Class, distribution and redistribution in post-apartheid South Africa

Type Journal Article - Transformation: Critical Perspectives on Southern Africa
Title Class, distribution and redistribution in post-apartheid South Africa
Volume 50
Issue 1
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2003
Page numbers 1-30
Soon after democratisation in 1994, the last vestiges of statutory racial discrimination were removed in South Africa. But the new government inherited a society where inequality could not be reduced to race alone and inequality persisted in the face of formal political equality. The best available data suggests that the Gini coefficient remained stable or even edged up during the 1990s, as inter-racial inequality declined but intra-racial inequality rose sharply.
Why has the demise of apartheid and the onset of democracy not been accompanied by a decline in inequality? As Aristotle noted two and a half millenia ago, democracy entails rule by the poor because the poor constitute the majority. Why hasn’t the formal equality of representative democracy induced the ANC to introduce more effective pro-poor reforms? Regrettably there are no careful studies of policy-making in the post-apartheid state corresponding to (say) Posel’s study of influx control under the apartheid state (Posel 1991). In the absence of such studies, we have to resort to the broad sweep of political economy, the strength of which is the linkage of politics to economics and the weakness of which is its treatment of the state as a ‘black box’.

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