South African Election Guide: When a dying order faced up to the facts: Apartheid collapsed under weight of numbers but its legacy survives, says Richard Dowden in Johannesburg

IT IS SAID that the moment a few years ago when the white South African cabinet quailed and decided to give up occurred when they were given the statistics. Statistics such as these: white women were bearing an average of 1.7 children, black women 4.7 children; 32 per cent of the white population was under 21 years old but 50 per cent of the black population was under the same age; and 46 per cent of the economically active population, 5 million people, were unemployed. No new jobs were created overall in the Eighties and gross domestic product per capita was falling.

With no new investment coming into the country there was little prospect of turning the economy round. The cabinet knew the trends could only worsen. Perhaps the African National Congress knew the answers.

Bureaucracy and statistics fed on the apartheid system and its figures were always carefully compiled and published. The racial breakdown was always explicit. The old black/

white division is now blurring into a non-racial rich/poor division but the legacy of apartheid which kept blacks poor and helped whites get rich is still clear.

Take health: in the last years of apartheid the government spent pounds 120 per head a year on health for whites and pounds 27 per head a year on blacks. The number of children who die before the age of five is 8.6 per thousand among whites and 52 per thousand among blacks. That is high even by African standards.

Some 42 per cent of households, consisting of 17 million people, live below the minimum subsistence level of pounds 110 a month. About 4 million of these, all of them black, are close to starvation. In a country which has developed hi-tech medical equipment, 12 million people have no access to drinkable water and 23 million have no electricity. Most of these are in rural areas but only 5.5 per cent of South Africa's 24,619 doctors work in rural areas.

Overall South Africa is a medium-size country of about 39.5 milion people with a highly developed First World sector and a huge marginalised Third World comparable in size to Argentina. In racial terms South Africa has about 30 million black people and 5 million white. Just over 1 million are of Asian origin, while 3.4 million were classified as Coloured(mixed race). More significant from now on will be the urban-rural divide. An estimated 43 per cent of South Africa's population live in rural areas but many are drifting to rural slums near cities, where agriculture is still carried out. Those living in rural areas are far less likely to have access to education or medical facilities.

Education also shows up the legacy of apartheid. Over 90 per cent of people over 18 who have no formal education are black, while 84 per cent of the population with university education are white. In 1987, pounds 500m was spent on educating a million white children, while about the same amount was spent educating 5 million black children.

That gap is narrowing rapidly. The black/white spending ratio was 18:1 in 1969 and by 1990 it was 4:1. Income - directly related to apartheid laws that preserved jobs for whites - still shows a marked discrepancy. In 1990 per capita income for blacks was pounds 32 a month, while for whites it was pounds 260 a month.

Perhaps the most poignant and telling statistic of apartheid is the infant mortality causes, which show that most black children die from water-borne diseases. Most white children die from swimming-pool accidents.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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 General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there