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South Africa Pushed to the Limit

South Africa Pushed to the Limit

Hein Marais


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Since 1994, the democratic government in South Africa has worked hard at improving the lives of the black majority, yet close to half the population lives in poverty, jobs are scarce, and the country is more unequal than ever. For millions, the colour of people’s skin still decides their destiny. In his wide-ranging, incisive and provocative analysis, Hein Marais shows that although the legacies of apartheid and colonialism weigh heavy, many of the strategic choices made since the early 1990s have compounded those handicaps. Marais explains why those choices were made, where they went awry, and why South Africa’s vaunted formations of the left -- old and new -- have failed to prevent or alter them. From the real reasons behind President Jacob Zuma’s rise and the purging of his predecessor, Thabo Mbeki, to a devastating critique of the country’s continuing AIDS crisis, its economic path and its approach to the rights and entitlements of citizens, South Africa Pushed to the Limit presents a riveting benchmark analysis of the incomplete journey beyond apartheid.
Hein Marais is a South African writer, journalist and author of 'South Africa: Limits to Change - The Political Economy of Transition' (Zed Books, 1998 & 2001), 'To the Edge' (2000) and 'Buckling: The impact of AIDS in South Africa' (2005), as well as numerous other book chapters, essays and articles.
'An extraordinary achievement. This is, by a considerable margin, the best book yet on the political economy of South Africa. Marais combines an unrivalled knowledge of the literature with a prose style that is accessible, moving and witty.' John Sender, Emeritus Professor of Economics, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London 'A classic. I doubt whether anyone can match Marais' grasp of where South Africa is at today.' Bill Freund, Professor of Economic History, University of KwaZulu-Natal and author of 'The Making of Contemporary Africa' 'Combining powerful analysis with a wealth of documentation, this book provides by far the best overview of political, economic and social change in post-apartheid South Africa. Essential reading for anyone trying to understand one of the great social experiments of our time.' Gillian Hart, Professor of Geography and Chair of Development Studies at the University of California at Berkeley and author of 'Disabling Globalization: Places of power in post-apartheid South Africa'

