The reason why the benevolence of people like Oprah Winfrey will be needed for a long time (if not forever) in South Africa to improve the lot of black South Africans is finely captured by John Pilger in his 2006 book, Freedom Next Time. In a chapter titled "Apartheid did not die", Pilger makes the point that though political apartheid has been eliminated, economic apartheid still reigns. Osei Boateng reports.
Famous for his thorough investigative work and frank speaking, John Pilger, the Australian journalist and filmmaker who moved to the UK in the 1960s was banned in South Africa by the apartheid regime. He went back in 1997 to interview Nelson Mandela, then president of South Africa. "Welcome back," Mandela told him, bursting into a smile. "You must understand that to have been banned from my country is a great honour."
Pilger laughed back, and asked Mandela "how it felt to be regarded as a saint". The president replied: "Saints aren't allowed to trip up. That's not the job I applied for." So what did Mandela apply for? On the surface it appears he was to deliver a new South Africa of equality, freed from political and economic apartheid. But did he? Spread over 87 pages of his hard-hitting 356-page Freedom Next Time, Pilger shows how Mandela failed to deliver; and his successor, Thabo Mbeki, has not fared any better--all because economic apartheid did not die due to certain "historic compromises" made by the ANC during the negotiations for black majority rule, which finally came in 1994. The "compromises", says Pilger, have ensured that "economic apartheid" will be difficult to defeat. Which is what Steve Biko, the Black Consciousness leader who was murdered by the apartheid regime in September 1977, prophesied in an interview with the famous South African journalist, Donald Woods, in 1976-18 long years before black majority rule finally arrived. Reading the interview again in 2005, Pilger says "I am struck by his prescience".
Biko had said: "For the white man, [one man, one vote] would be the greatest solution! It would encourage competition among blacks, and it would eliminate the most important ground for critique from abroad of the present regime. But it would not change the position of economic oppression of blacks. That would remain the same [original emphasis].
At the time, Biko's words went against the grain because in the 1970s, the ANC had declared: "It is a fundamental feature of our strategy that victory must embrace more than formal political democracy. To allow the existing economic forces to retain their interests intact ... does not represent even a shadow of liberation."
But in 2001, George Soros (one of President Mbeki's economic advisers), told the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that "South Africa is in the hands of international capital". While average white household income has risen by 15% since black majority rule, according to government statistics, average black household income has fallen by 19%. In 2004, the Landless People's Movement accused the government of reneging on its "liberation pledge" to redistribute 30% of agricultural land from 60,000 white farmers to the rural and urban poor. Nearly 13 years after "liberation", less than 3% of land has actually been transferred.
Part of the problem is blamed on an "ideological barrage" and "incessant" pressure from America on the ANC government in its early years to accept the message of a "plethora of research projects launched by the IMF and World Bank. A seduction of the ANC and its allies was well under way".
Groping for answers as to why the ANC caved in so easily, Pilger asks: "Was it simply a matter of the ANC having been in exile so long it was willing to accept power at any price? Although there were those who had...