South Africa Confronts Persistent Inequality Under New Leadership

By Paula Finn

Given the breakneck pace of developments in our national politics, we turn attention in this installment of the newsletter to important developments in South Africa. Cyril Ramaphosa − the heroic anti-apartheid union leader who metamorphosed as a business tycoon during the Mandela presidency – has now been elected to lead the African National Congress. This makes it all but certain he’ll become the next President of South Africa, given the ANC’s continued (though somewhat depleted) electoral dominance.

Here we offer a telling description, by New Labor Forum author Rajendra Chetty, of the role Ramaphosa played in the tragic Marikana massacre in which 34 striking miners were killed, 78 wounded, and 259 arrested at the Lonmin-owned platinum mine on August 16, 2012. We also offer a statistical context for understanding the conditions confronting poor and working-class South Africans today. Among the most urgent of facts are the current soaring rates of unemployment, particularly among young South Africans, which some scholars peg at nearly 50 percent.  This has contributed mightily to the snail’s pace of economic improvement for black South Africans since the country’s independence, pictured in a chart below. We end with a set of policy recommendations by Kuben Naidoo, who insists South Africa’s leaders must confront the reality that “economic growth” does not lead to decreased inequality, and may exacerbate it. His recommendations grapple with a number of issues that merit the attention of U.S. activists and policy makers, given our own history of racialized oppression and decades of burgeoning inequality.

Table of Content

  1. The Marikana Massacre: Insurgency and Counter-Insurgency in South Africa: Rajendra Chetty/ New Labor Forum
  2. Charts on South Africa’s continued social and economic inequality 
  3. It doesn’t end with Piketty – five policies that could reduce inequality: Kuben Naidoo/ Mail & Guardian

The Marikana Massacre: Insurgency and Counter-Insurgency in South Afria
By Rajendra Chetty/ New Labor Forum

The Lonmin-owned platinum mine, 62 miles northwest of Johannesburg, South Africa had been at the center of a violent pay dispute for over a year, starting in May 2011, when the company sacked 9,000 workers after what it described as “unprotected industrial action”. On  August 16, 2012, a contingent of the police 500-strong  surrounded a koppie (hillock) outside the informal settlement of Nkaneng to quell a wildcat strike…

Read the full article here

Joblessness in South Africa

Source: Stats SA

The Longer Walk to Inequality

It doesn’t end with Piketty-Five policies that could reduce inequality
By Kuben Naidoo/ Mail & Guardian 

Inequality is limiting South Africa’s economic progress in more ways than we think. For most of the past 20 years, it was simply assumed that economic growth on its own would reduce inequality. This is not necessarily the case. Faster economic growth is a necessary but not sufficient condition to reduce the level of inequality. More directed action is needed to tackle inequality and these actions will boost the welfare of all its citizens. Debate on inequality has blossomed following the success of French economist Thomas Piketty’s new book, Capital in the 21st Century. While Piketty has picked apart how capitalism has perpetuated an unequal society…

Read the full article here. 

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