Post-Apartheid Case Study—South Africa


Post-Apartheid Case Study—South Africa

case study courtesy of Professor Donald King:


Prior to 1994 the South African with government had in place a set of laws and policies that worked to effectively limit and restrict the rights and privileges of the South African black majority—at approximately 90% of the population.  The 6% white minority ruling class held or controlled about 95% of the nation’s wealth and assets, and feared that the balance of power would shift to the black majority if these Apartheid policies were not maintained.  This colonial based mentality included the resettlement of blacks from white urban areas (i.e., Johannesburg) to townships far outside these urban centers (i.e., Soweto).  Whites still valued the services rendered by the impoverished black population, but did not want them living amongst them.  To this end, blacks were not given the right to vote, the right to property ownership, or the privilege to access the same quality of goods and services as the white population (i.e., much in the same way as in the U.S. prior to the Civil Rights movement).  In essence, the black South African population was repressed and [in some cases] victimized for generations.  Any act of civil disobedience was rapidly squelched and individuals speaking out or promoting social change were often relocated, imprisoned (i.e., Nelson Mandela), or shot (i.e., Hector Peterson Happened to have been the one who was shot although was one among many at a rally protesting Afrikaans as the medium).

During the 1980’s the international community plied untenable pressure on the ailing political structure and already moves were afoot to welcome sweeping changes. Even within the ruling National Party, having introduced Apartheid and having been in power for 40 years, had clandestine meetings with the party deeply divided about the imminent dismantling of Apartheid and the dawn of a majority black leadership. Ultimately, with the fall of Apartheid in 1994, free and open elections occurred, and for the first time the black majority had representation.  Mr. Nelson Mandela, representing the African National Congress, was elected as the first black South African President, with former [white] President F.W. De Klerk serving as one of the two Vice-Presidents.  A period of transition ensued.

Under the leadership of President Mandela, the new government wisely worked within existing South African parameters and established bureaucratic policies and procedures. However, social change policies began to immediately take shape.  Public access to educational and medical services was immediate, and all laws requiring the separation of blacks from whites (i.e., public transportation) were eliminated.  Social justice was underway!

Scenario Option #1- Housing and Economy

In an attempt to rectify prior social injustices steps were immediately taken to improve upon the quality of national housing options.  Under these new social reforms government constructed housing projects were completed with the intent to provide an improved quality of life for those less fortunate, via an application process.  Theoretically a good plan, it ultimately failed to work in many cases.

For example, in the township of Soweto outside the city of Johannesburg a large government built and rent subsidized apartment complex has sat empty since its completion 8 years ago due to the high cost of the monthly unit rent price at R800 Rand ($80 U.S.), far beyond that which people can currently afford.  Instead many are choosing to live for little or nothing, making hostel living their home.  In a June 1, 2015 article in The Star News entitled, Hostel Dwellers’ Dwindling Hopes (by Bhekikaya Mabaso) notes that hostel dwellers are largely opposed to the idea of temporary homes and instead urge the government to provide them with RDP houses instead. This is because the majority of these people are unemployed and will be unable to keep up the payments of these apartments [flats] that the Department of Social Development are offering.  The cost of each apartment flat is R2050 ($250) to obtain a key to the flat, and they will have to further pay R750 ($75) per month rent to keep it.  Most hostels are in disrepair and have no plumbing or toilet facilities, and the government is threatening to tear them down.  Hostel residents say if the hostels are demolished and the apartments are built, they will be unable to pay for them and will be kicked out onto the streets.

These are classic examples of “putting the cart before the horse” in that the new government wanted to quickly act on campaign promises (i.e., housing improvements), but did so prematurely; with what appears to have been a lack of macro-economic study/understanding.    A truth not altogether uncommon in situations where one government regime is ultimately swept-out, and another (less knowledgeable or experienced) is set in its place.  Not only is this true in the case of South Africa (circa 1998-present), but also observed in some former Soviet Block nation-states of eastern Europe following the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the resulting domino effect of nations regaining their independence (i.e., Latvia, Slovakia, Croatia, Kirgizstan, etc.).  Fortunately for South Africa, however, this gain of “new independence” has not yet resulted in civil disobedience or civil war, as has been the case in some of these nations.

