This is an essay I wrote after work one evening after reading through some news stories of the day. South Africa has a history of racial segregation I felt that currently we are subject to a new form of segregation. We are being segregated by economic class as opposed to our historic racial segregation. This essay deals with some critical issues that I believe we should discuss if we want to see real change in our country. Some of the lessons are transferable to other countries around the world, so any feedback and comments would be most welcome.

The New Apartheid

I am proposing that Apartheid has never really been overthrown in the truest sense of the word. It bears restating the definition of the word, without going into too much detail, Apartheid in its currently understood definition is an official policy of racial segregation formerly practiced in this country, involving political, legal, and economic discrimination against non-whites. It is a policy or practice of separating or segregating groups; the condition of being separated from others. Having moved as a country from the currently understood meaning and implications of Apartheid in 1994, we have made strides in the right direction with regard to redressing the inequality between the traditionally "privileged" and "underprivileged" peoples of this country. Having said that I believe that we should look more closely at the practices that underpin the notion of Apartheid in a broader sense. Apartheid emphasised a divide between people, a segregation; the goal was to create an opulent minority at the expense of a repressed and dominated majority.

If we take my previous summation as the true goal of Apartheid, namely the creation of an opulent minority at the expense of a repressed and dominated majority, I believe a rational argument can be made in that nothing has really changed. I will clarify this by saying that the segregation is no longer racial, but economic. If we are able to see ourselves as South Africans as more than just our racial differences, which is of course difficult given our history, but as a collection of people all subject to the same laws and economic conditions, a very different picture can be painted. Let us look at the current system of government and  prevailing economic conditions.

Firstly with regard to economic conditions. Since our movement into a democratic (I use this term very loosely) government in 1994, we have seen a movement to redress the past inequalities. The focus of this has been the implementation of the BBBEE strategy as a vehicle for socio-economic change. The strategy as outlined by the Department of Economic Development "aims to ensure that the economy is structured and transformed to enable the meaningful participation of the majority of its citizens and to further create capacity within the broader economic landscape at all levels through skills development, employment equity, socio-economic development, preferential procurement, enterprise development, especially small and medium enterprises, promoting the entry of black entrepreneurs into the mainstream of economic activity, and the advancement of co-operatives. BBBEE needs to be implemented in an effective and sustainable manner in order to unleash and harness the full potential of black people and to foster the objectives of a pro-employment developmental growth path."

The goals of the BBBEE strategy are noble in their intention; they emphasise a transformation of historic employment policies toward employment equity and economic growth through the unleashing of the full potential of all the country's people in a sustainable manner.  Mention is also made of skills development and promoting the entry of black entrepreneurs into the market as a means of educating the population in the hopes that they will strive to become innovative and active members of the economy and contributors to the overall positive real growth of the economy. Let's examine these goals by looking at the implied long-term requirements for sustainability, namely an increased level of education amongst the previously segregated majority and positive real economic growth and prosperity for the population as a whole.

I think we can all agree that education in this country is far from where it needs to be, particularly for those who were historically segregated, given the implied conditions required for a sustainable implementation of the BBBEE strategy and the goal of positive real economic growth. The following is an extract from Africa Check website; they are an independent, non-partisan organisation which assesses claims made in the public arena using journalistic skills and evidence drawn from the latest online tools, readers, public sources and experts, sorting fact from fiction and publishing the results.

The Department of Basic Education concedes that “contrary to popular belief, the matric pass rate on its own is not a good measure of academic achievement in the schooling system, nor was the pass rate ever designed for this”. Significantly, matric results do not account for the large number of pupils that drop out of school between grade one and matric. Nic Spaull, a researcher in the economics department at Stellenbosch University and author of South Africa’s Education Crisis: The quality of education in South Africa 1994-2011, writes that “the annually-reported statistics from the National Senior Certificate (NSC) exam in Grade 12 are particularly misleading since they do not take into account those pupils who never make it to Grade 12. Of 100 pupils that start school, only 50 will make it to Grade 12, 40 will pass, and only 12 will qualify for university.” Spaull uses the example of South Africa’s Eastern Cape province where only 20% of pupils who started grade two in 2001 went on to pass their matric exams in 2011. Another problem is that pupils who do badly in certain subjects can elect to take easier subjects. Over time many pupils have moved away from demanding subjects in favour of the less demanding exam subjects. “…It is revealing to note that over the four year period between 2008 and 2011, the proportion of pupils taking mathematics (as opposed to maths literacy) has fallen from 56 per cent to 45 per cent, as more pupils opt for the easier maths literacy,” writes Spaull. - See more at:

These are facts are very revealing and cast a rather dramatic picture of the state of education in this country. On a personal note I believe that physical science and mathematics are key subjects for school-goers world-wide as they afford them the means to critically discuss and explore the wonders of the natural word and the universe. All subjects, in particular physical science and mathematics rely on an engaging and knowledgeable teacher in order to draw the attention and stimulate the curiosity of learners. This Utopian idea of teaching is a lofty and maybe unattainable goal, however, if teachers' salaries continue to be at the levels they currently are, I don't see these types of knowledgeable and engaging people choosing to enter the profession, leaving us with a woefully inadequate means to stimulate young minds and encourage critical thinking and a thirst for knowledge and a higher education, which are basic prerequisites if the goal of the BBBEE strategy is indeed to promote black entrepreneurship into the mainstream of economic activity; and generally to create more job creating economic business entities to assist in lowering the real rate of unemployment and increasing real economic growth and development. I believe government should radically overall our education system if they truly want to see the goals of the BBBEE strategy come to fruition.

