(i) Aims and Objectives
The main aims and objectives of this report are to trace the development of social security/anti-poverty policy in South Africa. In order to do this, it is first necessary to explore the history of colonialism in this country, as this will help to put this study into context. Chapter one will hope to accomplish this feat, as well as briefly investigating the reasons why and how South Africa acceded to independence, as this will hopefully make the policy decisions since (in the given area to be investigated) more transparent.
Chapter two will address South Africa’s legacy with regards to the fact that it was part of the British Empire. Here it is hoped to show how the ‘mother country’ influenced policy in the area under investigation. That is to say, an investigation is needed to show how the attitudes and ideas of the British Empire permeated down towards its South African enclave. Added to which, this chapter will hope to investigate the influence (if any) of the former colonial power on policy in South Africa since it’s independence and in the 1980’s. Particular concern here will be placed on post-colonial political ideology and social conditions. Lastly, chapter three will hope to survey the continuing impact of post-colonial influences such as ‘globalisation’ and the World Bank on the chosen area of social policy.
Whilst these various investigations are completed, it is important for you to note to note, that this piece of work will concentrate more on poverty and anti-poverty strategies than social security policies. Added to which, the fact that poverty has many definitions also needs to be mentioned. Consequently, a brief explanation of what poverty is will latterly be undertaken.
(ii) Why South Africa?
In consideration of this question, it is apparent that there are several countries that I could have chosen to do my report on. Indeed, at one time the British Empire covered nearly a quarter of the earth’s land surface and contained a third of its peoples. One could wonder then, why South Africa was chosen for my report. There were three main reasons for this. Firstly, I’ve always wondered how such a beautiful country could be tinged with such sadness. Of course, this is largely due to the country’s torturous past and the legacy of Apartheid – a system that brutally operated a form of segregation, which explicitly suggested that Caucasians were superior to all non-whites.
Secondly, I choose South Africa because since the dismantling of Apartheid, I have been pleasantly surprised by some of the steps taken in the country to try and move away from it’s tainted past. However, I wanted to consider whether the government had gone far enough in the chosen policy areas under investigation. In essence, here I am trying to ascertain whether South Africa is a more inclusive, egalitarian society than it was before. Lastly, I chose South Africa because of my reverence for it’s first President post-Apartheid – Mr Nelson Mandela. Here was a man who spent almost thirty years incarcerated on Robben Island just because he fought for equality, yet when he was released, he had no bitterness towards anyone and played a major role in trying to reconcile and heal his country (Deegan, 2001: 76).
1.1 South African and the British Empire
As has already been alluded to, due to the extent of it’s territories and the numbers of peoples these contained, the British Empire is arguably the greatest empire that has ever existed. One of the reasons for this success was that during the era of Pax Britannica, this nation was always trying to spread its influence to new regions of the earth’s surface. One such domain was South Africa. However, the British were not the first Europeans to land on those verdant shores. In 1488, the Portuguese landed on the Cape of Good Hope (Davenport, 1996). They were soon followed by the Dutch, who set-up the first permanent European settlement in South Africa in 1652 (Deegan, 2001: 4).
Of course as time passed, with her ever-increasing maritime supremacy, Great Britain was keeping a watch on events in South Africa. She never passed up an opportunity to enlarge her Empire, and by the end of the 18th century she had gained control of the Cape of Good Hope (Davenport, 1996). The subsequent British settlement of this area caused conflict with the Boer’s (white people descended from the Dutch), so they embarked northwards on what became known as the Great Trek in 1836 (ibid). This unfortunately brought them into conflict with native Africans like the Zulus, but they gained supremacy and by in 1852 and 1854 were able to set-up independent Boer republics in Transvaal and the Orange Free State respectively.
These Boer states were set-up along the precepts of racism and indeed, one reason why the Boers had wanted to end their association with the British was because they had abolished slavery in 1833 (Davenport, 1996). This without a doubt didn’t sit well with the Boer’s conscience, because they believed that non-whites were inferior. Consequently, blacks were just viewed as a mere commodity to be exploited. Later, you will see how this entrenched attitude provided the antecedents for the extreme poverty in South Africa amongst the non-white population.