None the less, working to create a viable South African economy, thus decreasing the high unemployment rate, would have been an initial course of government action reaping broader long term gains, thus equipping the populous with the financial means to ultimately pay for improved housing and a higher standard of living.

Study Questions

1)    What are the current cause and/or facts regarding government provided housing going unused?

2)    How might the government work with hostel owners to improve upon the quality of their services?

3)    What are other countries doing to accommodate housing for the poor?

4)    Are there any Dept. of Social Development programs than might be designed and instituted to provide employment and simultaneously create affordable housing?

Potential Solutions

1)    Government might choose to work with hostel owners to improve their conditions by providing some incentive measures (i.e., tax breaks, free water and electric).

2)    NGO’s in many nations are working with local governments to construct affordable low cost sustainable housing (i.e., U.S. Habitat for Humanity program).

3)    Given the poor state of overall national infrastructure, the government might establish a “work program” not unlike the U.S. Civilian Conservation Corps program during the 1930’s Great Depression.


Scenario Option #2—Infrastructure

Following the establishment of the new South African government, the outgoing establishment (understanding and fearing infrastructure decay) made report to the new authorities on the current and projected state of affairs with regard to infrastructure maintenance, repair, and needed expansion (of electricity utility, ESKOM).  This report acknowledged that the current (1994) utility network was not capable of supporting the expanding number of households soon to come on-line if the new social reforms included “access to all”. The last upgrade of this network occurred in the 1980’s and did not account for this degree of growth.   The new government officially acknowledged this report (documented), but failed to act on its recommendations choosing to thus institute other “more pressing” social reform initiatives. Additionally, a proposal was put forward to privatize the utility in order to address the evident shortfalls as the utility acknowledged it was unable to meet the demands.

In the specific case of electricity, the existing structure and power supply (electrical plants) was built to sustain approximately a 3% growth rate.  Given the new social reform movement and the desire to provide all with access to electricity, the government needed to immediately invest in the expansion of electrical power plants/supply.  Otherwise, the current network would be overtaxed and inefficiencies would occur.

As of 2012 the sub-Saharan African economy is now boasting an economic growth rate of approximately six percent (6%).  When the country of South Africa is removed from this equation, this growth rate jumps to approximately 10%.  Thus, it is now recognized that the lack of investment in electrical capacity is now biting the South African economy in the butt.  Without a viable electrical network grid, the country is currently (2015) experiencing regular planned power outages where specific geographical sectors have a schedule of when electricity will be On and Off.  This is a band-aid measure to conserve upon the current electrical needs of the nation.  The irony of all this, is that the current government has still not taken any action to improve upon the electrical infrastructural demands/output required for growth.  Recognizing these facts, outside international corporations and investors are hesitant or unwilling to locate to South Africa which would otherwise provide jobs and stimulate economic growth.

Study Questions

1)    What are the primary factors associated with the current power crisis?

2)    What are the short term and long term options the government has for remediating this crisis?

3)    Would you support or not support an argument for the government to prioritize electrical needs, with international corporations and investors being at the top of this priority list, thus temporarily providing less power to private homes?

4)    Are there other sources of power to be purchased, via the grid?

Potential Solutions

1)    The deregulation of electricity might prove a positive measure in developing more power plants.

2)    Nuclear power might be an option, as opposed to the current coal and hydroelectric plants.

3)    Purchasing of power from other surrounding countries.

 Scenario Option #3 – Crime

Statistics support the claim that current infrastructure can support growth up to a rate of 3% per year.  Statistics also show that the current South African population growth is at roughly 6 percent per year.  The vast majority of this growth is occurring within poverty level households.  Over the last 15 years (post-Apartheid) the national crime rate has drastically increased.  This is of little surprise, as an increase in a poverty culture often coincides with an increase in undesirable social issues; crime included.

