In the post "South Africa is going down the plughole. What do the anti - apartheid campaigners have to say about that?" Ed West legitimately asks a question that we South Africans would love to hear the answer. Do these people feel remorse, any regrets - for pushing a Marxist calamity onto South Africans? Did they genuinely not realise that the ANC was a terrorist organisation backed by Communists? Has there been reflection (it's been 15 years - whatever was intended by their actions should have worked by now and South Africa should be a beacon of democracy), any introspection? Have they perhaps agonised (maybe too strong a word - liberals don't take responsibility for their actions remember) that the wrong horse was backed - and that a faulty system was replaced with something much worse? Do these people sleep soundly at night because South Africans of ALL races do not? Well, it just so happens, coincidentally, that John Minto, head honcho of the Kiwi anti-apartheid movement has been fact-finding in South Africa of late. Read and see whether he accepts any responsibility (a teeny-tiny smidgen would do, just to make me feel better that these people have souls) for the havoc wrought on the people of South Africa.
By John Minto
My apology to any regular readers who missed this blog these past two weeks but I only returned yesterday from a trip to South Africa. It was my first visit and a chance to see the changes, or lack thereof, in the country since the first African National Congress government was elected in great euphoria in 1994.
At one level the country, like many in the industrialised world, faces the same economic problems which beset New Zealand. This includes consumption-led growth (jobless growth) in recent years, with high spending on imports alongside a housing boom driving house prices and rents further away from needy families.
Just as we have seen here in New Zealand in the likes of our railways, phone services and electricity generation, privatisation policies in South Africa have seen high prices to consumers, vast profit-taking by investors and lack of investment in infrastructure for the future. Their rail network has been run into the ground while huge trucks dominate the roads. Sound familiar?
Coincidentally I was there for the closing stages of the election campaign during which the ANC proudly proclaimed average economic growth of 5.4% since 1994 and budget surpluses in the last two years.
However, all this is a first-world mask over a third-world economy.
The majority of South Africans are living in abject poverty and are simply locked out of the economy with independent assessments putting the unemployment rate at 40%.
The heart of the problem has been the ANC's adoption of neo-liberal economic policies which were written by World Bank officials and, as in New Zealand, have been undemocratically forced on a reluctant electorate. These policies have been hailed by the well off, "the markets" and foreign investors.
But they have been disastrous for the majority of South Africans who have seen their situation worsen as ANC policies have directed the country's wealth into the same small elite who benefited under the crude race-based apartheid policies of the past. The only difference is the tiny handful of black faces who now share the spoils.
Economic apartheid has replaced race-based apartheid with the majority struggling to survive.
Services like housing, electricity and water supplies are now more widely available but only for those able to pay for them. In their tens of thousands people face eviction because they can't pay "market rents" charged by private landlords and local councils. Similarly many millions have had water and electricity supplies cut off because they can't afford the charges. The government has provided greater "access" to these services but they are not affordable for most.
For the poor in their millions there are no houses, no electricity and no water supply aside from a standpipe in the street.
Just as we have seen in New Zealand there is little prospect of improvement for those locked out of the economy. In the meantime the ANC government's priority has been to pay off the country's "apartheid debt" (created by the old regime which borrowed heavily in its dying days to hobble the incoming government with unsustainable debt - equal to half the country's GDP - while handsomely rewarding those who collaborated with the regime), and build new stadia for the World Soccer Cup next year.
So while the majority of the population live in dire poverty the government is spending many billions building or refurbishing no less than five world cup venues.
The government's answer to its critics is its so-called Black Economic Empowerment programme but this is a failure. Firstly it involved large corporations taking on their boards a few black faces and thereby gaining lucrative government contracts. This was later extended to black Africans at lower levels of the economic food chain whereby individuals have been able to start businesses to gain government contracts for development and maintenance of public projects such as schools and public amenities.
These new black entrepreneurs have shown they are as adept at exploitation as the old white order. Preference is frequently given to employing migrant workers at much lower rates of pay than would be acceptable for South African workers. There is plenty of this same trend here in New Zealand although South Africa has much fewer legal protections for migrant workers.
The most uplifting parts of my visit were the various communities organising to fight back against government policies. There are anti-eviction committees, campaigns for free water, decent education and civilised healthcare.
The ANC gained a majority in last week's election through a new face at the top promising to "learn from past mistakes". However the newly elected President Jacob Zuma says he intends continuing with the same economic policies. This is welcomed by the wealthy but means the grassroots fight back by South African communities will continue to grow.