Apartheid is the cause of all South African’s problems, according to President Jacob Zuma. He made that statement in a meeting before his State-of-the-nation speech this week. Zuma said that South Africans must not criticize the government for talking about apartheid, because they were still trying to fix apartheid issues.
President Zuma said the poverty, lack of housing and dismal education system was a direct result of the apartheid era. He continued and told a business meeting that the lingering consequences of apartheid are the direct cause of the violence and service delivery protests. He said this is evident, since he believes that the people still hold anger from things that they experienced under apartheid.
Zuma said the ruling African National Party (ANC) is dealing with the reality of apartheid and moving away from that culture. The anger within society is squarely, according to the President, on the shoulders of apartheid. He claimed that the increase in violence is a direct result of the apartheid history. Zuma remained adamant that the current wave of service deliveries and violence erupting around the country is not a result of the government’s failings. Rather, he indicated, he believes that the government has made significant progress in delivering basic services to the people over the last twenty years.
Violence remained unacceptable, according to Zuma, and he said that the government would ensure that people who break the law face the consequences of the justice system. He asserted that he justice system and police services would enforce the law, and said that people must realize that criminal behavior is unacceptable.
Zuma said South Africans should be proud of the achievements of the current government. He noted that the economy had grown, the education system improved and the amount of jobs created by government had increased. He reflected that the South African Society is now more equal than ever before.
Mentioning the current global financial crisis as a factor for the decline in South African economic growth, Zuma reported that a five percent increase was needed to combat unemployment. Again, Zuma said that this was not a result of poor governance. and maintained the narrative that the ANC has done nothing wrong.
Apartheid was introduced into the South African culture in 1948 and demolished in 1994. Under apartheid, racial divides created problems, and the majority of South Africans suffered. The apartheid government continued to build a significant infrastructure, and generated economic stability during this time. Reportedly to relieve the pain of segregation among race groups, the government built townships, and provided housing, education, medical and social structures. This did not absolve apartheid for the segregation of race groups.
During the 1980’s, negotiations began to abolish apartheid, and a new constitution was produced to provide equality for all South Africans. In 1994, the first democratic election brought the ANC into power, and the beginning of a new democracy began.
Blaming apartheid for the current problems appears to many to be little more than an exhibition of weakness by the current government. Apartheid was an unacceptable system that should never have been implemented. Rather than focus on a failed system, however, President Zuma might have done better to make a better account for the working infrastructure apartheid built, the economic strength of the country in 1994 and the endless possibility which was handed to him that might have taken a new democracy and turned it into a first world country.
The last twenty years have given the country an opportunity for improvement, development and social equality. This has not happened, and apartheid cannot be blamed for the current failures. There are social equality opportunities for every South African, and each individual is meant to accept accountability for taking advantage of the opportunities presented. The government, however, has failed to continue to promote equality and continues to blame apartheid for any problem they cannot control.
A prime example of how the ANC government has failed to deliver basic services is evidenced by the squatter camps sprawled around the country. Under the apartheid era, there were no squatter camps. Today, the expansion of these informal houses continues to grow at an alarming rate to accommodate people who should have received government assistance. The influx of foreigners from bordering African countries remains a primary cause for the spiraling squatter camp homes. The ANC government is solely responsible for this situation in light of their inability to provide effective border controls.
There has been no significant growth in South Africa under the current ANC government. There exists, rather, a profound failure to provide the most basic of human rights to its people on any significant scale. Blaming apartheid for the current situation in South Africa plays to the emotions of those who suffered most under the policies/ It is, in essence, a cowardly act, and it is a direct indication of incompetence and negligence on the part of the ANC government.
President Zuma and the ANC are trying to avoid assuming responsibility for their ineptitude and failure over the last twenty years. Apartheid ended twenty years ago. Every opportunity to grow, and to develop South Africa into a first world country, was handed to the democratic government in 1994. The damage done over the last twenty years is something that the population is unlikely to find acceptable as elections approach. There is an increasing understanding that staying in the past will not solve the current issues.
President Zuma, to have any chance of holding onto his position, will need to face the questions of his people. He will be asked to tell the truth of how the ANC failed to fulfill the promise of the new democracy that they were handed. His only approach may end up being a sincere address to the country asking forgiveness for the problems of South Africa, and for another opportunity to repair the wrongs of the ANC democracy without trying to pass the blame off on Apartheid. Whether he would be afforded that opportunity, even then, remains a dubious prospect.
By Laura Oneale