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by Fiona Forde
Rainbow nation wants its pot of gold
Even the sternest critic of
The country's challenges require much more than the populist hand he tends to play. The official unemployment rate sits stubbornly at 25 per cent, touching 70 per cent among under-25s. The chances of this changing are limited by the grossly under-performing public education system.
Though the budget deficit has been marginally decreasing, projected growth rates continue to fall well below the continent's average six per cent. The taxpayer base is minute relative to the demands of the public purse, with only 5.5 million workers -- approximately 10 per cent of the population -- contributing.
True, the ANC inherited a difficult legacy from the apartheid regime, but its social programmes are failing to create the all-inclusive society it promised. According to the most recent census, more than 13 per cent of South Africans still live in shacks or slums. The average household income for black families was
Such were the features that sparked the Arab Spring two years ago across the north of the continent. Many observers wonder if and when South Africa's day might dawn, but it is arguable that it already has -- in the form of labour unrest, the scale of which is unprecedented since the dying days of apartheid.
In the early days of this year, and on the eve of harvest, thousands of farm workers embarked on an indefinite strike to
demand that their daily wage of approximately
Until now, labour unrest had been contained largely because the union confederation Cosatu is a political ally of the ruling ANC and a member of the tri-partite alliance (with the
That changed, however, half-way through 2012 when mine workers in the platinum belt in the northwest of the country began to call for higher wages at a
While the country was burning, little was seen or heard of Zuma as he focused on securing his second term. His ratings were dipping and his deputy, Kgalema Motlanthe, decided to challenge him for the party leadership. Fearful of defeat, Zuma roped in Cyril Ramaphosa, a respected former trade unionist, as his running mate. Together they recorded the most impressive victory in the party's 100-year history.
Ramaphosa is the man
Ramaphosa's departure shocked and saddened many, not least
It was one of Zuma's shrewdest moves. Yet one has the sense there is too much vested in Ramaphosa. In any regard, the ANC has been down this road before. When the party expelled its errant youth leader Julius Malema early last year, it was widely -- and wrongly -- assumed that by removing him the party had got rid of its biggest problem, which patently was not true as the challenges continued long after his departure.
To think that South Africa's days of woe are over now that Ramaphosa has returned is equally short-sighted.
This year is likely to be one of South Africa's toughest yet. According to
AngloPlatinum's solution to the crisis was to unveil a restructuring plan that would see one of their mines close down, another be mothballed and 14,000 miners lose their jobs. The ruling party threatened to revoke their mining licence in response.
Meanwhile, investors continue to keep a close watch. Though the ANC has opted not to nationalize the mines, it has agreed to introduce a new tax -- most likely a tax on profits -- which is causing consternation among those who have sought clarity for years about the direction the ANC might take the economy in.
Equally concerning is the move to increase black ownership of the mines from the current 26 per cent to close to 50 per cent, though with little regard for the capital investment that would be required to meet such a goal.
Ramaphosa may appear to tick most of the boxes but the real issues may simply lie beyond his control. When apartheid was abolished almost 20 years ago, the negotiations that brought it to an end allowed for the basic structure of the economy to remain intact: it was to remain white-controlled and be serviced by largely unskilled and poorly paid black labour.
The labour unrest that began last year goes to the heart of that decision. The worker on the wine farm outside Cape Town and the miner on the gold reef have found their voices. Twenty years ago they saw the end of apartheid and, in return for their votes, the ANC promised them that the best was yet to come.
For many of them, it never happened. What Ramaphosa or Zuma can now say or do to silence their cries remains to be seen.
© Tribune Media Services