Monday, January 7, 2013

South Africa Falters as Unrest Spreads

Labour unrest, unemployment and income disparity in South Africa are posing a grave challenge to President Jacob Zuma and the ruling African National Congress. WSJ's Devon Maylie reports from Marikana.
- - Govt calls for peaceful farm strikes 07-JAN-2013 | SAPA | 1 COMMENTS Western Cape farmworkers need to be peaceful and remain calm when strikes resume this week, government spokeswoman Phumla Williams said. inShare Whilst employees have the right to engage their employers on matters relating to wage and working conditions, they are encouraged to refrain from violence and intimidation RELATED ARTICLES Zim stops foreign-owned farm seizures, cites lawsuits “Whilst employees have the right to engage their employers on matters relating to wage and working conditions, they are encouraged to refrain from violence and intimidation of other workers and the public in general,” she said in a statement. “Government will not tolerate violent labour disputes and calls on all parties to always strive to reach a common ground.” William said government had “noted” a planned illegal protest action by farmworkers, following a meeting at De Doorns by more than 1500 workers on Sunday. “Government urges citizens to exercise their right to protest peacefully, legally and within the ambit of the law.” Congress of SA Trade Unions provincial secretary Tony Ehrenreich said on Friday that farmworkers would take to the streets this week following failed pay negotiations with Agri SA and government. “We’re at the point where the mandate from workers is to resume the strike on 9 January 2013,” said Ehrenreich. He said Agri SA and individual farmers had not offered much in terms of negotiations, and workers had no choice but to continue their industrial action. The strike was suspended last year following an undertaking that negotiations would continue between workers’ representatives and individual farmers. This had apparently proved unsuccessful. Workers wanted R150 in pay per day and a coherent land reform programme. At least two people were killed during protests in farming areas between August 27 and December 4 last year. Sowetan News Zumangaung After the release of the National Development Plan (NDP) late 2011, the alliterative 2012 seemed to hold much promise. But it became a year of talk shops. For the first time ever, the national policy and elective conferences of the ANC, SACP, and Cosatu all fell in the same year. There was no implementing the NDP. Now at the end of 2012, once again hopes are raised; at Mangaung, President Zuma relaunched the NDP creating space for some cautious optimism. The long road to the ANC’s 53rd elective conference had stretched the party and its alliance partners almost to breaking point. But the ANC leadership held against the most sustained populist onslaught it has had to weather since coming to power. Those not purged at Polokwane, those not of the Zuma camp (roughly represented by about 900 of the 4 000 delegates) had their vain hopes to loosen the half nelson grip in which Jacob Zuma now holds the party dashed. The outcome of Mangaung was in terms of political expediency the best possible result for the ANC: continuity maintained, internal dissension firmly quashed, a deputy to lend it some dignity. Zuma will no doubt lead his corpse bride to victory in 2014. In the longer term however it will prove with hindsight to have been another symptom of the relentless process of desiccation at work in a steadily ossifying body politic. The internal election procedures on which the ANC prides itself have never in the history of the party seen such brazen gerrymandering. It was the party’s most crooked election to date. At grassroots level some simply do not accept the result. Yet, successful court applications and other legal threats it seems will not halt this Zanufication process. When he was its president, Nelson Mandela warned the party against electing unopposed candidates. It would have played extremely badly – in the eyes of the world too – had Zuma stood unopposed like Mugabe. But Zuma’s trusty old seat-warmer came to the rescue. As he did as interim president, Kgalema Motlanthe served his function. His lacklustre campaign suggests that this was a sham challenge all along, possibly a backroom deal, a straw man for Zuma’s opponents – a man whose most ambitious action was to withdraw his candidacy for deputy president. For all the talk of a principled stance, Motlanthe must have been well aware that had he actually challenged Zuma for real, combined with the suspect credibility of the internal election process, he might have risked tipping the party into a Cope-style leadership rivalry, something clearly not in his interest. Before Mangaung, the punditry were conflicted about Cyril Ramaphosa’s possible candidacy. Some thought the buffalo man was history after the Marikana massacre. They forgot that among the delegates gathered in the Mangaung tent, the shooting of renegade non-ANC affiliated miners is met with some approval. Others wagered that the deputy presidency would be beneath Ramaphosa, he’d wait to challenge for president. But the Tammany Hall of the ANC elite had realised, and convinced the president, that Ramaphosa was the ideal candidate to shore up the ANC’s deteriorating image in a world that