You would be forgiven for expecting South Africa to be much further down the track on all the international metrics of state, economic and therefore human development given the halcyon days of Mandela the liberator, the peacemaker, the dealmaker and the enormous promises made? You would be forgiven for thinking that a majority people systemically abused on such an incomprehensible scale for so long can rightfully expect some kind of respite from a reformed state loaded with sympathisers and people who took part in the struggle? You can even be forgiven for thinking that the first democratically elected government would pour all its resources into redesigning and creating a society in the interests and image of the long-suffering people fresh form the second most well-known genocide after the World War II Holocaust of the Jewish people, so what went wrong?
Several factors constrained the newly elected government from providing the majority with even a minimum level of comfort and security as follows:
The ANC was wholly unprepared for those types of high-level negotiations and theorised it would be a cakewalk
The speed with which FW De Klerk announced the cessation of government hostilities and the release of all formerly banned political parties caught them (the ANC) by surprise
The ANC didn’t have a slick management team on board that would prepare the framework of the negotiations and lay down the “must-haves” and “nice to haves” parameters, instead one got the idea that they were at first winging it.
The ANC was wildly uncoordinated between its head-office in Lusaka Zambia and the newly released internal wing in South Africa.
The world’s most famous prisoner, Nelson Mandela was being prepped in prison by the National Party, quite apart of the normal ANC structures which created parallel narratives and therefore conflicting storylines.
It never occurred to the ANC that political deal-making and bargaining is more about economics than politics. In fact, politics follows economics and not the other way around, so this forced the ANC to deal with the real “dark horse” in the mix, white international capital.
One of its biggest failings was that it never understood racism as comprehensively as it should have; instead, it saw the phenomenology of racism as almost entirely institutional. It believed that once the Apartheid laws were abolished, racism would end.
Perhaps the fundamental flaws in its (the ANC’s) thinking are the sociohistorical globalised nature of racism and white supremacy. Here’s the thing that befuddles, frustrates and deliberately delays progress in South Africa on all fronts and again; in all areas of human and societal development folks.
Apartheid has taught white people to think that they are the intellectual, cultural and economic vanguard, to conclude that racial inequalities can only be traced back to institutional Apartheid (the laws), not colonialism because it’s too far back. And that once Apartheid was abolished and we all voted in the 1994 general election, Apartheid and all its iterations magically disappeared. And to view their dominant status – their privilege – as a minority in a majority Black Country as normal and a perfectly natural state of being. In other words, the racial and economic hierarchy is hardwired in their psyche because white privilege remains largely invisible to them. This is analogous to questioning a fish about the benefits of his life in water? The fish I’m sure would find it a strange question because he has no other frame, he is accustomed to it and water for the most parts is invisible.
This in my view alone has informed all the past and present ANC governments’ strategies, plans, deals and decisions on a macro and microstate level. It is the reason the ANC only half-heartedly contests provincial elections in the Western Cape because it’s all but given up hope against the DA, Democratic Alliance (an alt-right conservative white political party), and resigned itself to ruling the rest on the country on a half-empty tank in a manner so egregiously lacklustre that it ignores rampant state corruption by its appointed cadres leaving it up to a weakened NPA, National Prosecuting Authority to deal with, as and when it has the time. It has all but given up any hope of rescuing South Africa, so prefers the age-old politician’s stratagem of playing out the “waiting game.” It behaves like a party that is on death row, and for the first time since it’s unbanning on the 2nd of February 1990, it is honest with itself.