The title of this post may be really off-putting, but it’s really important to Represent South Africa Responsibly when you interact with foreigners. (click here if you would like to read some background to my feelings around this topic). Otherwise, read on for my quick guide to ‘The Bad Stuff’.
1. Our history of oppression
South Africa legislated racial segregation through the system called “apartheid” between 1948 and 1994. In 2019, democracy is only 25 years old. Although we’ve made a lot of progress in creating our “Rainbow Nation” over these years, it’s impossible to undo almost 50 years of legislated oppression in half the amount of time.
It is undeniable that those who were prehistorically disadvantaged are the ones still suffering the after effects. According to the poverty headcount by StatsSA, the percentage of South Africans of each former racial classification living below the poverty line in 2015 was as follows:
|RACE||% LIVING BELOW POVERTY LINE IN 2015|
This makes it clear that in general, white South Africans are still far better off than those we oppressed. We have to acknowledge that the injustices and inequalities created by apartheid still affect our society to this day.
2. Our inequality level
The Gini Coefficient measures the wealth distribution across a population. The higher the Gini, the higher the levels of inequality. According to this ranking by the CIA, South Africa has the highest Gini coefficient in the world. This means that, of all the countries considered, our country’s wealth is the most disproportionately distributed among the rich and the poor.
To put it in context, here are some key statistics. South Africa has a population of about 57 million. In the budget for the 2018/2019 tax year, it is estimated that there will be about 7.5 million individual taxpayers, of which 2 million will contribute just over 80% of total income tax. According to this 2016 press release by the Institute of Race Relations (IRR), there are over 17 million South Africans dependent on social grants. Just think about how disproportionate all these numbers are. 2 million taxpayers carrying a majority of the burden of social grants of more than 17 million people. Yes there are other sources to cover these grants, but the strain on our budget is enormous.
The point I’m making is that on an individual level, our society is incredibly unequal. Also, the standard of living for those dependent on social grants can’t be great. Our child grant is currently R380 (USD27) a month, which barely covers creche fees, let alone the cost of feeding and clothing a child. The state pension is only R1700 (USD121) a month.
The unemployed population is defined to be those without jobs who are available for and actively seeking employment. According to this ranking of modeled International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates, South Africa has the second highest unemployment rate in the world (as at September 2018). This only further exacerbates our poverty and inequality problem. With the lack of available jobs and poor living conditions, crime may seem like the only means for people to provide for their families. When telling foreigners about our high crime rates, it is vital to give this context.
Of course, Representing South Africa Responsibly means telling foreigners ‘The Good Stuff’ too. Click here to read my guide to Telling Foreigners ‘The Good Stuff’ about South Africa.