“Vlakplaas” fell under the jurisdiction of the security police, and was earmarked as a center for the South African security forces unit. Upon visual glance it appeared as just another remote South African farm.  However, it was tasked mainly with identifying and interrogating activists, and for compiling statistics about acts of terror.  In her article, A trip into the Abyss of Inhumanity (June 1, 2015; The Star) Anemari Jansen states, “I may know the facts about the history of Vlakplaas, but a true understanding of the violence of Apartheid and the abuses by the security forces still evades me….I cannot comprehend the physical pain, torture and fear of death that victims must have experience here.”

During the Apartheid years South Africa was essentially a police-state, in that all was firmly controlled through policy, with force and brutality often used to maintain this control. What ensued was fifty years of anti-government trust and a deeply ingrained fear and distrust for law enforcement.  In addition, the white population was also victimized in that with any police-state the public is only provided information controlled by that state.  In essence, they too were a victim of state propaganda, and many never knew of the brutality and suppression of the black population; few knew about Vlakplaas!  It was only with the fall of Apartheid did many learn of these issues; leading to a distrust of “authority” by the white population as well.  To this day all segments of the South African population have a deep ingrained distrust of the police as an authority presence.  Corruption and bribery are common course.  Contrary to what outsiders might think, in South Africa crime is not race related—between whites and blacks, but rather it is more an issue between those that “have” and the “have nots”; it is poverty driven.  Particularly at risk are those white families living in rural environments, as they typically are viewed as having money, food, guns, equipment, etc., and can be easy targets.

Study Questions

1)    What appears to be the main reason for the increase in crime in South Africa?

2)    Given that there is a direct correlation between poverty growth and crime, identify some potential long-term strategies and/or government programs that might work to reduce the crime rate?

3)    What can South African police administrators do to improve their image among South Africans?

Potential Solutions

1)    Like China, government incentive programs to reduce child birth (birth control) might be explored.

2)    Develop a positive police marketing campaign showing the “good” that police do, and how they give back to their communities. (Much like professional athletes do.)

Scenario Option #4—Education

The end of Apartheid brought about some clearly positive changes.  New black South Africans now had access to public education, something once not possible.  Schools burgeoned, and today black children enjoy the fruits of this reform.  However, while vast majority of children are in school, they are being denied a quality education.

Along with this increase in public school enrollment came a need for more schools and more trained teachers.  According to a recent 2014 Report from the Centre for Development and Enterprise (CDE) “Education system change is complex.  A system as large as ours [South Africa], with 12.4 million pupils in just under 26,000 schools, and 425,000 teachers in nine provinces and 86 school districts, is one of the largest management challenges in the country.”

“But the challenge will be compounded and we may fail another generation unless the government provides decisive leadership and establishes a chain of accountability”, state Bernstein and Hofmeyr in their article, Quality Education in Indispensable; How do we get it?, The Star Newspaper, ( June 1, 2015).

Along with this increase in public school enrollment came a need for more trained teachers. In the province of Gauteng, for example, between 1995 and 2013 the number of independent (private) schools increased from 363 to 593, compared to an increase of 229 public schools to over 2050.  New schools are emerging all the time—both public and private.  Duly noted is the significant role now played by private not-for-profit schools (comprising approximately 6.5% of all South African schools) in helping to alleviate the strain on burgeoning public schools.  The right of private schools to exist is also protected in the Constitution as long as they do not discriminate on the basis of race, are registered and provide standards equal to comparable public schools. These licensed independent private schools are then granted annual government subsidies of approximately 60% of per pupil cost. However, the government requires more from private schools than public schools, in that in order to obtain licensure they are held to a higher quality standard than many existing public schools.  The CDE’s research shows that independent private school enrollments have doubled since 2000 from a quarter to half a million pupils; these private independent schools are making a meaningful contribution to providing access to education for all Gauteng citizens. If all the pupils in Gauteng had to be educated in public schools in 2012, it would have cost the province another half billion dollars (Rand) in recurrent costs alone.  And, to accommodate the pupils now in private schools, the province would have to construct another 250 public schools, each with 1000 pupils.  South Africa needs to find the right mix of public and private schooling to ensure that growing numbers of children receive good education as quickly as possible.