had once put it on a pedestal. Foreign investment has all but dried up. While Zuma pursues his backward constituency (the only growth area in the party, shoring up the electoral defections elsewhere in the country), someone with lots of inoffensive bling has to stop the haemorrhage of middle-class urban voters Mbeki worked so hard to engineer. Need one mention that in assuming the deputy presidency Ramaphosa has the platform to rehabilitate his dented political reputation outside the tent (he may well be our president one day) and is at liberty to directly pursue what is in his best interests as a business mogul. The one incontrovertible thing the ANC had managed to give South Africa since it came to power was stability. But with so-called “popcorn protests” springing up all over the country and more strike action than there was under apartheid, many are losing faith. It should be of great concern to the ANC rank and file that the extremely poor and low contestation for the top six positions in their party shows a political culture that is less self-examining, less open, less democratic than it was even under the high-handed Thabo Mbeki. Having gutted his former comrade at Polokwane and expelled his most vociferous hecklers in the youth league, the man who inspired the exodus to Cope, Jacob Zuma, could safely lecture delegates on how “unity is the rock upon which the ANC was founded”. Having secured the presidency at any cost, because it is the only thing he has standing between him and an arrest warrant for corruption, Zuma could grandstand about how “we can stop corruption in its tracks”. The man with a R238 million safe house and profligate domestic arrangements spoke of “deep and glaring” inequality. Whatever one’s sentiments about the ANC, the fact is it will (and must) inevitably decline now that it is no longer a liberation movement but a political party without the oxygen of revolution. It no longer has a sure ideological footing, it mistrusts its own steps. The decadent squander of the centenary celebrations failed to re-inspire the masses. And by supressing the youth league the party has cut off its blood supply (even if it was the wrong blood type). Today, the Zuma ANC is like most political parties the world over – obsessed with its own factions, money and positions. It may only be whispered in private, but it is the reason why so many from the venerable past have fallen silent. The danger is that if it loses its democratic culture and resists historical processes as inexorable as they are beyond the control of any one of us, it will morph into something like Zanu-PF. Will the day come, when our revolution too, like so many before it, eats its own children? For now, that precious space, shrinking as it is, between the ANC as party and the ANC as government, is our saving grace. Follow Brent on Twitter. South Africa Newspaper Fights Government Censorship by John Campbell November 22, 2011 Mac Maharaj, former South African Minister of Transport, takes the stand at the Hefer commission of inquiry, to prove the spy allegations against the director of Public Prosecutions Bulelane Ngcuka in Bloemfontein November 17, 2003. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) The Mail and Guardian, an influential South African weekly, is accusing Jacob Zuma’s press spokesman, Mac Maharaj, of censorship. Maharaj threatened the newspaper with prosecution if it printed a report with accusations that he lied during the investigation of Jacob Zuma’s involvement in a shady arms deal more than a decade ago. The Mail and Guardian went ahead and published parts of the report, which Maharaj responded to by opening criminal charges. It has been announced that those charges will be investigated by the Hawks, an elite police unit. In the meantime, the Sunday Times alleges Maharaj received kickbacks from the French weapons contractor at the center of the arms investigation. The Mail and Guardian was a vocal apartheid critic, and it was established by journalists who had worked for the Rand Daily Mail and other liberal newspapers forced out of business during the later apartheid years. During apartheid, these newspapers would publish articles with censored sentences blacked out, so readers knew the extent to which a story had been censored. The Mail and Guardian repeated this tactic last week with the Maharaj story, thereby making the point that the ANC government was resorting to tactics characteristic of apartheid South Africa. Mac Maharaj is an old-line ANC stalwart from Natal, the center of South Africa’s south Asian population. He was imprisoned with Nelson Mandela and is credited with transcribing the latter’s autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom. The irony of associating him with apartheid-era press censorship would not be lost on South Africa’s liberals and likely was deliberately intended to embarrass him. The Mail and Guardian is a high quality must-read for southern Africa intellectuals, think tankers, and many in the business community. It is highly critical of the Zuma government, as it has been of its predecessors. Like much of the South African press, it is essentially seen as a “white” publication, though it has readers from all racial groups. The South African press is often accused by ANC leaders of being “unfair” and biased against a black