South Africa has one of the world’s highest levels of social inequality in the world, according to a UN human development index
After more than two decades of democracy, South Africa remains characterised by persistently high levels of inequality and poverty despite some progress in improving the living conditions of poor citizens.
Madiba’s vision, stated during the Rivonia trial and many times afterwards on the curse of poverty was unequivocal: “Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural”
Yet today, that vision of economic equality remains an illusion for a majority of South Africans. In pursuit of answers, the Apartheid Museum is hosting a dialogue on Human Rights Day where a group of panelists will try to unravel the following:
• Who is responsible for the tardy progression towards justice?
• Did Mandela’s government make many concessions?
• Is the refrain from some that reconciliation was traded for justice accurate or ahistorical and unnuanced?
In 1994, after decades of often-violent protest, international criticism, and boycotts, the white National Party-led South African government and Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress negotiated an end to a system that had institutionalized discrimination, granting different rights to black and white citizens, since 1948.
The democratic elections that followed, the country’s first-ever, helped avoid civil war and brought a final end to a history of official racism.
The ANC’s leaders agreed that while political power through the ballot would be granted immediately, other changes, such as reform of land ownership, corporate shareholding, and affirmative action, would be phased in gradually through what would come to be known as “transformation”.
And so ‘transformation’ is indeed a ‘process’, ongoing, difficult, and uncomfortable. And despite the sacrifice and sheer joy of 1994, we have a very long way to travel to arrive at ‘another state or condition’ as envisaged in the Constitution.
The dialogue on inequality is timely as inequality and poverty in our country and the world are at their highest. Extreme poverty and inequality are not only unjust but also a major threat to peace and stability.
The panelists for the discussion are Karima Brown, seasoned journalist and editor; Lebogang Pheko, Policy analyst, social entrepreneur, senior executive,thought leader and social activist; Sello Hatang, CEO of Nelson Mandela Foundation; Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh, author, musician and activist, and moderated by renowned radio personality Eusebius McKaiser.