Further compromising this educational issue has been the need for more teachers. To fill this teacher shortage (beyond that of seeking trained teachers) many schools opted to first hire individuals who held a college degree of some kind—preferably in a subject content area.  If these degree holders were not to be found, schools then did their best to fill these teaching positions; sometimes with skilled or non-skilled adults.  As a result, the overall quality of education programming in these schools became suspect.

Adding to this ill perception, it was not uncommon for schools to pass students on to the next grade level, regardless of whether they were able to master the subject content at the previous grade level.  Although some would argue that a “little education” was better than “no education”, as was the previous Apartheid situation.  Others might argue that this has resulted in a dumbing down of society. In support of this latter opinion, many school completers who later applied for college or who moved into government employment positions (via affirmative action policies/measures) were often unprepared and incapable of meeting the academic rigors of college classes, or in the latter case, of effectively performing their job duties.

To further add more fuel to the K-12 grade educational fire, during this era of social and employment equality, teachers are continually striking or not showing up for work. “Teachers who don’t come to school or who don’t teach must face the consequences of non-performance or the system will never improve.  Performance management linked to accountability and effective professional development is imperative for the quality of schooling.” (Bernstein and Hofmeyer, June 1, 2015.  The Star News).

The collegiate level of South African education has not been untouched, as these issues of educational equality have impacted the quality of higher education as well.  Black secondary school graduates who chose to pursue a college degree had some incentives to do so, via these social reform measures. For example, public higher education institutions were mandated the following admission quotas for thee wishing to enroll in medical school.  Nearly all black applicants were accepted, thus reducing the number of slots for white applicants.  Unfortunately, very few of these black students had the necessary academic preparation to succeed.  Ultimately, most failed out, thus after ten years of this policy was instituted a current shortage of doctors now exists. Recognizing this problem, the following reformed medical school admission policies were recently instituted and are currently (2015) in place:

–         Top 40% of slots are based only on the applicant’s GPA—either black or white.

–         Second 40% of slots remain only for black applicants.

–         The remaining 20% of slots are for those who agree to practice medicine in rural areas upon completion of medical school.

Lastly, preferential employment treatment is given to black college graduates, causing a lack of job opportunities for white college graduates.  The vast majority of this latter group is choosing to leave the country (immigrating) to other nations in search of career opportunities and lifestyle advantages.  The result is that South Africa, according to some, is currently experiencing an academic and intellectual Brain Drain.

Study Questions

1)    Why are current education reform efforts not effective in meeting the educational needs of all students?

2)    How might schools work with the Ministry of Education to prepare qualified and effective teachers, thus helping to eliminate the teacher shortage?

3)    How can Non-governmental Organizations (NGO’s) work with the provinces to assist in alleviating the school shortage?

4)    How can core teacher competencies be nationally established and maintained? (How are they maintained in the U.S. system?)

5)    Identify some long-term (public and private sector) government initiatives that might work to stimulate revenue for the construction and maintenance of K-12 schools.

Potential solutions

1)    Provide NGO’s with a stimulus/incentive packages for establishing schools.

2)    Provide private sector enterprises with stimulus/incentive packages for opening shop in South Africa, thus expanding the tax base revenue for schools.

3)    Research how other developing nations have addressed similar educational issues by working through partnerships and incentive plans (i.e., Pakistan is an example of rapid, education system reform that involves a collaborative, rather than competitive, relationship between the public and private sectors.)

4)    Encourage and establish professional teacher associations charged with the establishment of quality teaching indicators and profession self-monitoring.

5)    Create on-the-job teacher certification programs (modeled after similar US alternative certification programs).



Visit Us On TwitterVisit Us On Facebook