for the ages. ''There is nothing new under the sun'' it says in Levitcus. I was reminded of our own post-independence euphoria in Sub Saharan Africa. Of a dream that was the new Africa. It seemed that the new African rulers simply replaced the colonial class- a changing of the guard if you will, and the life continued. How hard it is to change society for genuine social advancement. The captains of industry in South Africa still remain the same. It is not even fair to expect that the ANC can deliver a fairer South Africa after centuries of advantage of a minority. Because of an impatient population, wily politicians have taken advantage. Malema and Ramaphela and many others are promising a better deal for the black majority. But can they truly deliver on a fundamentally new South Africa? Clearly, the ANC could have done a lot better than it has managed but South Africa's inequality is inherently structural. What took centuries to build cannot be dismantled in years. It is in the interest of the privileged classes of South Africa to push for a fairer South Africa out of sheer self-interest. The current South Africa is not sustainable. We never learn from history. The survival of a capitalist society in Europe was not because of capitalism. It was inspite of Capitalism. It was a modification of capitalism that started in Bismarck's Germany. A capitalist society with a residual element of fraternity.