week marks ten years of ANC rule in South Africa.
The South African transition is often
hailed here as an example of a successful peace
process, a model for our own conflict
should we really be looking at South Africa as an
example? Who are the winners and losers of the South
African peace process and transition?
According to the Chronic Poverty Research Centre at
the University of the Western Cape, the average income
of black households dropped by 19 per cent from 1995
to 2000, while over the same period the average white
household income grew 15 per cent. Absolute poverty
levels increased from 20 per cent in 1995 to 28 per
cent in 2000. 45 per cent of the population of South
Africa survives with less than two dollars per day.
In ten years, social spending has increased by 35
per cent, while interests and dividends of foreign
investors have grown fourfold over the same period.
the incomes of the black majority have been reduced,
the corporate sector has been on the gravy train.
Corporate tax rates were cut from 48 per cent in 1994
to 30 per cent by 1999. The official jobless rate
grew from 16 per cent in 1995 to 30 per cent last
year. However, when discouraged job-seekers are added
in, the actual unemployment rate now stands at 42
per cent nationwide and more than 80 per cent in some
process was accelerated from 1996 when the ANC adopted
a World Bank plan for South Africa's economy which,
among other things, involved commercialising and privatising
government services. Many millions of blacks have
now lost access to essential services, such as running
water, electricity and telephones, because they cannot
afford to pay the charges set by the private corporations.
(sources: Le Monde, 27 April, New Zealand
Herald, 20 April)
is not the hopes of South Africa's impoverished black
majority which have been fulfilled by democracy
but those of South Africa's corporations, global investors
and the white minority thanks to the fact that the
ANC had adopted pragmatic politics towards
the business elite. Not only that:
new black elite has emerged in South Africa, mostly
from the ranks of the liberation movement - people
who were able to use their political pedigree and
connections to amass vast amounts of wealth. Trade
union leaders have become instant millionaires,
setting up business consortia in the name of union
members but then reaping all the financial benefits
at the expense of the workers. (New
York Times, 27 April)
why is this relevant here? Because the local version
of the ANC, Sinn Fein, is adopting similar stance.
Recently, the Irish Times described Gerry Adams
presence at the Dublin Chamber of Commerce business
breakfast in the Burlington Hotel in the following
the more complex colours emerging in Sinn Fein's
attitude to business, Adams's background message
was that his party understands the need for pragmatism.
Asked about public-private partnerships, he acknowledged
that Martin McGuiness had reluctantly accepted the
need for private investment while in power in Northern
Ireland. "Well, we are against them" he
said. "Having said that, Martin McGuiness,
as education minister, faced the reality that he
would either have no schools or an involvement in
a qualified way with private finance, went for it.
So I suppose you could argue that that is the emergence
of pragmatic politics." Equally, Sinn Fein's
acceptance of service charges in Sligo was justified
by Adams, despite all of the party's railings nationally
against such bills. ... "Our position is against
it. But in terms of the actual practicalities of
working out those matters, as part of local government,
the party made compromises on it", he told
the gathering. On taxation, Adams offered soothing
words that meant little: "I am reluctant to
say that we would do A or we would do B. We are
not in principle against tax increases, but we have
no plans to introduce them. We just think that there
should be a far, far better way of doing business."
(The Irish Times, 24 April 2004)
is pure Thabo Mbeki speak from our own Nelson Mandela.
point here is not to fire cheap shots at the Provisionals,
but to be prepared for the nasty consequences of pragmatic
politics. The end of racial apartheid, without
drastic economic changes only resulted in social apartheid.
More than a century ago, James Connolly warned that
pure political changes without radical social and
economic reorganisation of society would only be national
recreancy, the efforts of Republicans would
be in vain.
Organisations are now beginning to emerge in the black
communities across South Africa to challenge the ANC.
Typically they are organising around community service
issues, such as housing, water and electricity, and
are often met with the same repression the white minority
once used against black activists. If Stormont once
again goes up and running, similar struggles can be
expected here around issues such as water rates or
PFI. Rather than unconstructively complaining about
sell out, serious activists should concentrate
on preparing themselves to wage those coming battles
and learn from the South African experience.
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