Outlook: Nelson Mandela’s legacy is undeniable – but his scandal-riven successors are just not up to the job of preserving it

The South Africa of today  is, at best, underperforming its economic potential

Amid the justified Nelson Mandela tributes this week lurk some less loudly spoken truths about the country he formed.  Clearly, his legacy of political empowerment for blacks and reconciliation with whites is one of the greatest political achievements of the  post-war period.

But economically, South Africa’s current state is perilous. The South Africa of today is, at best, underperforming its economic potential: at worse, it’s in a quagmire with little sign of improvement.

While the dream of apartheid-era South Africans was for a country of equality, the country today, according to the Gini Index, is the fourth most unequal in the world. Depressingly, that inequality has actually worsened since the end of apartheid.

South Africa also holds another unenviable record: one of the world’s highest rates of unemployment. A quarter of its inhabitants are out of work, with 29 per cent of blacks unemployed and 6 per cent of whites.

Poor education for black children means, tragically, many job vacancies go unfilled because there are not enough people qualified to fill them.

Mr Mandela’s dream, stated soon after his release from Robben Island, was for a “fundamental restructuring of our political and economic systems to ensure that the inequalities of apartheid are addressed”.

But given the current state of its economy, by most measures that matter to the average South African family, it is failing.

Yes, all adults now have the right to vote, but in many townships only a lucky few have the right to a job.

Yes, equity in the white-owned businesses of old has been shared with blacks, but there has been little sign of a trickle down to the impoverished masses below this lucky few.

Yes, black workers have power and rights, but the old unions, surrounded by suspicions of corruption, abuse their historic ties to the ANC to the detriment of local communities and the employees they claim to represent.

Mr Mandela cannot be blamed for too much of this. As Peter Attard Montalto, who advises western companies on investing in South Africa, says, Mr Mandela spent his one term in office busily, and wisely, creating the structures needed to build a new country. After controversially reneging on the ANC’s longstanding pledge to nationalise mines, banks and many other businesses, he left economic policy to his deputy, Thabo Mbeki.

Mr Montalto says this policy is one in which all-powerful unions have created an inflexible labour market while the black empowerment rules have gifted valuable chunks of companies to a small elite for  “not doing much work”.

More fundamental, though, he says, has been the erosion of the modern institutions of state that Mr Mandela helped to create. President Jacob Zuma’s scandal-riven reign is the epitome of that.

According to Mr Montalto, this mixture of union power and labour unrest, corruption and political uncertainty has left many outside investors hesitant to put money into the country. Instead, they are nowadays considering Ghana, Nigeria or Kenya as their hubs. There can be little doubt that the blame for this is squarely to be laid at the doors of Mr Mandela’s successors in  the ANC leadership.

While his decision to serve only one term in office was utterly laudable, and still serves as a beacon of honesty for other African leaders, he did not put in place a strong enough cadre of successors to take over leadership after his retirement.

Mr Mandela’s mighty achievements were impossible for any leader to live up to. But Mr Mbeki and Mr Zuma’s mishandling of the economy leaves the country at risk of slipping into the very kind of instability that Mr Mandela  so skilfully dispersed when he walked out of the Victor Verster Prison 24 years ago.

Crisis of unemployed black youths is America’s shame

Cheers all around in the US yesterday as the unemployment figures came in brighter than most analysts had hoped. But scratch a little deeper and you get a picture of a country where the economic fortunes of its citizens seem as starkly divided down race lines as in South Africa.

I exaggerate, of course, but the racial breakdown of joblessness in the US goes a long way towards explaining the widespread disappointment at Barack Obama’s time in office. The rate of unemployment among blacks is 12.5 per cent – more than twice as high as the 6.2 per cent among whites.

Now, don’t be surprised if this sorry tale is spun by the White House as a sign of success: Washington DC press officers will tell you that marks an improvement on recent months. But the real reason the rate is coming down is because thousands of black Americans are simply giving up looking for work. The way the numbers are gathered means that, if you abandon hope of finding a job, you are no longer counted as “unemployed,” simply “not in the labour force”. And that means you fall out of the tally used for the unemployment rate.

This really counts because the number of black Americans giving up on the job market is rising rapidly, with more than 300,000 dropping out since July.

If that was not heartbreaking enough, it gets even worse when you look at the figures for young black teenagers. Of these, nearly 36 per cent are looking for work – again, a rate twice as high as for their white counterparts. While that is not as bad as the 41.6 per cent seen in July, it has worsened since September.

Now 241,000-strong, this city-sized crisis of unemployed black youths truly  shames America.

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
New Articles
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
booksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SQL Implementation Consultant (VB,C#, SQL, Java, Eclipse, integ

£40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SQL Impl...

Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, Fidessa, Equities)

£85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...

Technical Software Consultant (Excel, VBA, SQL, JAVA, Oracle)

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: You will not be expected to hav...

SQL DBA/Developer

£500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL DBA/Developer SQL, C#, VBA, Data Warehousi...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering