South Africa is an upper-middle-income country

South Africa is an upper-middle-income country. Despite this relative wealth, the experience of the majority of South African households is either one of outright poverty, or of continued vulnerability to becoming poor. The distribution of income and wealth in South Africa may be the most unequal in the world.

While various positions are advanced, there is broad agreement that poverty exists on a vast scale, that it is closely correlated with race and that, by many indicators, the situation has deteriorated since the transition to democracy.

South Africa is an upper-middle income country. Despite this relative wealth, the experience of the majority of South African households is either one of outright poverty,or of continued vulnerability to becoming poor. The distribution of income and wealth in South Africa may be the most unequal in the world.

According to the HSRC (2004) the proportion of people living in poverty in South Africa in 2001 was 57%, unchanged from 1996, but that the extent of poverty (i.e. how far people are below the poverty income line) grew over this period:

The poverty gap has grown faster than the economy indicating that poor households have not shared in the benefits of economic growth. In 1996 the total poverty gap [the required annual income transfer to bring all households out of poverty] was equivalent to 6.7% of gross domestic product (GDP); by 2001 it had risen to 8.3%.



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source:http://r4d.dfid.gov.uk/PDF/Outputs/ESRC_DFID/60332_Lahiff_Redistributive.pdf in the article REDISTRIBUTIVE LAND REFORM AND POVERTY REDUCTION IN SOUTH AFRICA-Edward Lahiff

The Need for Redistribution of Land Reform in South Africa -P1

Today, South Africa has one of most unequal distributions of income in the world, and income and quality of life are strongly correlated with race, location and gender. The political compromise that ensued left much of the power and wealth of the white minority, including land ownership, more or less intact.

The extent of land dispossession of the indigenous population in South Africa, by Dutch and British settlers, was greater than any other country in Africa and persisted for an exceptionally long time.

By the twentieth century, most of the county, including most of the best agricultural land, was reserved for the minority white settler population, with the African majority confined to just 13% of the territory, the ‘native reserves’, later known as African Homelands or Bantustans.

Over thirteen million black people, the majority of them poverty-stricken remained crowded into the former homelands, where rights to land were generally unclear or contested and the system of land administration was in disarray.

Today, South Africa has one of most unequal distributions of income in the world, and income and quality of life are strongly correlated with race, location and gender. The political compromise that ensued left much of the power and wealth of the white minority, including land ownership, more or less intact.

The Constitutional clause on property guaranteed the rights of existing owners but also granted specific rights of redress to victims of past dispossession.

South African agriculture is highly dualistic in nature, where a highly-developed and generally large-scale commercial sector, controlled largely by whites, on privately-owned land, co-exists with large numbers of small-scale and mainly subsistence-oriented black farms on communally-held land.

South Africa had a thriving African peasant sector in the early twentieth century, but this was systematically destroyed by the white settler regime on behalf of mine-owners demanding cheap labour and white farmers demanding access to both land and cheap labour.

One such estimate in the mid-1990s found that, among black rural households, 67.7% considered themselves in need of land, with provincial figures ranging from 40% in the Northern Cape and North West to 78.3% in KwaZulu-Natal.

 


source:http://r4d.dfid.gov.uk/PDF/Outputs/ESRC_DFID/60332_Lahiff_Redistributive.pdf.by Edwin Lahiff accessed28/07/16

On Surviving the Madness of South Africa

Originally posted on The Disco Pants Blog:
Yoh, masekinders – even the most patriotic and loved-up among us would have a hard time denying that living in this country can be a bit like living with an abusive parent; you know, those really bemal ones you see in Eminem videos where the children hide in…

Yoh, masekinders – even the most patriotic and loved-up among us would have a hard time denying that living in this country can be a bit like living with an abusive parent; you know, those really bemal ones you see in Eminem videos where the children hide in cupboards and then turn out a bit funny. And when you mention the word apartheid to the white people and hear what they say back you realise they have definitely been living in a cupboard for most of their lives. A huge one. More like a walk-in closet with a chandelier and vending machines and a cocktail bar so they’ve never had any reason to step out of it.

And all of us, even the ones who do come out of our metaphorical walk-in closets now and again and go to Shoprite to remind ourselves that we are not, in fact, living in San Fransisco, have turned out a bit funny. And you can’t blame us. It’s mad here. One minute you’re sitting at the Grand on the Beach having a lovely pomegranate daiquiri and some tuna ceviche because #paleo and wondering if that jacket will still be at the Waterfront tomorrow, and next you’ve got a rock coming through your windscreen because somebody is properly annoyed at having to spend another winter in a corrugated iron box and there goes your Woollies handbag and Marc Jacobs sunglasses and your iPhone that still has a picture of your boobs in black and white because #art.