Real economic growth for the country which is a pre-condition for general prosperity amongst the population is another intended goal of the BBBEE strategy. Let us examine economic growth as a concept and the statistical analysis of the annual GDP figures from 1994 to 2015. The growth of an economy is thought of not only as an increase in productive capacity but also as an improvement in the quality of life to the people of that economy. With this in mind the following is an extract of data from on the annual South African GDP growth rate between 1994 and 2015. Currently the actual growth rate is at 1.20 with the figure being 3.80 in 1994. These figures have of course been subject to increases and decreases due to prevailing international economic conditions. Our highest annual GDP was in 2007 at 7.10, with the lowest -2.60 coming in 2009 on the back of the worldwide economic crisis. Growth rates increased to around 3.00 in 2010 as the market recovered but have been on a steady slide to our current figure of 1.20. South Africa was the most developed country in Africa and was the largest until 2014, when it was overtaken by Nigeria. see more at -

We cannot look at all these figures in isolation, there are many factors that account for our current annual growth versus that of 1994, however, if the growth of the economy, as previously mentioned, is thought of as an improvement of the quality of life to the people of that economy, I will let you draw your own conclusions on the above figures.

Now to the real crux of my point and addressing the title of this essay, The New Apartheid. It is clear to me that Apartheid is still ongoing in this country; however, segregation is no longer being enforced along racial lines, but along economic ones. The concentration of capital, influence and thus the capacity to set national policies still lies in the hands of the minority. In this case the minority is the opulent business men and women and the governing party. BBBEE sought to redress the inequalities of the past, but instead has preserved the status quo under false pretences. Yes, we now have high ranking business men and woman and a governing party comprised of representatives of the historically segregated and oppressed majority, however, have we seen any meaningful decrease in the wealth gap between the "have's" and the "have not's"? Quite the contrary, the wealth gap has been steadily widening. We now have a segregated population comprising all racial groups; we are now all together in this fight for equality and a right to govern ourselves, or at least to be collectively represented by a government that serves our needs, not their own. Let me be clear this is not a lambasting of our current governing party, but rather a call to change the way we are governed. We are constantly bombarded with the history of our country and the atrocities of the past; but this is a mechanism to keep us divided and distracted from the real issues. I urge you to change your outlook, the question is not which political party do we want in government; it is what do we want from government. We fought for democracy, we cannot throw it away and allow ourselves to once again be oppressed and made to feel like we don't matter. I was not old enough to be a part of the struggle for democracy in 1994, but I am now, and I won't allow myself as a South African to sit by and watch this inequality continue.

By: Christopher Kush


Submitted: November 10, 2015

© Copyright 2023 Christopher Kush. All rights reserved.

Add Your Comments:


Criss Sole

I know next to nothing about what is happening in South Africa. Very eye opening and educational. Thank you so much for sharing this.

Tue, November 10th, 2015 1:07pm

Jeff Bezaire

Segregation is not over

I've always considered there to still be a divide between the whites and non-whites in South Africa. The non-whites still have a shitty deal. There is still the risk of civil unrest in many parts of South Africa - the perpetrators of this unrest are pretty much entirely the black community. The conditions of living are vastly different from white neighbourhoods to black neighbourhoods from photos that I've seen, and the number of black homeless people is a problem. Many squatters in abandoned homes - none of whom seem to be white.
Not to harp on Africa, because it does not stand alone in this matter, but the entire country is composed of corrupt governments and corrupt politicians. South Africa is one of the few "civilized" corrupt governments on the continent. The government's words compared to their actions are not shocking, but still disappointing. Same can be said for many other countries. I think African governments tend to be a bit more transparent in their levels of corruption, however. Politicians in Africa don't do a good job of hiding their agendas, nor of defending their actions. Same goes for law enforcement and the prison systems.
Director Neil Blomkamp has done a good job at shedding light on South Africa in both his films and the behind the scenes features for his films. He showcases quite a bit of South Africa in his latest film, Chappie, and tours to different parts of S.A. in a featurette for the bonus content. His films may be about the future, but they reflect current times in South Africa, as it is S.A.'s history that fuels much of his inspiration.
Africa on a whole has gotten a raw deal throughout its history. I think the country would have been better off if the English had never colonized it.
It is a smart, although despicable move, by the S.A. government to continue segregation through economic means. Keep the black community in the slums and you keep them tamed, without power, and unable to make something of themselves - unable to take their country back. Militias and resistance groups are always made up of black Africans, driven to radicalism to try and claim what would be theirs. The private military firms sent in to quell these groups are mostly white men. There's a racial portrait of the war still being waged on that continent.
I remember for a long time, the S.A. government scene was mainly white men sitting in the seats of power, giving their best efforts to "represent" the black community fairly in all political matters. They may put black faces into the chairs, make the black community feel like they have a voice, but it's not the people sitting in the chairs that really make the decisions; it's the people towering over them, pulling their strings and paying them out who are the true lords. Change won't come until the corruption is handled. It will never be eliminated, but it can be dealt a blow.

This is a great essay, Chris! Superbly written, well researched and well stated.

Tue, January 12th, 2016 2:29am

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