Table of Contents

Section Title Page Action Price
Acknowledgements ix
Introduction 1
Pushed to the limit 4
1 The making of a polarised society 7
The mould is cast 8
The rise of the working classes 11
Illusions of strength 12
The rise of African nationalism 13
Afrikaner nationalism’s triumph 15
Iron fist ‘development’ 17
The post-war growth path 18
The minerals-energy complex 19
Fight-back 21
The turn to armed struggle 23
Into the doldrums 24
Apartheid’s harvest 26
Cracks in the system 27
Endnotes 34
2 Saving the system 39
A new wave of resistance 39
The party’s over 41
Recasting the divide 43
Seizing opportunities 44
‘Total strategy’ 45
Panic attack: from resistance to ‘revolution’ 48
‘Workerists’ and ‘populists’ 48
‘Everything is political’ 49
The state shifts course 52
Costs of insurrectionism 53
Taking stock 56
Stalemate 58
At the crossroads 60
Leap into the unknown 62
Government-in-waiting 64
Deadlock 66
Endnotes 66
3 Contours of the transition 69
Big stakes, high risks 69
Taking the plunge 71
Breaking the rules 72
Terms of the deal 74
Hidden hazards 77
Tectonic shifts 79
Change and continuity 80
Bypassed 82
Salvaging the economic system 84
South Africa in the global economy 87
Shifting the terms of incorporation 90
The triumph of orthodoxy 91
Endnotes 94
4 Sticking to the rules: the evolution of post-apartheid economic policy 97
Catching up 99
Back to school 99
Drawing pictures 101
Converted: ANC economic policy in the early 1990s 103
‘No alternative’ 105
The quiet death of the MERG report 107
Marching with history 108
The myth of the weak state 109
Rude awakenings 111
The GEAR plan 112
Putting the best foot forward 113
Report cards 117
Defending GEAR 119
Endnotes 120
5 All dressed up: the economy in the twenty-first century 123
Rewind: South Africa’s economic makeover 123
Post-apartheid investment patterns 125
Nip and tuck: the conglomerates restructure 127
Figure 5.1: Industry, value added, South Africa and various other middle-income countries, 1990–2008 128
Melting into the air: the financialisation of the economy 128
Figure 5.2: Gross fixed capital formation as percentages of GDP (2009 prices), South Africa, 1946–2008 131
Recap: a familiar story 132
The meanings of neoliberalism 134
Variations on a theme 136
‘Muddling along’? 138
Stuck in the middle 139
Back from repairs: black economic empowerment in the 2000s 140
The functions of BEE 141
State of denial 144
Figure 5.3: Annual GDP growth (%), South Africa, upper-middle-income and lower-income countries, 1990–2007 145
Figure 5.4: Annual percentage changes in GDP and GDP per capita, South Africa 146
Responding to the recession 147
Reviving South Africa’s industrial drive 150
Breaking the mould 152
The ecological frailty of South Africa’s development path 153
Burning down the house 154
Hoodwinked 155
Shifting the blame 156
Untenable growth 158
New approaches to growth 165
Endnotes 168
6 The world of work 176
Not hiring 176
Figure 6.1: Official unemployment rates, South Africa, September 2000 to March 2010 177
Recession 178
Explaining the ‘jobs bloodbath’ 179
Working poor 181
The myth of the magic portal 183
Holding the line 185
The state of the trade union movement 187
Shifts underfoot 189
Public works — or does it? 190
Money well spent? 191
The big picture 193
Double vision: the ‘two economies’ 193
Endnotes 198
7 Poverty and inequality in the post-apartheid years 203
Is poverty decreasing? 204
Figure 7.1: Average annual income and expenditure of South African households by population group of household head, 2005/06 204
Measuring poverty 206
Less poor, more unequal 208
Figure 7.2: Distribution of household income across deciles, South Africa, 2005/06 208
Figure 7.3: Distribution of South African households by expenditure quintiles and population group of household head 209
Figure 7.4: Distribution of South African households by income quintile and population of group of household head, 2006 210
The social wage debate 211
Defining the social wage 211
Tracking improvements in the social wage 212
Figure 7.5: Social wage provision in South Africa, 2002–08 213
Slow harvest: land reform 217
That hollow feeling: food and hunger 218
A sickly society 219
The fetish of coping 221
Microfinance: small change 224
Microfinance under the microscope 225
Crime, violence and justice 226
Woe to the women 228
Cycles of violence 229
Wedged apart 230
Endnotes 231
8 The social protection system 238
Social expenditure in South Africa 238
The main social grants 238
Origins of the system 241
Hit and miss: means-testing and targeting 243
The impact of social protection on labour supply 245
Grants, poverty reduction and development 246
The universal income debate 247
‘It’s not the money, it’s the idea’ 248
The radical potential of a universal income 250
Dependency and shame 252
Lineages of a taboo 254
Social rights, the state and the market 255
Endnotes 257
9 AIDS and TB: like ‘waiting for a tidal wave to hit’ 262
An overview 262
Double blow: tuberculosis and AIDS 264
Entanglements of risk 265
A political economy of AIDS in South Africa 267
A disease of poverty? 267
The uneven distribution of HIV in South Africa 269
History’s template 271
Lives turned upside down 272
Sexual networking 274
Aiding and abetting: government’s AIDS response 276
The impact of a hyper-epidemic 281
History lessons 282
Keeping perspective 283
Home is where the hurt is 284
An unhealthy system 288
Learning to cope? 289
AIDS on the bottom line 290
An unequal epidemic in a polarised society 293
Turning the tide 294
Fragmentation, introversion, erasure 298
Endnotes 300
10 False starts: the health and education systems 309
Rebuilding the health system 309
Skewed spending 310
Figure 10.1: How South Africans pay for their healthcare needs 311
The private health system 312
A national health insurance scheme 314
Sick system 316
Diagnosing the problems 319
Intensive care 321
Worlds apart: the new education system 322
The doors of learning open 323
The best education money can buy 324
Engines of inequality 327
A bridge too far: the folly of outcomes-based education 329
Recasting higher education 331
Repair work 332
Endnotes 333
11 A South African developmental state? 338
In search of models 339
The Asian ‘blueprints’ 340
Civil society and developmental states 342
Developmental states in the twenty-first century 343
Closer to the ground: subnational ‘developmental states’ 344
A South African developmental state? 346
Things we learn when the lights go out 348
Beneath the hood 349
Decorative development 352
Endnotes 356
12 Last man standing: the Mbeki-Zuma battle 360
The arms deal 361
Face-off: Zuma versus Mbeki 363
Take no prisoners (on the road to Polokwane) 363
Everybody hates Thabo 365
Made to order: the Zuma challenge 370
What was the Mbeki-Zuma duel really about? 375
Invincible? 375
Salvage operation 378
That special ‘something’ 381
Endnotes 384
13 Power, consent and the ANC 388
Rewind: the road travelled 388
Hegemonic struggles 391
Power, state and society 392
Work in progress 394
Reform from above 397
Prospects for hegemony 401
Circling the wagons 407
Damage control 414
Nationalism and the boundaries of belonging 417
Pandora’s box 423
Reinventing authority, rebuilding power 424
Endnotes 428
14 Left behind: challenge and protest 434
The gravity field of national liberation 434
Give and take 436
COSATU and the SACP take a shortcut 439
Popular activism beyond the Alliance 447
Dazed and confused 447
Taking the gap 449
‘With us, or against us’ 453
‘Movement beyond movements’ 457
Keeping perspective 459
Endnotes 460
Acronyms 464
Bibliography 466
Index 523