Daniel Tseghay: All is not well in World Cup host nation South Africa

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      By Daniel Tseghay

      For the first time, the World Cup is being held in an African nation and, naturally, the excitement is palpable. The scenes of jubilation in South Africa, the sounds of the thunderous vuvuzela, and the renewed and genuine interest the world has taken in the sport and the host country’s people is something to make the most hardened among us glow a little.

      The recent achievements of South Africa are remarkable and celebrated. After ending the shameful practice of apartheid in 1994, it miraculously avoided what was considered inevitable a decade and a half ago—acts of retribution and civil war along racial lines. South Africa has also done some good with its resources and relative political stability, setting up an extensive welfare system to provide for about 15 million people, and largely eradicating severe malnutrition among children under the age of five.

      But all is not well in South Africa. It now holds the dubious honour of most economically unequal country in the world. The income gap between the wealthy and the poor is nowhere as large as in the country that Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, our generation’s paragons of justice and equality, call home. Though average income has gone up somewhat, it is being concentrated in the hands of the very few, the white Afrikaners and a small number of blacks making up the middle class. Paradoxically, and tragically, the incomes of the poorest South Africans have actually dropped since apartheid.

      In a book published last year, Flat Broke in the Free Market: How Globalization Fleeced Working People, author Jon Jeter discusses the role of economic privatization in South Africa—how giving businesses, whose only obligation is the bottom line, control over water services made water so expensive the countless people living in the country’s townships resorted to getting it from nearby streams, inevitably leading to a deadly epidemic of cholera. Similar stories of economic exploitation abound in a country that has seemingly replaced legal and political apartheid for economic apartheid.

      Such extreme economic disparity, the marginalization of the vast majority of this growing country, and the anxiety and discontent—manifested in the recent wave of protests over access to basic utilities, like clean water, and access to health care—cannot be sustained.

      The era of apartheid has not long passed, and wounds take time to heal, disparities years to narrow. This, we know instinctively. But the World Cup may be an opportunity to spread awareness and hasten the pace of justice. I only hope that the attention directed toward South Africa will not be like its wealth—concentrated in the few wealthy districts, where comfort and privilege predominate, and the overwhelming number of hours is not spent nursing the sense that the struggle for real freedom is not yet over.

      Daniel Tseghay is a Toronto-based journalist.

      Comments

      3 Comments

      Ray I

      Jun 17, 2010 at 2:52pm

      The problem in South Africa is not capitalism. It is corruption. When the system is corrupt it might as well be communist since no one but those in power will benefit. Capitalism requires a fair legal system to settle disputes a free press and an educated democracy to function at its best. That is not yet the case in SA. They should be focused on fixing their institutions.

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      Migzy

      Jun 17, 2010 at 10:12pm

      If SA is not capitalism and is corruption, than so is what we have here in North America. Perhaps not of the same form but we still have it here, but here it is primarily known as "lobbying". I'm not against companies talking to elected officials, but when money(aka donations) gets involved, I no longer consider it lobbying. We do not have a free press we have a pseudo-free press, look what's happening with the BP mess, the reporters aren't allowed near anything, it's just the tip of the iceberg. And lately what is going as press or "journalism" is just writing articles which are pretty much the press releases of what ever company/organization they are "investigating", not all but it seems most mainstream media now follow that formula. We also need to focus on fixing our institutions where we can barely scrape 50-60% voter participation and where every elected party primarily just serves whatever big wealthy special interests they are in bed with, not the people as a whole.

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      Afrikaner

      Jun 18, 2010 at 3:31am

      No 10% tax paying population can sustain the remainder 90% of a country.

      The problem is the wealth gap will widen. The whites work hard because they do not get government support. Zero. The black majority on the other hand get 100% government support. So who's fault it it? The people that work hard to keep what they have? Or the 90% that is happy with government support?

      Just one mistake in your article. Afrikaners are one section of 'whites'. To throw Afrikaners into a 'white category' you lose out on the real statistics of who carries the wealth which are white foreigners. Not Afrikaners which are indigenous to South Africa. There are more middle class blacks now in South Africa than middle class Afrikaners, yet when the blame violin is played the Afrikaners get blamed due to ignorance. Mostly because people do not know much about Afrikaners other than the crap they read.

      For up to date news that is translated and what the SA government do not want the outside world to know read this blog from an old anti-apartheid activist:

      http://censorbugbear-reports.blogspot.com/

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