In the years following the establishment of these two states, the Boers just about seemed to be able to get along with the British. However, the discovery of gold and diamonds ruptured this uneasy dï¿½tente (Deegan, 2001: 6). Consequently, the Boer War broke out in-between 1899 and 1902 (Davenport, 1996). Great Britain eventually won this and the two Boer republics along with the Colonies of the Cape of Good Hope and Natal, formed the Union of South Africa – a self-governing dominion of the British Empire (ibid).
It is important to note that when this dominion was formed, black people were not given voting rights. Indeed, black people had almost no rights in the new South Africa at all. Arguably here then, the antecedents of the poverty that would later afflict the non-white population in South Africa could partly be traced back to this early legislation. Indeed, it is also important to mention that most of the African peoples (black) of the newly established Boer States (Transvaal and the Orange Free State) were moved off their lands in the 1870’s and 1880’s, so that whites could settle there. This heinous decision by the Afrikaners could also be blamed for the poverty that would later cripple Black South Africa.
As time passed, the new South African government pushed through other legislation that propelled the black population towards poverty (ibid). The Native Land Act (1913) restricted the land that Africans could own to 7.5% of the country’s landmass (the amount was later increased to 13%) (ibid). Whilst other legislation meant that non-whites were prevented from holding skilled jobs in the mining industry (Deegan, 2001: 7). When one considers that the black population of South Africa was at least three or four times that of the white population throughout the twentieth century, the attitude of successive governments in South Africa under the auspices of the British Empire, was intolerably appalling (Deegan, 2001: 19).
1.2 The Road to Independence.
As South Africa headed towards the 1930’s, a succession of governments continued to enact racist legislation against the black majority. For example, the Immorality Act forbade extramarital sexual relations between blacks and whites and the 1936 Representation of Natives Act removed Cape Africans from the electoral register (Deegan, 2001: 15). However, although what was happening in South Africa at the this time with regards to race was detestable, it is important to note that non-whites were experiencing this kind of prejudice all over the globe. Indeed, as any one who followed American history at this time could testify, the most powerful country in the world was hardly a bastion of racial equality.
Parallel to the racist legislation mentioned above, the Afrikaner nationalist movement was growing in strength. This could partly be attributed to the Afrikaner’s resentment of the fact that the British business class controlled most of South Africa’s economy (Davenport, 1996). However, the enlargement of this entity was also caused by its participants concerns about the Black majority in their country (ibid).
The Afrikaner movement would have been delighted in 1934, when South Africa became a sovereign state within the British Empire, and arguably in some ways this was a first step towards a split with the mother country; the status of South Africa had increased, and sooner or later it would arguably have wanted to go it’s own way. This feeling of resentment against the British and the desire in certain sections of the South African body politic to split with Empire was further illustrated in 1948 when the National Party won the all-white general election (ibid). This event was of paramount importance for the countries future, because the wining party had campaigned: “on a promise to introduce a system of ‘apartheid’ to totally separate the races” (ibid). Consequently then, discrimination against blacks, “coloureds” and Asians was to be codified and extended.
One could argue then, that the election of a Nationalist government in South Africa made it inevitable that the country would eventually want to break all links with the British Empire. An Empire it must be said, which was increasingly becoming unimportant as it gradually splintered and broke-up, due to it being financially and politically unsustainable. Indeed, since the conclusion of the Great War, the United States had held a preponderance of power in world affairs.
The South African politicians then, followed their natural instincts and separated their country from the British Empire in May 1961, by relinquishing dominion status and becoming a republic (Davenport, 1996). This separating of the ways with the ‘mother’ country was further continued in the same year, when South Africa left the Commonwealth (ibid). Now that the colonial history of South Africa and the circumstances surrounding its independence have been looked at, I will attempt to illustrate the impact that was exerted on South Africa by the colonising country – Great Britain.
2.1 The Impact of the ‘colonising’ country
History has taught us that when a country formulates an empire, the influence it exerts over other countries and regions in its realm is immense. Thus in Great Britain we still see remnants of the Roman Empire, whilst Greek (Hellenic) and Greek influenced buildings can still be found in many parts of Europe. Like these empires, the hegemony that Great Britain presided over from the mid-seventeenth century until the dawn of the First World War in 1914, was all- encompassing and pervasive.
