Thursday, April 1, 2010

Neo liberalism in post apartheid South Africa

Image from Zed Books
" Despite the government having replaced the predations of apartheid with one of the most inclusive and progressive constitutions on earth, neoliberal capitalism has stalled the rights of ordinary people in South Africa"
Raj Patel, The Value of Nothing, p 135
Gavin Mooney is currently teaching in South Africa. This piece follows an earlier piece on the anniversary of the Sharpeville Massacre written by Colin Penter that can be found on his blog.

Neo liberalism in post apartheid South Africa By Gavin Mooney

The 50th anniversary last week of the Sharpeville massacre left a bitter taste in the mouth. For my generation- I was 17 at the time- it was a truly horrendous barbaric event and it was seen as such by many across the globe. Sixty nine people killed, mown down in cold blood standing up for their rights. Horrific- and 50 years on I can still vividly remember how tangible was the outrage.

Here in South Africa at present for a few weeks, what does the memory of Sharpeville convey? Perhaps more than anything a great sadness arising not so much from the massacre itself but from events in the years since.

Enormous hope was kindled by the release of Mandela and the ensuing democratic elections of 1994. The hope continued as, in the initial years of black rule, some attempts were made to bring about elements of social justice in this country. There was an economic policy called GEAR which at least had R for redistribution in it. But then the neolibs re-established themselves and Mbeki set out to show he was just as capable of running an economy along neoliberal lines as any white man. And he did.

As a result poverty remains horrendous in this country; and inequality is now worse than in 1994. Let me repeat that. The inequality today is worse than it was in the apartheid years. South Africa now competes to be the most unequal society on the planet.

Yet the world still sees South Africa as free, as democratic, with a (genuinely) wonderful constitution. This 'wonderful' constitution in this 'liberal democracy' has failed to deliver either freedom or justice to the people.

Sad how the world could condemn the evils of apartheid- and rightly so- but passes by on the other side when the perpetrators of oppression are driven by neoliberalism and not race. Is it any more obscene? Has the world become just too bored with all the poverty and inequality to care any longer? Have individualism and materialism become so dominant globally that compassion and concern for the vulnerable and oppressed are now passe?.

To me the real sadness today is that no one would seem to care enough to listen if South Africans were to protest and bring about another Sharpeville. Why would the poor of South Africa risk provoking another massacre when they know that no one cares any longer? Then the 'enemy' was clearly identifiable as white supremacy; today when neo-liberal ideology is 'the enemy'...?

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