As the national elections loom on the South African horizon and post-Mandela disillusionment sets in, UK journalist John Pilger offers a perceptive account of why so little economic progress has been made during the first 20 years of South Africa's democracy. Simply put, the ANC sold out and took the only path that remained after the fall of the Berlin Wall: neo-liberalism, the alluring but unrealistic belief that by making the rich richer (BEE, anyone?) wealth will begin to trickle down to the masses. Well, as Pope Francis wrote, "the excluded are still waiting". What is of particular interest is Pilger's brief description of what kind of programs could have been implemented to ensure that the end of apartheid meant not only the right for the majority of South Africans to vote, but also the right to a decent and dignified livelihood:
[H]ad the ANC invested in [the majority of South Africans] and in their "informal economy", it could have actually transformed the lives of millions. Land could have been purchased and reclaimed for small-scale farming by the dispossessed, run in the co-operative spirit of African agriculture. Millions of houses could have been built, better health and education would have been possible. A small-scale credit system could have opened the way for affordable goods and services for the majority. None of this would have required the import of equipment or raw materials, and the investment would have created millions of jobs. As they grew more prosperous, communities would have developed their own industries and an independent national economy.
A reinvigorated—and skilled—peasantry that fosters the bonds most essential to a healthy society is crucial to liberating South Africa from its colonial and apartheid past that shattered the peasant class and tore families—the real fabric of society—to pieces. This is the basis of distributism in South Africa.
The change that occurred in the early nineties put our country in a perfect position to transcend the ideological warfare that plagued the 20th century and embark on a new journey towards economic, political and social freedom. Instead the ANC revealed itself to be little more than an ideological playground for the black middle class, and South Africans—most of whom were not yet even born in 1994—are still waiting for real freedom to arrive.