To a degree, this is because any Empire needs to have rigorous methods of control and lines of communication to survive. Consequently, it tries to politically, socially and economical dominate any region that it conquers. This was evident in the Transvaal, which while under complete British control for just five years in-between 1900 and 1905 had various measures imposed on it by the British Empire (Deegan, 2001, 5). These included economic, political and social measures that dramatically changed many aspects of life in this region One could see then, that if such an area could be so transformed after a such short period of time by Empire, just how regions that were controlled for longer periods might be affected.
Sam Nolutsungu alluded to this in his work ‘Changing South Africa – political considerations’-. According to him, extensive political domination of a territory in an empire was vital, and it was always a condition of exploitative relations (1982: 55). This then, again confirmed the misguided power that a country could exert over regions of the earth that were thousands of miles away; for surely no country has the right to subjugate another to further its own needs. Fortunately today in more liberal times, this tenet is generally accepted, however in a more bygone age colonisation and empire building seemed to be a pre-requisite of most powerful countries.
Nolutsungu went on to point out that the colonists who entered a new country such as South Africa, would usually do so at the expense of the upper and middle classes in that country (1982: 56). This was usual the process during colonialisation and was the reason why the Afrikaners began to resent British rule. However, in South Africa, the real people who lost out were the black population. Indeed, the indigenous white population in South Africa actually prospered (Beinhart, 1994: 204). One must ask why this was then as this goes to the very root of why there was extreme poverty among non-whites in this country?
2.2 The Race Question
The reason why the British Empire’s had an immense impact on poverty and social security in South Africa is because of its racist ideology. As the British Empire grew bigger and it subjugated more peoples, it realised that it needed some form of excuse for subjugating so many innocent non-whites. This anxiety to find an excuse was drastically exacerbated when Britain, the United States of America and various other European countries embarked upon a course of enslaving peoples in their colonised dominions. This was because the slaves, who had all of their freedoms taken away were treated absolutely appallingly. In fact, they were viewed as being no more substantial than cattle and were just traded, whipped, raped and beaten whenever their masters deemed it necessary. Therefore, an ideology was fostered and created that suggested that non-whites were inferior to Caucasians.
Although as already stated, slavery was abolished by the British parliament in 1833 the idea of Caucasian superiority over non-whites still remained. This was largely inevitable when one considers that most of the countries in Europe had conquered several territories that contained non-white peoples. Therefore, they believed that white people were naturally superior to non-whites; it was the natural order of things, as it were.
Indeed, due to this skewered ideology, Great Britain was happy to implement and oversee a system where white people had an ascendancy over the black South African population (Deegan, 2001: 5). In fact, without a doubt, the antecedents of segregational policies could be traced back to the nineteenth-century. For this was the time when the British established African reserves in tandem with an African chieftaincy (ibid). This system was created so that Britain could divide and rule and reflected the racial perceptions of the British Empire.
When South Africa was formed in 1910 then, the British were happy for successive governments to implement policies that kept the ‘superior white’ in control of their black counterparts. For their part, the Afrikaners had also had had a long separate tradition of believing that they were somehow superior to non-whites. Walker claims that it was during the Great Trek that a strong bond of unity evolved between the Afrikaners (Walker, quoted in Deegan, 2001: 11). Indeed, this was a time when an extremely strong community of Afrikaners was formed, as they discovered their identity in the wake of adversity.
Consequently, because of this ‘frontier’ (this was were these ideas were formed) ideology, the Afrikaners tried to segregate South African society as much as possible. Indeed, it is interesting to note, that much of the philosophy that underpinned the Afrikaners entrenched views originated in Europe. When Charles Darwin wrote his magnum opus, the ‘Origin of the Species’ in which he talked about ‘Natural Selection’ and ‘The survival of the fittest’, he was commenting on subject matter that the Afrikaners and British would use to their advantage. In fact, the Afrikaner’s and English completely believed Darwin’s hypothesis that a ‘natural hierarchy’ existed between different races (Deegan, 2001: 12). Unfortunately for blacks, Indians, Jews and all other non-whites, they were supposedly at the foot of this ladder.
As well as the works of Darwin, there were various other writings and pieces of literature that were used to promulgate racist theory. Uncle Tom’s Cabin was one such work, and unfortunately like Darwin’s thesis it helped to open the floodgates for prejudicial works that depicted non-whites as inferior.
