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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
News
Details of the self-cleaning coating were published last night in the journal Science
science
News
Approved Food sell products past their sell-by dates at discounted prices
i100
News
Life-changing: Simone de Beauvoir in 1947, two years before she wrote 'The Second Sex', credited as the starting point of second wave feminism
peopleHer seminal feminist polemic, The Second Sex, has been published in short-form to mark International Women's Day
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

Recruitment Genius: Evening Administrator

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established early...

Guru Careers: Executive Assistant / PA

£30 - 35k + Bonus & Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Executive Assist...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Application Support Analyst

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Reach Volunteering: External Finance Trustee Needed!

Voluntary post, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Would you ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable