South Africa Reborn?
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MARGARET WARNER: We get three views now: Dennis Brutus is a poet and professor of African literature at the University of Pittsburgh. He was in prison with Nelson Mandela on Robben Island in the 1960′s and was exiled in the 1970′s until the end of apartheid.
John Chettle was born and educated in South Africa. For nearly 20 years he was U.S. director of the South Africa Foundation, one of the country’s major business organizations. He now practices international law in Washington.
And Xolela Mangcu worked at South Africa’s Development Bank from 1989 to ’91 overseeing urban development. He’s currently a visiting scholar at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He was in South Africa last week introducing Americans to business and government leaders there.
Mr. Mangcu, how successful, how complete, to what degree do you think South Africa has made the transition from white control to a biracial majority black control?
XOLELA MANGCU: Well, there’s definitely been a tremendous amount of progress over the past three years, three or four years. And if you think about it, we’ve been able to deliver a certain amount of housing. The country has made a stable economic transition. There has been a lot of rule making and rule changing. So it’s been a pretty much successful transition in that respect. But there’s still a lot of work to be done, especially in the economic arena.
MARGARET WARNER: Would you say that politically and economically they should run different tracks so that there’s been more progress maybe politically than economically?
XOLELA MANGCU: There’s definitely been more progress politically and, I might add, culturally. I mean, there’s a certain sense of self-assertion. There’s a tremendous amount of self-confidence amongst black people in South Africa. Economically, people are beginning to consolidate some of the gains of the past. In one of the meetings we had with the business leaders, some of the leading business people in the black economic empowerment movement, we got a sense that does there’s this consolidation.
MARGARET WARNER: Mr. Chettle, what’s your take on this, how well they’re making–how completely or how far along they are in this transition?
JOHN CHETTLE: I think they’re remarkably far. You know, one of the things that we really don’t take enough account of is just how much has been achieved, and largely I think because when the transition took place, both apartheid and the Marxist-Leninist philosophy of the ANC Communist Party of South Africa had been exhausted. And they both had to look for something new, and I mean, one of the things that’s quite remarkable is not just the peacefulness of the transition, and how well it has gone, and how much reconciliation, genuine reconciliation there has been, but also how much the government has embraced what can only be called a free market philosophy. I mean, just this week it was announced that the airports were to be privatized, something which has not even been received here.
MARGARET WARNER: Mr. Brutus, how do you see it?
DENNIS BRUTUS: Well, I think I’m somewhat less optimistic than the bankers and the corporations. I think for the mass of the people there has been some progress, particularly removal of the apartheid legislation. But in economic terms I think many people are disappointed, and I feel that their expectations have not been meant. So there’s a long way to go, and I think the notion of a market economy and privatization is actually going to work against the mass of the people, rather than helping them.
MARGARET WARNER: You said there’s a lot to be done. I mean, what isn’t happening that you think after four years should be?
DENNIS BRUTUS: Well, I hope that President Clinton will see some of the shanties and the shacks, the homeless people, the squatters, who are still hoping to get water and light and electricification and housing, particularly housing. There’s a great deal to be done, and unfortunately, some of it came at the end of the apartheid system because with the removal of the apartheid controls, you had a great influx of people from the rural areas into the urban areas, so that has compounded the problem.
MARGARET WARNER: Mr. Mangcu, to what degree, how much are black South Africans participating in this free market economy that Mr. Chettle mentioned?
XOLELA MANGCU: Well, let me just back up a little bit. You know, with all due respect to Prof. Brutus, whom I hold in very high regard, and I’ve always followed him from afar, it’s been three years, it’s been three or four years, and it’s too soon to expect a lot of the economic and service delivery changes to have taken place. What needs to be done, what has been done very successfully in the past few years is setting in place the institutional environment for those delivery mechanisms to come to fruition.
MARGARET WARNER: I’m sorry. What do you mean?
XOLELA MANGCU: What I’m saying is, for example, you know, things have to be done through parliament, you know. You have to appropriate for the budget system. And so there’s a certain process that is involved in getting things approved. Now, in terms of the free market participation of black people that’s true. I mean, black people have not been able to participate in the free market system that’s being embraced by the government.
MARGARET WARNER: And why is that?
XOLELA MANGCU: Because there’s a skills gap. Because there’s a legacy that we’re dealing with, and government will have to have an active role. We can’t just leave it to the free market. It has to be a partnership, a partnership between government, business, and civil society organizations. And that’s why the president’s visit actually could have a tremendous amount of influence.
MARGARET WARNER: Is that right, Mr. Chettle, but there’s a big skills gap?
JOHN CHETTLE: There is a big skills gap, and the statistics show that of the developed countries–and of course, South Africa isn’t really a properly developed country, but it’s pretty near the bottom, both educationally and in science as well. But–
MARGARET WARNER: And that’s because under apartheid, really blacks were not educated.
