township 1

From my latest column for the International New York Times, which was entitled ‘What Happened to South African Democracy?’:

As the failure to transform the lives of the poor has eroded support for the party, many ANC politicians have turned to the politics of ethnicity and identity to strengthen their base. It is a development that has long been evident, but that has really gathered strength under the leadership of South Africa’s current president, Jacob G Zuma. Mr Zuma has unashamedly exploited his Zulu identity — ‘100% Zulu Boy’ read the slogan on supporters’ T-shirts before the 2009 general election. And to shore up his support, he has promoted supposedly traditional African values, enhancing, for example, the powers of unelected tribal chiefs.


Last year, his government attempted to pass the Traditional Courts Bill that would have created a separate legal system for millions of people living in the former Bantustans, allowing local chiefs to act as judges, prosecutors and mediators, with no legal representation and no right of appeal.


‘Let us solve African problems the African way, not the white man’s way’, Mr. Zuma proclaimed in defense of the law.


‘It’s shocking how the language of apartheid now comes out of black mouths’, one former activist said to me.


Read the full article in the International New York Times.


The photo is of a shack in the Cape Flats.


  1. damon

    If there weren’t white people living in South Africa would it be in a worse situation?
    Could it be more like Nigeria?

  2. damon

    Of course I haven’t forgotten. And my comment wasn’t meant to be flippant or anything.
    I was just wondering what it is that keeps South Africa several stages of development ahead of most other African countries. Culture must come into it somewhere.
    I saw a TV programme about South Africa recently, that showed what was happening with businesses that were required to have a certain number of black shareholders. So a winery run bu a white family had to sell part of the business to these two black women as part of a Black Economic Empowerment programme.
    They showed the meeting between the wine growers and the now new part owners of the business, and while everyone was smiling and friendly on the surface, I can’t imagine businesses welcoming such developments.
    Is growing vines and running a successful winery, a business that is culturally more something for people of European origin?

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