“We have, at last, achieved our political emancipation. We pledge ourselves to liberate all our people from the continuing bondage of poverty, deprivation, [and] suffering” – Nelson Mandela, Presidential inauguration speech.
Whilst this nation remains eternally grateful to Nelson Mandela for his role in the political emancipation of black South Africans, his pledge to economically emancipate this country lies in ruins.
As Mandela made the above in remarks on the steps of Union Buildings in 1994, 17.4 million South Africans lived below the poverty line, then defined by the World Bank as US$1.25 per day.
Fast forward two-decades, and whilst the ANC has made significant progress towards black economic empowerment – as evidenced by the rapidly growing black middle class – South Africa sadly has a less positive story to tell on the number of people living below the poverty line.
Today, rather than liberating South Africa’s people from the continuing bondage of poverty as promised, the World Bank finds that a further 1.6 million people live below the poverty line – bringing the total to 19 million.
Of the 19 million living below the poverty line, an estimated 98% are either black or coloured! Putting this into perspective, the wealth of all these people doesn’t even come close to the wealth of South Africa’s two richest people – Johann Rupert and Nicky Oppenheimer – both of whom “just happen” to be white men!
For how much longer are we as South Africans going to allow this to go on for?