No wonder we’re all bedondered, and that when we hear of another person emigrating to Queensland it makes us reach for the Alzam. Because, what do they know that we don’t? Are we going to be dead in our beds by next Thursday? Sometimes I have delusional episodes where I think to myself, but Europe’s not that grey, and California does look quite nice on Facebook. I have these episodes especially when I read letters to Max du Preez from President Zuma’s son calling him a ‘lier’. At those times I even manage to convince myself that living in Europe was fun, which shows you how hysterical one can get.

But then I pour myself a stiff (Inveroche) gin and come to my senses. Somewhat. As much as one who is a South African is capable of coming to their senses. And I have thoughts like this: nothing really matters, and even the things that do matter don’t matter all that much. And: life is, after all, less a complete thing than a series of moments held together in sequence, so the ‘bigger picture’ must remain remote and always a bit more conceptual than real, if you get my meaning. And for the Queensland situation, I have to say that my moments in South Africa – even given the odd rock episode – are moments that feel more like real life than the ones I’ve spent in other parts of the world. There is more humanity, more connectedness, more something that – even in my darkest hours of uncertainty and fear for the future – won’t allow itself to be ignored.

So many examples scattered over the days and the years, but two that spring to mind as I write this: finding myself at the end of my grocery shop (at Shoprite) with four bags and two hands, and the woman who packed my stuff automatically picking up two of my packets and saying she’ll carry them for me. She has no idea where my car is and doesn’t ask. I could have parked in Roggebaai for all she knows. All she sees is that I need help and that she can provide it. My car battery dying while I’m on the school run and my husband is overseas. Managing to get us all to the service station and telling the mechanic what had happened and that I was grateful to have made it. And him, without thinking, writing his cell phone number down for me and telling me if I ever get stuck again to give him a call, no problem. And I have not a moment’s doubt in my mind that he meant it. I know for sure that these things don’t happen everywhere on the planet.

One day a week I’ve been teaching at a university for bright kids who didn’t get bursaries. I don’t know how to say this without lapsing into cliché, but they’re great people, and the best antidote ever when I’m feeling suicidal after reading the paper is to go to my classroom and hang out with them. Just talk to them, hear what they think, listen to their views. Some of them are poor as hell but they’re switched-on and sharp and determined to change their worlds. And then I drive home in my nice car and think, if they can be positive, what excuse do I have? And I consider the fact that maybe the biggest challenge of all about living in South Africa is accepting the ambiguity; the fact that you’re never going to know for sure what the future, or even tomorrow, holds. This country has been on the verge of disaster for 400 years, if not more, but somehow we still manage to pop a Kaapse Vonkel and get on with life.

It would be nice to be able to navigate the world without the constant fear of that snotklap coming out of nowhere and taking you down just when you least expected it. But that’s not the deal here, and you can’t have everything. Here, you live on your toes. You bop and weave and skei for the gangster and keep your windows locked and tell the car guard he’s getting fuckall because he wasn’t here when you parked and the petrol attendant greets you like you’re his long-lost best friend and you donate your savings to your cleaner’s child so she can go to tech. Then you crap on the guy trying to mug you because does he even actually know how much you just spent on your sushi dinner and he says sorry and slinks away (true story). None of it makes sense; none of it ever will. It’s not America or Australia because it’s better and madder and richer. It’s real and broken and deluded and the only place I’ll ever call home.

We’ve been living back in South Africa for seven years now. In that time I’ve lost a measure of naiveté, gone mad with frustration, gained hope in humankind and felt more warmth and love than I know how to quantify. I have never, for a second, looked back; just been affirmed that we made the right choice. Maybe the harsh circumstances with which life presents itself here brings out the kindness in people, but there is something inside me that opens up. It makes me want to be nicer and  more switched on to the world around me. It elicits something gentle and good which I didn’t find in myself much when I lived overseas and never had to be anything but white and middle class. It’s hard to explain, but there is a part of me that becomes more of who I am here amidst the craziness of this struggling country. Unforgivably sentimental, but also true and real.

At my local Spar I’m regularly assisted by a cashier called Moreblessings. Her name is engraved on a piece of plastic pinned to her lapel. It makes me happy every time I see it, maybe because it sums up what I feel about life in SA. It will never follow the rules of logic. It will always feel wild and slightly out of control, but also beautiful and authentic and extraordinary and free. Like life is supposed to be. And I walk back to my car thinking, where else in the world are you going to find a cashier called Moreblessings? Nowhere, folks. Just, nowhere. And I thank my lucky stars.

The Disco Pants Blog

south africa flag

Yoh, masekinders – even the most patriotic and loved-up among us would have a hard time denying that living in this country can be a bit like living with an abusive parent; you know, those really bemal ones you see in Eminem videos where the children hide in cupboards and then turn out a bit funny. And when you mention the word apartheid to the white people and hear what they say back you realise they have definitely been living in a cupboard for most of their lives. A huge one. More like a walk-in closet with a chandelier and vending machines and a cocktail bar so they’ve never had any reason to step out of it.

And all of us, even the ones who do come out of our metaphorical walk-in closets now and again and go to Shoprite to remind ourselves that we are not, in fact, living…

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