One such work, which was particular enlightening as far as the situation in South Africa was concerned, was an adventure story by John Buchan (most famous for writing the ‘Thirty-Nine Steps’) called Prester John. It was published in 1910, and was very important because he had formerly been a middle-ranking official in the Reconstruction of the Transvaal (Beinart, 1994, 68). Therefore, his book seemed to vividly convey the British attitude towards non-whites at the time. Hence his novel mentions the ‘black peril’, links ‘miscegenation’ with social degeneracy and represents Africans as ‘hordes’ (ibid).
The racist and trenchant views these pieces of literature depicted then, epitomised the mind-set of those in the body politic of the British Empire at the time, and showed why they were happy to condone and even help to orchestrate the South African government’s prejudicial policies. Indeed, as far as the British political government’s hierarchy in South Africa was concerned, white people who had evolved from ‘European stock ‘ were brothers, whilst blacks were nothing.
The impact of this pervasive attitude amongst the British and the Afrikaners meant that a two-tier system was created in South Africa. I have already discussed some of the policies that were involved in this process of segregation, but what was most important about it, was that black people were marginalized in all aspects of South African society. Indeed: ‘the economic and political exclusion of Africans from a common society ’ (Beinart and Dubow, 1995: 165).
In essence, this was relevant for two reasons. Firstly, when we talk about poverty and anti-poverty strategy in South Africa we are largely only talking about the non-white population. For example, if we look at literacy and education figures (a commonly acceptable variable of poverty) at certain times in South African history, the disparity between blacks and whites is startling. In 1910 for instance, whites were getting ï¿½1.6 million spent on them for education, whilst blacks were getting less than ï¿½100, 000 (Deegan, 2001, 19). Unfortunately, by the 1940’s this gross inequity was still evident, because whites were still having more than ten times the amount of money spent on them for education than blacks (ibid).
Secondly, the segregation and exclusion of blacks from the white community in South Africa was important because, it meant nothing was done to alleviate their poverty. Indeed, as I’ve already indicated, many of the policies that were enacted by the South African government were intended to benefit the whites at the expense of the black population. Consequently, although there was a slight relaxation of segregation policies towards blacks during and just after the Second World War, in essence nothing was done to eradicate their poverty (Deegan 2001: 18). In fact, after winning the 1948 election Nationalist party set about: ‘entrenching segregation by rooting it in the ideology of apartheid’ (Beinhart, 1994: 23).
Now that the impact that the colonising country had on the policies of South Africa has been looked at, it is necessary to see what happened in this state after independence and from the 1980’sonwards, with regards to anti-poverty strategies and social security policies. However, before this, a look at what poverty actually is has to be undertaken, so that a lack of material needs can be put into context.
2.3 What is poverty?
Even in the twenty-first century, trying to define what poverty actually is still causes much argument. Basically however, three major definitions of poverty have evolved. In the 1890’s, the socialist reformer Joseph Rowntree came up with the idea of absolute poverty (Moore, 1998: 62). It was based on the underlying principle of subsistence: ‘the basic conditions that must be met in order to sustain a physically healthy existence’ (Giddens, 1997: 311). In essence, it implied that there were some basic requirements of subsistence such as food, shelter and clothing. If individuals did not have these or other basic subsistence requirements such as access to clean drinking water, then we could say that they were in poverty.
The idea of absolute poverty is universal. That is to say, that we can suggest that anybody on the globe that doesn’t have the basic requirements of subsistence can be said to be poor. However, as Giddens, Moore and various other social commentators have noted, there are problems with absolute poverty as a catchall expression to define the poor. Therefore, many have put forward the idea of relative poverty. This differs from absolute poverty, because here poverty is relative to the overall standard of living that is prevalent in a particular society.
That is to say, that the world consists of several different societies, which are culturally, socially and economically fundamentally different. This means that they have different needs. Therefore, because we have certain needs in the West, we shouldn’t equate them with the needs of other societies. Therefore, it would not necessarily be wise to say that people are materially impoverished in India if they don’t have phones and video recorders etc.
The last definition of poverty evolved because there are inherent problems with the first two definitions of poverty. Consequently, in the late nineteen seventies, Townsend (his ideas were later refined by Mack and Lansley in 1985 and 1991) developed a method of identifying consensual necessities which outlined whether one was poor or not (Moore, 1998: 64).
