Something rotten in the ANC state

20 November 2012
Paper

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.