JOHN CHETTLE: I know. You had a huge educational gap. But over and above that, of course, Mr. Brutus is quite right, something like 50 percent of poor people don’t have jobs. And when you think that in the worst years of the Depression in this country the unemployment rate was 25 percent, now we’re talking about something closer to twice that, the pressures that that puts on ordinary people and on the government to find some ways of dealing with that are enormous. And so some ways are going to have to be found to find a solution to that. And quite clearly nobody’s very clear as to what can be done, other than there should be as much new investment as possible, that a climate–country–that there should be as little regulation that increases the costs of jobs and so on.
MARGARET WARNER: Yes, go ahead, Mr. Brutus.
DENNIS BRUTUS: I think John Chettle is right, that for many blacks as of now the massive population, the chance of participating in the market economy is very limited. What is troubling, I think, is that for a small segment of the black population this participation is possible. And people are now sitting on the boards of corporations and benefiting from a very affluent quality of life. But unfortunately, this is for a very small segment. They, of course, would say that things are going very well in the country. But it’s only true that things are going well for them.
MARGARET WARNER: Is that true, Mr. Mangcu, that there’s essentially a big gap now opening up in the black community between a small elite and the great majority?
XOLELA MANGCU: That’s true, and that has certainly been the case, for example, in the United States following desegregation. And the challenge really for the government is to develop public policies, and this is where, again, President Clinton’s visit becomes very important. What can we learn from some of the job initiatives in the United States? What can we learn from other places in the world for that matter about how you connect the main people in main street to the mainstream economy? And that is a great challenge. And, you know, following the conversations we had with business people, that is sort of the next step. But the consolidation, itself–I mean, people have been sitting on boards for a long time, and some of them were really token appointments to these boards, but now there’s a greater sense of self-assertion, as I said earlier on. People over the past four years started to grasp some of the skills of managing those companies. So the next step in black economic empowerment actually is a whole question of how do you operationalize economic development, black economic development beyond just the access of a few business people, how do you develop those linkages, and that’s a practical question that we have to grapple with as a society.
MARGARET WARNER: Yes, Mr. Brutus.
DENNIS BRUTUS: Thank you. I think the most alarming future of the current situation is that it’s likely to get worse, that through privatization and the application of market principles there will be, in fact, increased poverty. And I think this pattern will extend not only to South Africa but to the rest of Africa. Trade which benefits the corporations, the multinationals, but not the people–Congressman Jesse Jackson has been very critical, so has Randall Robinson, and both of them have said that these are opportunities for the corporations to increase their profits. But these are not opportunities to improve conditions for people either in Africa or in South Africa. And that, I think, is the most troubling aspect.
MARGARET WARNER: Mr. Chettle–let me ask Mr. Chettle something related to that. The deputy president Mbeki–in fact–said that to some degree in a radio interview that was reported today in South Africa, where he said that the administration’s new–you know, shall we trade not aid–he said that’s wrong. Is there something to that? Is this administration and this Congress in danger of overemphasizing trade?
JOHN CHETTLE: No, I don’t think it is, because if you think about what aid actually consists of, we’re talking about 600 million dollars over three years. That’s not an awful lot of money. Trade is potentially much greater than that and can lead to much greater results. What we have really is a philosophical difference of opinion. I mean, there is what you may call the European model, which essentially has provided 11, 12, 13 percent unemployment, a high degree of regulation, relatively little in the way of new jobs over a long period of time, and you have the American model, which is a much more laissez-faire, free market model, which over the last 18 years has produced something like 40 million new jobs. Now, there are still big problems in this country, there’s still a lot of poverty in this country, but if you have to compare the results, it seems to me there’s no doubt which South Africa ought to follow.
XOLELA MANGCU: Can I just interject?
MARGARET WARNER: Yes. Please.
XOLELA MANGCU: I think that, you know, there needs to develop–we need to develop an African model which is where the African renaissance comes in. True, globalization has got a lot of problems. You know, we can’t let people just sink and swim. So it’s important to develop new partnerships with foundations, new partnerships with academic institutions, policy institutions around the world, so that we can–of our people and our institutions–so globalization is–has very–a lot of problems go with it, but there are also some opportunities that we can take advantage of in developing not a European model, not an American model, but an African model of economic development.
MARGARET WARNER: Mr. Brutus, do you see that prospect?
DENNIS BRUTUS: I’m afraid not. I would like to think of such a possibility but when I hear talk of capacity building, which is what the World Bank talks about, or globalization, which also means downsizing, out-sourcing, privatization, I think the prospects are that things are going to get worse both in South Africa and in continent of Africa and our chances of developing an African alternative either to the western model or to the American model I think the chances are not very good. We can try to develop sustainable economies but my hunch is that right now we are not strong enough to try certainly not to make it successful.
XOLELA MANGCU: One of the problems, Margaret, is that there has been a tremendous amount of polarization in the discourse people will talk about privatization or government and what we need to do is to develop new partnerships, new ways of developing linkages.
MARGARET WARNER: All right.
XOLELA MANGCU: South Africans are very pragmatic in that sense.
MARGARET WARNER: Okay. Mr. Mangcu, thank you very much. Mr. Brutus. Mr. Chettle.