2.3 (i) The impact of post-colonial political ideology and social conditions on the chosen area of social policy after ‘independence’
As we have seen with the election of a Nationalist government in 1948, the ruling Afrikaners party decided to embark on a radical programme of segregation. This decision wiped away the very small benefits that Second World War legislation had brought to the impoverished black majority in South Africa. This was obviously very distressing, particularly because this was a time when poverty alleviation was becoming a major policy plank of many governments in the Western world. For example, the National Health Service was set-up by Clement Atlee’s Labour Government in Britain in the 1940’s.
However, the South African ruling regime had an almost divine belief that white people were superior to blacks. This ideology was all-encompassing and pervasive, and meant that the government were determined to benefit the smaller white population at the expense of their numerically more concentrated black counterparts. Martin Murray argued that the reason for the attitude of the South African elite was that they wanted to consolidate power in the hands of a propertied white oligarchy (1994: 3). This fact is almost unquestionable, and highlight’s how South Africa’s racially ‘inscribed capitalism’ evolved to highlight segregation (Murray, 1994: 2).
In fact, one could argue that as South African capitalism (another by-product of it’s former forced ties with the British) developed it would only be sustainable if the exploitation of black South Africa continued. To this end then, there was no desire at all by the ruling South African elite to aid the plight of the poor Blacks in the country.
After 1948 then, gradually stricter and stricter controls were placed on the non-white community in South Africa. Indeed, this process gathered momentum after independence in 1961 and resulted in a series of protests. At one of them in Sharpeville, 69 innocent protesters were killed (May, 1998: 1). This fact sparked worldwide condemnation, yet the South African government became even more repressive still and imprisoned the ANC and Pan-African Congress (their objectives were the elimination of restrictions based on color and the enfranchisement of and parliamentary representation for blacks) leaders under the pretence of treason (ibid). Life in South Africa then, was the same as ever for poor non-whites, if not worse. However, we must ask if this position changed after the 1980’s?
2.3 (ii) The impact of post-colonial political ideology and social conditions on the chosen area of social policy after the 1980’s.
In the 1980’s the entrenched racist dogma of the South African government remained and there was still a belief that whites were vastly superior to blacks. However, despite the government wanting to carry-on with its Apartheid policy, things in the country and abroad were rapidly changing. Although there was a power vacuum at the top of the ANC due to a lot of its leaders being imprisoned in the 1960’s, by the 1970’s and 1980’s this had been largely filled (Beinhart, 1994: 2004). Consequently, there was much unrest in South Africa in the 1970’s and 1980’s (ibid). This unrest, which largely occurred between 1976 and 1985 was centred in coloured townships and helped some members of the National Party to realise that there was a need to change; for entrenched in their racist dogma as they were, even they could see that defending ‘their’ country with the army instead of with the police (as it had been before) was becoming unsustainable.
Therefore, some members of the National Party started secret discussions with Nelson Mandela in 1986 and in February 1990, State President F.W. de Klerk – who had come to power in September 1989-announced the:’ unbanning of the ANC, the PAC, and all other anti-apartheid groups. Two weeks later, Nelson Mandela was released from prison’ (ibid).
After these dramatic events, the momentum for change in South Africa seemed almost unstoppable. Therefore in 1991, the Group Areas Act, Land Acts, and the Population Registration Act -the last of the so-called ‘pillars of apartheid’- were swept away (Beinhart, 1994: 2001). This was followed by another series of negotiations with Mandela, which eventually resulted in a new constitution promulgated into law in December 1993 (May, 1998:1). Fortunately an enlivened world watched-on, as the culmination of this process was the first non-racial, democratic election in South Africa’s history (ibid). The final result of which, was the installation of Nelson Mandela as President on May 10, 1994 (ibid).
We have seen then, how the entrenched dogma of the white Afrikaners meant that nothing was done to alleviate poverty amongst the black population of South Africa during the 1980’s. However, with the election of the ANC with Nelson Mandela as President, one must presume that one of the government’s main aims would have been to rectify this situation. The question of whether the plight of poor black people post-Apartheid has improved, needs to be investigated then.
