In a recent radio interview, South African president Jacob Zuma blamed one of the architects of apartheid, Hendrik Verwoerd, for the current textbooks crisis in Limpopo. In today’s article Wonkie explores the legacy of apartheid, what has been done to address it and most importantly how much longer it can be used as an excuse to cover up government incompetence.
First off, all those that feel that apartheid was done and dusted in 1994 and that it is simply now being used as an excuse for everything need a slap in the face and a reality check. Apartheid is not done and dusted in South Africa. One need only to ask those negatively affected by the regime to discover that everything from behaviour, where people live and attitudes to other races, down to current skills and competence levels are part of apartheid’s lasting impact. For many, these attitudes are ingrained and are inevitably passed on to the next generation.
This long term impact is rarely acknowledged with more than lip service by the previously advantaged, the beneficiaries of apartheid. 1994 was not a binary switch into a new world with equal opportunity for all. There is a definite legacy of apartheid and it is not a pleasant one.
Of course, this begs the question that it is almost two decades on, so what has been done by the ruling ANC to dismantle that legacy? The answer unfortunately is not very much.
Some of the basic stepping stones of nation building have largely been successfully taken: changing the South African flag; creating a new anthem; adjusting the national languages to reflect the country’s diversity; and providing essential services to the poorest of the poor. The more important dismantling work – particularly the mental work, however, seems to be non-existent.
Given the 2012 Olympics are currently on, it would be fitting to use a related analogy: coaching. In successful coaching for improvement – be it for sports, life or business, one of the keys is a significantly reduced emphasis on the past. The focus lies firmly on how you would like things to be in the future. This is why athletes are coached to imagine themselves running their best possible race, not rehashing a past failure in their minds. From the past, only the lessons learnt are used as a resource to support that vision. What South African leadership is doing seems to be quite the opposite.
Instead of adopting the attitude “We are behind and we need to catch up”, the ANC leadership seems to have opted for the easier “We have been disadvantaged, so let’s find the lowest common denominator” option. This latter approach is equivalent to an athlete aspiring to be slightly better off than his worst competitor. If you consider that you rarely get more than you aspire for in life, the future for South Africa is not very promising with our current leadership.
Further, to aggravate matters, many of the previously disadvantaged in leadership positions appear to be more concerned with becoming currently advantaged themselves. So we have the odd road name changes to disguise the failing education system and rampant corruption instead of economic development. These mostly useless token acts, combined with a serious lack of government accountability, makes answering the final question easy. How long will apartheid be used as an excuse to cover up blatant stupidity and government incompetence? The answer is as long as humanly possible, as far as the current government is concerned.
- Gauteng Toll Roads – Entrenching the legacy of apartheid
- Tax the Whites
- Corruption in South Africa
- Jacob Zuma news