The Current Post-apartheid Climate in Relationship to he Existence of Inequality in South Africa

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This paper will discuss the current post-apartheid climate in relation to the existence of inequality in South Africa, the spread of HIV, and racial tensions after apartheid was abolished. This paper will define apartheid and illustrate different types of racial inequality, skilled labor and social inequality, the spread of HIV, and how it all impacted South Africa.

Apartheid called for the separate development of different racial groups in S.A., which resulted in racial inequalities in all spheres of S.A. society. Apartheid laws affected different racial groups, causing separation and separate development. This resulted in inequality and reintroduced segregation policies that existed before. The Afrikaner National Party came into power in 1948 (SAHO, 2019). “When the African National Congress government under Nelson Mandela came to power through democratic elections in 1994, there was a huge expectation among the historically disadvantaged Black majority that apartheid inequalities would be eradicated and that their lives would improve dramatically.” However, capitalism post-apartheid increased racial inequality in skills development, unemployment, and cultural racism in South Africa.

Additionally, these transitions were rooted in a long struggle against apartheid and colonialism. They were also influenced by neo-liberal globalization, which has swept across the world since the 1980s, creating a need for skills development to facilitate transnational economic trade and exchanges.

There are three types of racial inequality, which include Cultural racism, referring to a type of racism resulting from one group’s advantageous position in society over another. This type of racism refers to one group’s ability to determine how certain values or practices become legitimate parts of culture. Slavery in the United States and apartheid in South Africa are examples of cultural racism (Franklin, Boyd-Franklin, & Kelly, 2006). Secondly, individual racism refers to the prejudices towards other groups that an individual displays or believes in (Franklin, Boyd-Franklin, & Kelly, 2006).

These actions or behaviors are fueled by beliefs that there are hierarchical differences between races. The third type of racism is Institutional racism, encompassing the policies or procedures of a certain institution such as a company, a community, or a governing body that restrict or discriminate against certain groups (Franklin, Boyd-Franklin, & Kelly, 2006). This type of racism refers to one group’s ability to determine how certain values or practices become legitimate parts of culture. Slavery in the United States and apartheid in South Africa are examples of cultural racism (Franklin, Boyd-Franklin, & Kelly, 2006).

Social inequality has impacted people in South Africa since the apartheid era; minority groups of blacks have incurred income inequality and labor market challenges (Leibbrandt & Woolard, 2001). This impact led to the inequitable mental health status of young South Africans. Racial/ethnic disadvantage, with respect to most material disadvantage indicators, included a high risk of violent acts and racial bullying resulting in the prevalence of mental illness disparities in South Africa under apartheid. The children most impacted were born in the apartheid era and have suffered poverty, indicators which justify the inequalities within this social group (Leibbrandt & Woolard, 2001).

In 1994, the skills levels, division of labor, employment/unemployment, and income inequalities showed trends as illustrated in Saul and Gelb’s analysis of developments in the 1960s and 1970s. This was captured in the following statement, which provided a historical backdrop for this section, stating that in the 1960s, “there was failure to create sufficient jobs to absorb the growing labor force and unemployment rose steeply, reaching over 12 percent in 1970 and defining a looming political threat.” Former Prime Minister John Vorster had commented, “the biggest danger in South Africa today is not terrorism, but unemployment’’ (Saul & Gelb 1986, p. 71).

Mark Orkin’s statistical analysis of the occupations of people employed in the formal economy in 1996, shows that 50 percent of African females were employed in low-ranking menial jobs, in comparison with almost 50 percent of White women who were in clerical work. A further breakdown of Orkin’s statistics showed that amongst employed Africans, 34% of males and 50% of females are working in elementary occupations such as cleaning, garbage collecting, and agricultural labor.

It is clear that white males tend to have access to occupations requiring a higher level of competencies. These occupations fall into three main categories: management (19%), blue-collar jobs (29%), and semi-professional/technical (17%). These structural class, race, and gender inequalities in the distribution of occupations reflect the class, race, and gender patterns which characterize income inequality (Orkin 1996, p. 18).

Income inequality is determined, among other factors, by unemployment. During South Africa’s apartheid era, access to employment continued to reflect race and gender inequalities, particularly given the low skill levels among black people in low-paying jobs. Statistical analysis showed that 14.4 million people were economically active in 1995 (Orkin 1996, p. 13). “African economically active women are most likely to be unemployed (47%), followed by African males (29%), and then black women (28%). White females and males are least likely to be unemployed, sitting at 8% and 4% respectively” (Orkin (1996), p. 15). This reflects how low-skilled black people were accessing low-income jobs and had limited opportunities for other forms of employment.

In 1997, legislation was passed for equal employment. Among its provisions were measures designed to further diversity in the workplace of equal dignity and respect of all people. Affirmative action measures included preferential treatment to appoint and promote suitably qualified people from designated groups. This ensured their equitable representation in all occupational categories and levels in the workforce (Zelda Groener).

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was established at the end of apartheid, fostering the creation of a new democratic society. Several options were considered including: the Nuremberg trial option in which they would essentially search out perpetrators and try them in court; and the provision of a general amnesty to apartheid criminals. The former was rejected as it would prolong negativity and racial strife and the latter was regarded as too lenient towards the perpetrators of apartheid (Kruger, 2011; Zelda Groener, 2013).

The principles governing the TRC encompassed decisions based on what people had confessed and were given amnesty. People who could prove that they had been substantially harmed during Apartheid were eligible for compensation and reparation (Kruger, 2011).

Yu (2013) and Orkin et al. (1998) reported that of the 31.7 million Africans, 19.8 million live in non-urban areas, primarily young African children, women, and older people than men. Additionally, African households in non-urban areas are unlikely to have access to electricity, tap water, flush toilets, or telephones.

Nattrass and Nicoli (2008) argued that this reassertion of Cabinet authority over presidential authority was one of the positive impacts of AIDS on governance in South Africa. The fact that this Cabinet revolt was a blow to the Health Minister is clear. Instead of actively supporting the roll-out, the Health Minister persistently pointed to the side-effects of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) while highlighting the benefits of nutrition, asserting that patients must exercise their choice in treatment strategies. This generated fear and confusion amongst AIDS patients about ARVs and created space for alternative remedies to compete with HAART, even though their clinical effects were at best unproven.

Decoteau (2013) employs Michel Foucault’s theory of “thanatopolitics” to explain the South African government’s abandonment of its citizens. Occupied by forging an African Renaissance in which South Africa would emerge as a competitive neoliberal market, Mbeki adopted a mindset of entrepreneurialism in which poor South Africans would either take responsibility or be left behind to die. However, Decoteau argues, the struggles concerning HIV/AIDS and anti-retrovirals have a deeper significance in the identity formation of South Africa and its citizens. Throughout her book, “Ancestors and Antiretrovirals: The Biopolitics of HIV/AIDS in Post-Apartheid,” Decoteau explains the topic of HIV/AIDS by examining both the daily lives of residents in South African informal settlements and the global political economy in which they reside. The strength of this book is Decoteau’s approach to situating the experiences of South African citizens within the contexts of poverty, informal settlements, gender, and HIV/AIDS within a larger global context.

As these inequalities are addressed, not only will racial differences require careful monitoring in the future, but also discrepancies in urban and non-urban life circumstances in South Africa.

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The Current Post-apartheid Climate in Relationship to he Existence of Inequality in South Africa. (2021, Apr 19). Retrieved from