Sorry BBC, it’s blacks who have no future in South Africa

Sorry BBC, white South Africans are here to stay.

This past Sunday, the BBC's website asked a question which was disguised as a statement as one read further on: "Do white South Africans have a future?"

The report, which appears as a video and written article on the broadcaster's website, claims only certain white South Africans have a future in the country.

"The people who are suffering now are the weakest and most vulnerable members of the white community," it reads.

"In the old days, the apartheid system looked after whites and did very little for anyone else. Nowadays white people here are on their own."

It also highlights violence and acts of crime committed against white people – particularly white farmers – suggesting government is doing little to address the issue of farm murders.

Obviously, this BBC journalist John Simpson is unfamiliar with the Freedom Charter, which was adopted in Kliptown in 1955. Allow me to quote:

"We, the People of South Africa, declare for all our country and the world to know:

  • that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white, and that no government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of all the people;
  • that our people have been robbed of their birthright to land, liberty and peace by a form of government founded on injustice and inequality;
  • that our country will never be prosperous or free until all our people live in brotherhood, enjoying equal rights and opportunities;
  • that only a democratic state, based on the will of all the people, can secure to all their birthright without distinction of colour, race, sex or belief;

And therefore, we, the people of South Africa, black and white together equals, countrymen and brothers adopt this Freedom Charter."

This charter is the foundation upon which a modern South Africa was built. The Freedom Charter clearly states there is a place for everyone who calls themselves a South African. It is not too naïve to say there are some who may feel insecure and uncertain about where they belong. We have experienced a traumatic past and we have not yet healed. We long to be united but we don't know how to be – beyond the superficiality of sporting achievements.

In North Korea, all citizens act as one, even when they cry for their deceased leader Kim Jong-il, they all cry robotically together. We South Africans hardly ever agree on anything. It is healthy, but because of centuries of racial segregation, the vast majority of our disagreements are race-based.

The BBC article mainly featured poor white South Africans in a country with millions of poor black people. The article failed to mention that white unemployment in South Africa is only 7%, which is lower than the majority of European nations, while black unemployment is well above 30%. If Simpson wants to talk about who has no place in South Africa, and if the basis of his argument is an economic one, then it is the black person who has no place in South Africa. 

Seeing a poor white person in South Africa is still a relatively new phenomenon. When most black people see a poor white person, they ask themselves: "What were you doing during apartheid? What were your parents doing during apartheid?" You see, apartheid taught us that to be white meant you were well off, while being black meant you were poor. 

Although poverty is no longer legislated, it is not true that South Africans now have an equal opportunity to achieve wealth – black South Africans are still at greater risk of falling into or remaining in poverty. One wonders if Simpson posed the question about poor whites because it was unfathomable for him to see whites living in poverty, that blacks can be poor but whites should not be. The premise of his argument, although left unsaid, implies that. 

In a blog I wrote called, "Economic Freedom: The New Swart Gevaar", I looked at a report on poverty. "In 1995, just a year after the demise of apartheid, the average white income was R48 387, R9 668 for coloureds, R23 424 for Asians and a whopping R6 525 for blacks. Fast forward to 2008. You think things might have improved because you see lots of black folks driving fancy cars and eating in fancy restaurants, right? Let's see if you are right. White per capita income in 2008 was R75 297, coloured was R16 527, R51 457 for Asians and a bling, bling R9 790 for blacks. While a white person makes R100 a black person makes R13."

"This is after Black Economic Empowerment [BEE], Affirmative Action [AA] and all sorts of other acronyms we have decided to put in place. None of them have made a dent. In fact, adjusted to inflation levels to the year 2000 per capita, blacks still don't make as much money as whites did in 1917. Whites made R13 069 per capita in 1917. In the year 2008, blacks were only making R9 790." These stats are from Leibbrandt, M et al (2010), "Trends in South African Income Distribution and Poverty since the Fall of Apartheid".

The writer of that article also stated, "In South Africa you are twice as likely to be murdered if you are a white farmer than if you are a police officer." According to futurist Guy Lundy, for every 33 people who are victims of murder, only one is white. And black people certainly don't outnumber white people 33 to one, in case someone wants to argue that.

I know we are going to spend days arguing about who is worse off in South Africa but that won't help close the economic gap in South Africa. If one South African is poor then we are all poor, black or white. We have to reject what the BBC report says and focus on delivering an economy that will benefit all South Africans, not just those with an education. The truth is that our economy is far too advanced for the vast majority of its people. They are ill-equipped to participate in the "real economy" and therefore remain poor. We just need to find ways to close the gap, not increase it. 

The only thing we need to fight about today is how we make the country a better place for all. The BBC's Simpson will go back home and laugh at how he made South Africans mad about race yet again while the conditions of our people remain the same. When I say "our people", I mean all South Africans, regardless of race. 

The difference between now and then is that poverty is no longer just black.

We make it make sense

If this story helped you navigate your world, subscribe to the M&G today for just R30 for the first three months

Subscribers get access to all our best journalism, subscriber-only newsletters, events and a weekly cryptic crossword.”

Related stories


Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Latest stories

‘Incredible growth’ in rooftop solar in South Africa

Rising electricity prices, power outages, increasing awareness of the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and decreasing solar technology costs are driving the rooftop solar market in South Africa

Will Ramaphosa act decisively on the Zondo report?

The president’s tendency to avoid confrontation with his own party means we must maintain public outrage to ensure an end to state capture

Is the US supreme court bent on doing harm?

Two recent rulings by America’s apex court are profoundly troubling

Lights, camera, action!

Meet Kuda Jemba, the emerging film director who went from directing music videos for some of SA’s biggest stars to directing Kelly Khumalo’s upcoming reality show

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…