A year to correct institutionalised injustice in SA

Christopher Farai Charamba Correspondent
The year 2015 can be described as a tumultuous one for South Africa. Movements led by students such as #RhodesMustFall and #FeesMustFall stirred a great deal of emotion and subsequent marches on some of these issues forced the Government into decisions such as the zero percent increase in university fees.

There was also the release of the documentary Miners Shot Down which looked at the events that led to the Marikana shooting and the death of 34 miners.

This seemed to implicate the South African Police as the aggressors in the situation.

On the political front both the Economic Freedom Fighters and the Democratic Alliance brought forward a vote of no confidence against President Zuma.

And one cannot forget the falling rand and the firing of the Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene, the two day appointment of David van Rooyen who was then sacked and replaced by Pravin Gordhan.

2016 has started in similar fashion for South Africa.

The general mood of the people, particularly on social media, shows frustrations at topical issues such as racism but also at the institutions which entrench these social divisions.

A few days into the New Year, a South African woman Penny Sparrow caused a social media row when she called black people monkeys after her dismay at the state of a Durban beach where people had been celebrating the coming of 2016.

The Democratic Alliance subsequently laid charges against Sparrow over her racist comments and in the days following prominent figures in South Africa such as Walter Sisulu’s grandson laid charges against other South Africans who were accused of being racist online.

Popular radio personality and Idols judge Gareth Cliff was fired by MNet after he came out defending Sparrow’s comments saying that she was entitled to her right to free speech.

Be that as it may Mr Cliff, free speech does not entitle one to hate speech.

Aside from racism, the #FeesMustFall movement has returned with the imminent opening of the 2016 academic year.

Students from Wits and UJ staged a Press conference recently demanding that university education be free.

Students at the press conference were allegedly chanting “No free education, no election”, and vowed to continue their fight during the forthcoming local government elections.

This year will prove to be a big test for the ruling party the ANC particularly with the local government elections.

Dissatisfaction is brewing among the people and unless visible inequalities are corrected, it could spew disaster for the ANC especially with the rise of the EFF.

Last October some 50 000 people marched to the Johannesburg Stock Exchange with EFF leader Julius Malema demanding that issues of discrimination and inequalities suffered by black South Africans be addressed.

One reason why South Africa finds itself in these current predicaments is that a large part of its economy is still in minority white hands.

The majority of black people are excluded from meaningful economic activity and holding top positions in major companies.

According to BusinessTech in South Africa, data from the 2015 Jack Hammer Executive Report showed that the number of black CEOs running the top 40 JSE listed companies has declined from 15 percent in 2014 to only 10 percent in 2015.

The report also showed that‚ out of a total of 334 people constituting the executive teams in SA’s Top 40 companies‚ 21 percent were black South Africans.

Of the 537 directors on South Africa’s top 40 listed company boards 386, which is 72 percent are white.

This major exclusion of black people from corporate South Africa feeds into the inequalities and discrimination the majority of the people in the country.

The fact that the cost of university education is unaffordable for the majority black people means that those that rise to the top are likely to be white and the few privileged black.

Aside from corporate South Africa is also the issue of land.

According to the 2013 state land audit, carried out by the office of South Africa’s Chief Surveyor-General 79 percent of SA land was in private hands. Now this does not necessarily mean white hands but includes individuals, companies and trusts. This audit was also inclusive of all urban real estate, agricultural and mining land in South Africa.

While one can argue that among the 79 percent there are black people, looking at the general trend in corporate SA, the vast majority of land owners in SA are the white minority and the firms they control.

It is now time that South Africa follow Zimbabwe’s lead and take serious action on land reform and look towards indigenising their economy. Talking and debating about the issue behind closed doors will not bring about a solution that is beneficial to the majority black South Africans.

While the backlash from the West in the form of economic sanctions against Zimbabwe has been used as a deterrent to other African countries to follow the same path, the current situation in SA cannot persist.

Only through direct action that corrects institutionalised injustices that deliberately keep black people out of the economy will South Africa begin to correct issues of inequality that many young South Africans have been protesting against recently.

One will certainly have to upset the apple cart and challenge white economic supremacy if they wish to see the economic independence of black people. Zimbabwe labelled their economic transformation the Third Chimurenga and in a similar fashion South Africa should see themselves as challenging the remnants of the Apartheid regime.

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