Something rotten in the ANC state

20 November 2012

The palaces of President Zuma and the massacre of miners at Marikana symbolise how the gulf between rich and poor has grown in the 18 years since the African National Congress came to power in South Africa. Hilary Wainwright reports on how formerly loyal ANC activists are turning against their government

The palaces of President Zuma and the massacre of miners at Marikana symbolise how the gulf between rich and poor has grown in the 18 years since the African National Congress came to power in South Africa. Hilary Wainwright reports on how formerly loyal ANC activists are turning against their government

‘We knew apartheid was a deeply rooted system, we knew it would be difficult, we knew it would take time – but we did not think it would take forever. Eighteen years. Eighteen years! And we are still living like this.’

‘This’, for Lennox Bonile, is a cramped sitting room, bedroom and cupboard of a kitchen in the Khayelitsha area of Cape Town, with a bucket instead of a toilet and no running water in the house.

Bonile is a shop steward in the South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU) at the city council. He and his wife Priscilla have graduated from a bucket toilet system to a ‘modified bucket system’. This means they have a ‘porta-toilet’ to empty their bucket into, and that toilet is itself emptied each week by casual workers working for a labour broker contracted by the city council.

Eighteen years after the mass of black South Africans lined the streets to vote in the first government of the African National Congress, 1.5 million people (almost all black or coloured) still live without proper flushing toilets; 1.7 million still live in shacks, with no proper beds, kitchens or washing facilities.

While there has been a very small narrowing of the gap between black and white people, as the result of a small minority of black people moving up the income ladder, there has been a widening of the gulf between rich and poor – and the majority of the poor are black. South Africa, as the World Bank reported in July 2012, remains one of the most unequal societies in the world.

The bottom 20 per cent in South Africa get less than 3 per cent of the total income, while the top 10 per cent of earners get more than 50 per cent. This is a wider gap than in Mexico, Brazil or even oligarch-filled Russia.

Almost a third of South Africa’s population still lives on less than $2 a day. Child malnutrition is now even higher than under apartheid, as is unemployment.

 Read the full paper in the attachment.

About the authors

Hilary Wainwright

Hilary Wainwright is a leading researcher and writer on the emergence of new forms of democratic accountability within parties, movements and the state. She is the driving force and editor behind Red Pepper, a popular British new left magazine, and has documented countless examples of resurgent democratic movements from Brazil to Britain and the lessons they provide for progressive politics.

As well as TNI fellow, she is also Senior Research Associate at the International Centre for Participation Studies at the Department for Peace Studies, University of Bradford, UK and Senior Research Associate at International Centre for Participation Studies', Bradford University. She has also been a visiting Professor and Scholar at the University of California, Los Angeles; Havens Center, University of Wisconsin, Madison and Todai University, Tokyo. Her books include Reclaim the State: Experiments in Popular Democracy (Verso/TNI, 2003) and Arguments for a New Left: Answering the Free Market Right (Blackwell, 1993).

Wainwright founded the Popular Planning Unit of the Greater London Council during the Thatcher years, and was convenor of the new economics working group of the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly from 1989 to 1994.

Recent publications from Public Services & Democracy

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From South Africa to Brazil, from Italy to the US, in Uruguay, Greece, Norway, the UK and in many other countries, municipal councils are taking services back under public control. Public Service workers and their fellow community members are not only defending public services but are also struggling to make them democratic and responsive to the people's needs and desires.

Susan George Classics

The Transnational Institute brings together Susan George’s oeuvre in this beautiful handmade boxed set of her six classic books.

Doing away with ‘labour’

Conventionally, the concept of ‘labour’ is understood as referring to waged labour – the capacity to labour as exercised through a market. It was precisely this narrow understanding of labour that the discussions in this stream challenged from several angles.