Apartheid did not end in 1994

Martin van Staden / Midjourney
Martin van Staden / Midjourney

This article was first published by Business Day on 9 June 2024

SA must put an end to apartheid, now. There is a mistaken view that apartheid ended with the introduction of what is called the democratic era in 1994.

Though apartheid is intuitively associated with the white minority rule of the National Party (NP) in SA, the term has, in recent years, taken on a much broader, international flavour, with the most obvious example being the state of Israel under the tutelage of Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government.

A correct understanding of the term introduces a more accurate assessment than that applied exclusively to the “racialist regime of SA”. Whenever racism is introduced as the touchstone of a legislative enactment, or some other instrument of law, it can properly be described as an instrument of apartheid. According to that definition, SA is as much an apartheid state today, if not more so, than it was at the commencement of the 30-year rule of the ANC.

In a recent article, Martin van Staden of the Free Market Foundation provides a close analysis of the number of laws (in the broad sense) that can be counted as race laws, and compared that number to those which existed at the height of the apartheid rule of the NP.

In the process he avoided those laws made racial by subsequent amendment, which were not so at inception. He has also avoided double counting, which is law that was originally racial in at least some of its objectives, but which has been made more so by subsequent amendment.

Following this rigid approach, Van Staden concluded that as at October 23 2023, SA had adopted 313 racial statutes from the date of union in 1910, of which 141 were still on the statute book. Of these, 116 had been adopted since the ANC took over the government in 1994.

It may be argued that the race laws adopted by the ANC have had a benign purpose: principally the objective of the widely acceptable practice of affirmative action. That may well be. However, it is evident that racial legislation of the kind described, while advantaging one racial group, has the inevitable consequence of disadvantaging another. But, in the SA case there is a darker outcome. There is the perception, principally among politicians, that those disadvantaged deserve their fate.

This was amply demonstrated by the reaction of President Cyril Ramaphosa to the widespread outrage that accompanied his signing of the National Health Insurance (NHI) bill. The protests, he said, came from a privileged white group, who did not want the poor community to have the same advantages as they have.

This statement was false, three times over, but worse than that, it was calculated to instil in a sense of righteous indignation, and conceivably “hatred” against the “privileged white group”. In this and other ways, the ANC has sought to reracialise SA society.

The duplicity of the government on the question of national health is further demonstrated by the failure of a series of attempts by the Health Funders Association to persuade/lobby the government-controlled Council for Medical Schemes to approve low-cost benefit options for those most in need.

Notwithstanding many successive applications and appeals, the initiative has, over several years, gone nowhere. The obvious conclusion is that this solution did not suit the government’s purpose, which required the disaffected cohort for its implementation. So those disadvantaged have been deliberately kept in that condition by the denial of a plausible option.

In case it was not noticed by the billionaire president, none of those protesting the signing of the NHI Bill are as privileged as he. Moreover, those who expressed their well-motivated concern came from all levels of society, including a multitude of medical professionals of different ethnic and race groups. The objections were based on the bill’s unworkability, its unaffordability, its violations of the constitution and of the rule of law.

There are other objections, too numerous to mention, but conspicuously the ceremonial signing circus was intended to achieve one principal objective, and that was to shore up the ANC’s waning popularity ahead of the elections. To that unworthy end, the racial pejorative was employed in violation of the presidential oath of office.

Another form of apartheid is that which arises under the programme of BEE. In its earlier manifestations, the comparatively moderate requirements, and the fact that they were not mandatory, made the process barely tolerable. Now, however, the extravagant demands, and its destructive effect on the viability of noncompliance speaks, once again, to the motive of revenge.

The recently published amending regulations on the licensing of estate agents, a prerequisite for that occupation, would (if implemented) demand that every estate agency in the country must, before a licensing renewal is granted, have at least 50% black ownership.

There are several things wrong with this proposal. The first is that it is, in effect, a legislative proposal, which is being posited as a regulatory measure. This alone is a violation of the rule of law. More germane to the theme of this discourse is the avowed racialism of black empowerment of this kind.

There are few estate agencies that would survive the gift of shareholding that its implementation would inevitably entail. Many of the estate agencies are relatively small enterprises of not more than half a dozen members. Are half of them to hand over all their shares, or would it be more equitable to require each of them to surrender 50%?

A similar device is being proposed for the licensing of water rights for irrigation farmers. These are nothing other than a devious method for the expropriation of property without compensation. In each case the racial profile of the victims of the government’s duplicity is readily apparent.

Bearing in mind the disparities in wealth in the country, are there better alternatives to programmes of this kind? Well, of course, the proven method is self-sufficiency, garnered through a process of excellent schooling and training, attributes that are woefully absent.

It would certainly help if the government were less obsessed with its socialist/communist ideology of the national democratic revolution and adopted a less confrontational approach towards the private sector. And the metaphorical slow boiling of the captured frog must surely make way to a disposition of good faith.


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The views expressed in the article are the author’s and are not necessarily shared by the members of the Foundation. This article may be republished without prior consent but with acknowledgement to the author.




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