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Huge Wage Gap Between Blacks and Whites Threatens to Tear South Africa Apart

Income inequality is threatening to tear apart the fragile democracy that South Africa has been living under for the past 18 years, as the gap between the income of blacks and whites continues to be enormous and foreboding.

In South Africa, the wealthiest 10 percent of the population earn nearly 60 percent of the country’s total income. While that split is similar to that in the United States, what makes it more acute in South Africa is that virtually all the wealthy are white and all the poor are black—whereas in the U.S., with 10 percent of whites in poverty, 27.4 percent of blacks, 26.6 percent of Hispanics and 12.1 percent of Asians, there is at least the perception that poverty is scattered throughout the population.

In South Africa, the white per capita income is nearly eight times that of blacks, according to the South African Institute of Race Relations.

The gap has certainly not gone unnoticed, particularly among young people, whose unemployment is so high that leaders fear the country’s fragile peace may be in danger of exploding.

President Jacob Zuma recently acknowledged that the slow pace of post-apartheid economic redistribution is becoming a threat to the country’s economy, the biggest in Africa.

“The structure of the apartheid-era economy has remained largely intact,” he said at a recent ANC policy conference. “The ownership of the economy is still primarily in the hands of white males as it has always been.”

Zuma called for more state involvement in mining and land ownership to address “inequalities inherited from apartheid.”

At a recent conference at the University of Cape Town attended by Atlanta Black Star, the anger of the youths was evident, as they gathered to protest the state of government housing, the lack of jobs and the income inequality. There are nearly 18 million working age South Africans without a job. In Johannesburg, the unemployment rate is a staggering 24.7 percent.

The unease was brought into sharp relief by the massacre earlier this month of 34 striking miners by police in Marikana. The striking miners, numbering up to 3,000, remain in protest of their meager wages; they make the equivalent of $484 a month on a physically challenging and dangerous job.

“Urgent action is needed to reverse the big ship of poverty,” said Francis Wilson, the University of Cape Town acting Pro-Vice Chancellor. “Nearly 20 years after democracy and we haven’t done a lot about either widespread poverty or deep inequality. Income inequality has got worse, not better. The debate in South Africa seems to revolve around who is going to be the next president and not the pressing issues facing the country.”

It is an urgent situation, heightened by bold talk from angry youths, especially males, who are tired of empty promises. Vice chancellor Dr. Max Price said “Arab Spring” uprisings could be the result of this tumult, and soon, if the crisis is not addressed.

“We have been working very hard to bring together academics from 19 universities around the country, who have submitted well over 300 papers,” Price said. “In addition, we have gone out of our way to draw in some very good (authorities) that are working at the coalface of education, rural development, health and a number of other sectors to share what they are doing.”

But in the midst of the anger, former president FW de Klerk, the nation’s last white president under apartheid and the Nobel peace laureate, called the discontent the “new racism” in South Africa.

“The Mandela and Mbeki era of reconciliation is over,” he said. “White males are quite unjustly blamed for the continuing triple crisis of unemployment, inequality and poverty.”

According to de Klerk the governing ANC is using racism as a “smokescreen” to hide its failures.

Curtis Bunn contributed to this report.

What people are saying

6 thoughts on “Huge Wage Gap Between Blacks and Whites Threatens to Tear South Africa Apart

  1. Jason Warren says:

    out right oppression of the original people by invaders aka white people.

  2. Jason Warren says:

    correct white males are unjustly blamed. white people are to blame we can forget your counter part who supports you. you all are invaders and need to leave! before whites came there was no crime and poverty to speak of. just peace and harmony. GET OUT!

  3. Jason Warren says:

    AFRICA FOR BLACK PEOPLE AND NO ONE ELSE.

  4. Suzy Hager says:

    To be perfectly honest I agree with Jason Warren below. Just maps.google the Capetown area, where blacks live and where whites live. White own huge amounts of land. While blacks are squeezed into postage stamp size towns in small box houses. It's like the USA where we stole the property of the Indians.

  5. Kevin Price says:

    blacks are really dumb.

  6. Casey Neal says:

    Jason Warren, Africa for black people and no one else? Yeah your right, America and Europe for white people and send all the blacks back to Africa..LOL. Hell 96,000 confirmed white women were raped by blacks in the USA last year. 80,000 white americans were murdered by blacks since the year 2000. They have turned some of the richest city's in the world into Miserable crime, disease infested shitholes, and hey Warren, theres no white people left in those citys. Your statement are as ignorant as what the black man has built and invented in this great world that the whites built, and the luxurys blacks have lived off of for years. Yeah by what your saying is you rather live in Grass and mud hut with and angry tribal leader that starves and kills there women and children. Do you not look at the country's in Africa that are nothing but black people. You people desrve the life you get because of all this ignorance….AMAZING!!!

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