Politicians did not invent racism.
When people like Julius Malema talk about freedom for black people he is called ignorant and divisive.
When Helen Zille talks about “black privilege” she is believed to be telling the truth.
So what is the truth?
Could a few wealthy black people really mean that black people are now privileged?
Let’s see shall we?
*At the time of apartheid in 1994, more than 80% of the land was in the hands of white minority. Data from the Institute of Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies suggest that just under 60,000 white-owned farms accounted for about 70% of the total area of the country in early 1990s. Land reforms programme has been slow. Some suggest that less than 10 % of the total land has been redistributed from white to black ownership since 1994.
Despite claims to the contrary, a study of black ownership on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange shows clearly that black South Africans remain small-time players. According to a recent study, only 23% of the shares traded on the exchange are held – directly and indirectly – by black South Africans.
In a study in 2016 whites still constituted 68.9% of top management in all sectors. Yet they are only 9.9% of the economically active population. In contrast, black Africans, who constitute 78% of the economically active population, hold only 14.3% of top management positions.
They are able to attain their goals since the ownership and control of listed companies and banks is highly concentrated in their hands. They are able to use their oligarchic power – and grand corruption – to maintain the status quo.
They stifle black advancement by appointing friends or family members without the requisite qualifications or experience as senior executives. Highly qualified blacks are overlooked.
They also engage in grand corruption, for example, by falsifying their empowerment scores to get large construction tenders, banking and mining licences. In this way, they subvert black advancement and entrepreneurship.
The Marikana massacre provides an apt example of the power of this phenomenon. The current ANC Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa didn’t employ his substantial political power to ensure that mining giant Lonmin met its social and labour responsibilities as per legislation. Instead, he seems to have made sure that the strike was crushed.
Conversely, the black majority doesn’t have the economic power to counter the discriminatory effect of white oligopoly power. It’s not surprising, then, that where black entrepreneurship exists its marginal, accommodating white discriminatory power.
Black entrepreneurship, therefore, manifests, largely, in the informal, shadow economy. Examples are spaza shops, the violent taxi industry or tendering characterized by petty corruption.*
Based on the above when you look at South Africa as a whole, it’s clearly evident that “black privilege” or rather the myth thereof is not only nonexistent but is also touted as a means for ordinary people to look at the few black people that are wealthy and to hold them up as indicators that black people are doing ok economically and that we now live in a “free” society and failure to attain wealth is then viewed as personal failure, conveniently forgetting about the very real barriers to entry.
The systems that were in place pre-1994 remain in place and Governments’ failure to crack down on companies with low wage policies and enforceable land reform only serves to increase black and brown people’s level of poverty.
Groups that preach “rainbowism” as if we are all equal continue to uphold the systemic racism that thrives in the country and white people’s desire to hold onto what they have is much like a baby of the family refusing to share a toy with the older sibling even though the older sibling was there first.
In fact, that baby pretends to share with the older sibling only when the parents are looking. Once the parent’s backs are turned the baby snatches the toy back and compounds the situation by hitting the older sibling over the head with said toy.
Lies that bind us, is a devious attempt to create a unity that doesn’t exist. It’s time to face the reality of the situation in our country.
*excerpt from theconversation magazine.
Thanti Mthanti (University of the Witwatersrand) and Mohammed Amir Anwar (Oxford University)