BMW blacks move to the fast lane
As a new middle class rises from the ashes of apartheid, the townships remain stunted by its legacy. Hugh Pope reports from Johannesburg
Friday 03 February 1995
So fast are old white-run companies scanning "on the move" sections of the local press to hire black faces for their affirmative action programmes that Vincent Musewe felt it was time to put critical whites straight about who was to blame.
"Job-hopping is natural. We will have a shortage of black professionals for a decade at least," he wrote to a Johannesburg newspaper. "Black professionals, for once, can choose who they want to work for and at what price and for how long."
White business networks retain most economic control, of course, and black South Africans like Mr Musewe must fight against tokenism. As they race ahead, the new middle class also has to keep a weather eye on those relatives who are still poor. Perhaps 2
0 per cent of black South African society has not even a foot on the economic ladder, nine months after multi-racial elections brought in President Nelson Mandela's government.
So far, black society has been patient, ready to take the slow, hard route out of the townships and squatter camps, accepting the culture of reconciliation fostered by Mr Mandela and his African National Congress.
A black criminal underclass does target white suburbs. But a far bigger invasion has been by dressed-up weekend tourists from the poor outskirts, window-shopping in gleaming malls. And the new black business class is also determined to find some common cause with its old white masters.
"My business is not black or white. We're just looking at credit products," said John More, 41, who was one of South Africa's first black bank managers. "My fellow guys [from Soweto] want money. But they don't have sufficient assets to back what they want to do. And I must see that my business grows."
Township society feels surprisingly little acrimony as the black middle classes have started to move out to white suburbs and send their children to former white schools. "Jealousy is common, but they can't destroy you. Basically everybody was happy whenI moved; they were proud of me," said Mr More.
A new study for the Centre for Policy Studies argues that township expectations were more moderate than was feared by those who foresaw disaster if the new government failed to deliver quickly on its election promises of houses, jobs and services. Poor people still want "to make the system work for them, not bring it down," the report says.
Injustices linger.The reason that the black middle class is so small is that other races have enormous head starts in the capitalist system, through education, training and financial power. The iniquity of all-white rule has been replaced by smaller tyrannies, such as the credit agencies' bad-risk lists.
"If you didn't pay your rent during a rent boycott, you could be on the blacklist and denied credit by the computer," said Mr More. "But if you had paid rent, you might have been killed."
Black people make up 75 per cent of the 40 million population, but Bob Cooper, an African-American consultant who has worked to "empower" black South Africans, said that less than 2 per cent of managers were black and it would take generations to achieveintegration.
Such statistics are behind the ANC's left-wing outlook. "The state has to take the lead," said Max Legodi, chief of the Soweto Chamber of Commerce. "We are still patient, but the patience is not going to last forever. Those of us in leadership positions have to have government achievements to explain to the people."
The government prefers the carrot to the stick. White-led banks, for instance, had to stage a public beauty parade of their affirmative action programmes as part of tenders to win the account of the new Johannesburg-area province, Gauteng.
Bheki Sigiya of the Black Management Forum, an elite black business group, said that instead of aiming to increase the 10 per cent of black society that had made it into the middle classes, efforts should be concentrated on bringing the underclass aboard.
"We are encouraging people to reduce hours in the working week just so that every family has at least one bread-winner," Mr Sigiya said."That is the only way to bring crime down."
Those who have moved out of the townships do feel a stake in bringing the fringes of black society into full citizenship. Even as he preaches the virtues of capitalist endeavour, Mr More says he never forgets his origins.
"In my new suburb I can't go over and ask my neighbour for salt, I can't turn the music up high and sometimes when I sit with my beer in the garden, I feel sort of lonely," said Mr More. "To have fun, I still go back to Soweto."
- 1 'Kidnapped boy may have been abused and murdered by VIP paedophile ring,' say police
- 2 Ridley Scott on Exodus, Gods and Kings casting: 'I'm not going to get it financed if my lead actor is Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such'
- 3 Girl, 7, gets Tesco to remove 'stupid' sign suggesting superheroes are 'for boys'
- 4 This letter from a reader explains why women can’t play football
- 5 'You should come to my house and eat cheeses with me': 4-year-old sends adorable love letter to girl at school
Black Friday 2014: Opening times for Asda, John Lewis, PC World, GAME and Argos
Miss Honduras Maria Jose Alvarado's stylist Luis Alfredo Garcia is found stabbed to death
Dr Lam Hoe Yeoh: Voyeur doctor jailed for eight years after using network of hidden cameras to film patients, colleagues and friends on the toilet
'You should come to my house and eat cheeses with me': 4-year-old sends adorable love letter to girl at school
Scientists predict green energy revolution after incredible new graphene discoveries
Ukip says babies born to immigrants in the UK should be classed as migrants – which would include Nigel Farage’s own children
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds seat
'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
The young are the new poor: Sharp increase in number of under-25s living in poverty, while over-65s are better off than ever
Tamir Rice: 12-year-old boy playing with fake gun dies after being shot by Ohio police
Exclusive: UK approved £7m Israeli arms sales in six months before Gaza conflict
£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree are seeking Associate Recruitm...
£18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: SThree, International Recruitme...
£35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With more than half the world's populati...
£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - CIPD - Buxton A highly...