At the start of 1994, just before the country’s first official democratic elections, there was this huge fanfare and pregnant expectations that South Africa, having bucked the trend of a bloody, internecine racial conflagration, would have a successful election, roll back the vestiges of Apartheid in all its forms, start a massive public works programmes to provide the previously disadvantaged black people with housing and amenities, begin the process of education for all, reconfigure our living spaces, prepare of national strategy and programme on land repatriation and financial restitution after 354-years of unrelenting colonialism and Apartheid and redefine the roles of the oppressor viz a viz, the oppressed, ultimately leading to a “Rainbow Nation” so eloquently hoped for by struggle cleric Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. 

The first democratic elections were held between the 26th and the 28th of April, ensuring the confirmation of Nelson Mandela as the first democratically elected President of a “free” South Africa. During these halcyon days, it was expected that Nelson Mandela, perhaps the most revered political figure of the 20th century would be the driver and catalyst of institutional, structural and systemic changes that would forever change the political and economic landscape of South Africa for generations of its people, both black and white. It started with a “bang” turned into a slow sickening whimper and transformed desperate and angry frustration for black people across the board, with South Africa becoming infamous for widespread unrest and discontentment, known as “service delivery” protests. A horrible euphemism for desperate black people whose dreams, wishes and desires for a “better life for all” remains unrequited after more than a quarter of a century and successive black governments promising all, but delivering nothing.

So what exactly went wrong with the “South African Miracle” and how did things continue to remain the same, as if still under Apartheid?

Well, the answers are remarkably simple, yet often ignored and hidden by the ruling ANC because of their cronies swift integration into the white capital’s establishment and corridors of economic and financial power. So what is the problem you may well ask yourself, how difficult is it to “resurrect” a country as small as South Africa, given that the ANC has access to all its resources and is returned to power in every successive general election?

The problem starts right at the beginning when the so-called, “negotiations” were taking place to define what a future South Africa would look like? Turns out that the negotiations weren’t actually “negotiations” but more of a scenario where the white capital class, big business and international interests defined for the ANC exactly how things will work in a future South Africa, with a twofold promise as follows:

1. They will always receive financial help and mass-media support to win the general elections.

2. They and their pals will be rewarded with nominations to directorships of many of the most powerful companies in South Africa, including the banking and financial sectors, and this will be codified into laws also known as B-BBEE, Broad-based black economic empowerment. Essentially a reward system for the ANC and its close pals. 

The ROI or return on investment for the white capital class would be steady maintenance of the existing economic status quo, with very little, to no systemic changes in how the economy is run, and more importantly, who runs the economy. 

In other words, as long as white people and institutions still control the levers of economic power and long-held contracts and tenders with SOE’s State-Owned Enterprises largely remains intact with the future possibilities of renewals as and when the Mandarins of the white capital class willed it so.

In part 2, I shall define the specifics of the negotiated settlement and how it impacts South Africa in general and black people in particular today…