2.4 The poor in South Africa post-Apartheid
There is much contention as to whether the poorest people in South Africa have benefited since Apartheid was dismantled. Although obviously black people are in a better position because they are not now judged by the colour of their skin, this doesn’t necessarily mean that their position has improved from a materialistic point of view. Indeed, in his book South Africa’s Future, Anthony Ginsberg is very critical of what has happened in his country since Apartheid was vanquished. He understood that South Africa’s future prosperity was linked to its economy, and as a Human Sciences Research Council survey in 1998 suggested that this would shrink or stay the same, the prospects for his beloved nation seemed to be gloomy (Ginsberg, 1998: 225).
Obviously, Ginsberg like many others realised that anti-poverty strategies could only be financed and would only work if South Africa’s economy dramatically improved. If this were done, then it would be hoped that the inequalities in South African society in the first few years of the nineties could be rectified. One such equality was graphically highlighted by the fact that, white per capita income in South Africa was 9.5 times higher than that of black people in 1995 (Ginsberg, 1998: 33). Due to alarming statistics like this, Ginsberg and many others advocated targeted job creation programmes to try and alleviate the stress of the poorest in their society (1998, 198).
The Government then, needed to act, and it did. After 1994, the South African body politic tried to promote growth within its borders and create a fairer distribution of wealth (May, 1998: 1). As well as this, numerous programmes were initiated to try and relieve the poverty of the masses (ibid). These have included providing its people with better access to social services. Consequently, over four and a half million people have gained access to portable water, and 600, inexpensive houses were built in 1997(ibid). Added to which, there are now free and compulsory 10-year education and free medical care for pregnant women and for children under six years of age and there has been some progress in providing secure land tenure to labour tenants, who were previously subject to arbitrary and unfair evictions (ibid).
It can be seen then, that the election of the ANC ushered in a sea change in South African politics with regards to an attempt to tackle poverty. However, before whether this has been successful is looked at briefly, it is necessary to quickly address the continuing impact of post-colonial influences such as globalisation and the World Bank on the chosen area of social policy.
3.1 The continuing impact of post-colonial influences such as ‘globalisation’ and the World Bank on the chosen area of social policy.
We have already investigated how important a strong economy is to South Africa, in respect of tackling poverty. Unfortunately however, many have criticised the way that Mandela’s ANC handled fiscal policy when they took over (Deegan 2001: 203). Arguably, this mishandling of the economy meant that South Africa was even more influenced by outside influences than it had been before Apartheid. Part of the reason for this, was because the government owed extremely large amounts of money in foreign loans. For instance, the government borrowed R2.7 billion of the United States in 1994 (Ginsberg, 1998: 213)
The debts on these loans and other loans had to be serviced, and so South Africa seemed to be plunging itself into economic trouble. Therefore certain globalised forces like the World Bank and the IMF, could exert pressure on South Africa because of its poor economy. Indeed, they had already done this at the start of the 1990’s to put pressure on South Africa to abandon its proposed inward industrialisation program in favour of a: ‘more realistic investment-led, export oriented growth strategy’ (Murray, 1994: 21).
However, despite incidents like this, one should note that the forces of Globalisation can often aid impoverished countries. Indeed, it was the World Bank who aided South Africa by commissioning a report on an assessment of poverty in South Africa in cooperation with the government in 1985 (May, 1998: 1). Added to which, around the same time, the United Nations Development Programme also approached the government with a request to prepare a Human Development Report for South Africa (ibid).
In summation, I have tried to point out to you how social policy in regards to anti-poverty and social security has developed in South Africa. Originally, due to the ideology of the British Empire, nothing was done to try and alleviate the suffering of the poor black majority in this country because they were considered to be inferior. In fact, with the ‘mother country’s’ tacit ideological approval, the Afrikaners carried on exploiting their black counter parts under a system of segregation called Apartheid.
After South Africa was made independent, this pattern of exploitation against non-whites not only continued, but also intensified. Hence, no attempt was made to address the situation. Indeed, successive racially dogmatic Nationalist governments increased the racial inequalities in South Africa. In fact, it wasn’t until the late 1980’s when the white South African way of life looked like it was going to collapse, that any progress was made in social policy towards blacks.
Fortunately, the inherent economic and political contradictions within the racist South African governmental system at this time meant that it did disintegrate. Consequently, it was replaced by Nelson Mandela’s ANC, who launched several programmes to try and decrease poverty and improve social security. Many have criticised the government and said that it is not doing enough to alleviate poverty, however in a world where it is affected by global interests, it has provided the first hope for a better life that many South Africans have had.