South Africans remain racially divided

South Africans, both black and white, must appreciate more what they take for granted.

Vince Musewe
Vince Musewe

A brief visit to South Africa last week to launch my book “Black Hope White Fear”- reflections on economic transformation in South Africa, which I co- authored with a white South African male, confirmed my fears. Despite the obvious infrastructure development that I saw, the country remains economically and socially divided on racial lines. The legacy of apartheid still breathes to this day.

As a Zimbabwean, I have vested interests in a stable, prosperous and racially integrated South Africa. After all, an estimated 3 million of my brothers and sisters live there.

I keep getting rather dim-witted comments from black South Africans that as a Zimbabwean I should not comment on South Africa issues. I reject that narrow view because whether they like it or not, I am an African.

The white suburbs are serene and clean while black neighborhoods are lively and rather hectic. But the economic divide is obvious. Added to this are the millions of people from the rest of Africa who seem to dominate the public markets with their wares – mainly imported from China.

Economic transformation is very slow and racial integration is not happening. In my opinion, this continues to diminish the potential of such a blessed and beautiful land.

Participating in radio debates gave me the feeling that black South Africans are an angry lot as they continue not to see any significant economic progress, while whites are still hiding in their prejudices of the past. There is of course an educated and very articulate black middle class emerging, but they are locked in consumption debt and are not creating personal wealth. This does not bode well for their future economic emancipation.

South Africa faces the very challenges that Zimbabwe faced in the past: high expectation of change and an entrenched white capitalist class that is resistant to change.

White capital in South Africa must embrace change and deliberately ensure that middle class blacks begin to create wealth. All will benefit from this. The private sector must not continue to isolate itself in gated estates and continue to blame government for its failures – especially in education. They must come to the party and be the change they want to see. It is in their interests that poor black South Africans are lifted from poverty. If this does not happen, white capital will create space for radicalism from the masses.

I implore whites in South Africa not to underestimate Julius Malema’s appeal within the black population, both marginalized and professional, who are frustrated by their lack of personal progress. Most I spoke to openly said they wouldn’t support him in an election. My position continues to be that Malema does not have the answers to build a racially integrated and prosperous South Africa.

I keep saying that South Africa must learn from Zimbabwe. Half hearted attempts on transformation and integration will result in an anxious black population that may run out of patience and resort to drastic solutions to the detriment of all. This will have a huge negative impact within the region.

There is no doubt that South Africa must still go through some growing pains with regard to racial integration. South Africans, both black and white, must appreciate more what they take for granted: a good and working infrastructure with a large population that can be trained and unleashed to the economic benefit of all; freedom of speech and a vibrant and creative community; technological development and adequate resources in the treasury to accelerate its use for economic transformation; an independent judiciary and a professional military.

These are some of the things that we Zimbabweans, and indeed most Africans, would die for and are working hard to create.

As elections in South Africa come next year, I think we are going to see a vibrant political contestation and much intrigue, but unfortunately, after all is said and done, blacks will return to their poverty and whites to their gated communities and complain why things never change. What a pity! – Vince Musewe is an economist based in Harare. You may contact him on [email protected]

Post published in: Analysis
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