government, and this episode should be seen in that context. CFR is closed Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday for the Thanksgiving holiday. I will resume posts on Monday. Posted in Africa, Corruption, Reports, South Africa Council on Foreign Transition - South Africa By PATRICK MCGROARTY and DEVON MAYLIE Labor unrest, unemployment and income disparity in South Africa are posing a grave challenge to President Jacob Zuma and the ruling African National Congress. WSJ's Devon Maylie reports from Marikana. JOHANNESBURG—Eighteen years ago, the African National Congress took control from a white-minority government that kept black South Africans down. Now, ANC President Jacob Zuma leads a black-majority government that has left many black South Africans behind. Black households earn less compared with their white neighbors than they did when apartheid ended in 1994. The gap between rich and poor is wider than when Mr. Zuma took office three years ago. And Mr. Zuma faces mounting opposition as he maneuvers for another term. Disenchantment with the government has fanned protests across the country. Unrest erupted in August in Marikana, northwest of Johannesburg, where police opened fire on striking workers at a platinum mine owned by Lonmin LMI.LN +1.62% PLC, killing 34 people. It was the most violent clash between police and workers since the end of apartheid. Two more people died on Thursday after a skirmish outside a platinum mine northwest of Johannesburg, where Anglo American Platinum Ltd. AMS.JO +0.16% fired 12,000 striking workers last week. One worker was set on fire on his way to work early on Thursday morning and burned to death, a police spokesman said. Forty-eight people were arrested after the incident on charges of public violence, and the police opened a murder investigation, he said. Enlarge Image AFP/GettyImages Some of the 12,000 workers laid off by Anglo American Platinum protest their dismissal and the death of a colleague last week. Also Thursday, talks broke down between unions and South Africa's three top gold producers, leaving production hobbled and some 70,000 workers in limbo. Mr. Zuma told a group of black business leaders that strikes posed serious threats to the country's economy and its ability to attract outside investment. "We must get the economy back to full steam and create the jobs that our people so desperately need," he said Thursday. The unrest is exposing a stark reality—South Africa is falling behind, even in Africa. When the ANC took control of South Africa in 1994, its advanced economy and relatively smooth transfer of power stood out. That same year, in Rwanda, some 800,000 people were killed, most of them members of the ethnic Tutsi minority shot or hacked to death by their neighbors, pastors or policemen. President Paul Kagame, leader of the rebel force that ended the genocide in Rwanda, has presided over a robust economic recovery, though critics accuse him of harassing political opponents. (Mr. Kagame has dismissed those allegations.) The East African country has posted annual economic growth near 8% since 2004, more than double South Africa's 3.7% growth rate during the same period. Mr. Kagame's government has lowered barriers for investors and aggressively courted international banks, telecoms and hotel chains to set up in the country. South Africa, meanwhile, has tried to block some investments, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s WMT -1.11% ultimately successful bid to enter the country last year. "Investors from the West…have grown a little bit arrogant," explained Gwede Mantashe, the ANC's secretary-general. "They will come here if they think they can make money. I have no illusions about companies coming here because they love us." Enlarge Image AFP/GettyImages President Jacob Zuma addressing the U.N. in September, has low approval ratings at home. Meanwhile, in Zambia, democratic elections in 1991 led the government to scrap a policy of mine nationalization. Heavyweights including China Nonferrous Metal Mining (Group) Co. Ltd. and Glencore International AG GLEN.LN -0.28% have invested some $8.8 billion in the decade through 2011. By contrast, South Africa is debating nationalization and other ways to intervene in the mining sector, while major mining companies like BHP Billiton Ltd. BHP.AU -0.26% are scaling back investment and selling operations. It isn't just slower growth rates causing political pain for Mr. Zuma. Brazil's economy has grown around the same pace as South Africa's, but President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva left office in 2010 with an 80% approval rate because income inequality had diminished and 35 million Brazilians had ascended from poverty into a nascent middle class. His successor, Dilma Rousseff, has pledged to pull 16 million more impoverished Brazilians into a better life by the end of her first term. In South Africa, income inequality has worsened since Mr. Zuma took office in 2009. His approval rating is around 40%. Some big things have improved in South Africa under the ANC. Nearly all citizens have access to electricity and clean drinking water today, compared with less than two-thirds in 1994. Welfare grants to 15 million poor parents and seniors have cut the proportion of South Africans living on less than $2 a day to 5% from 12% in 1994. "We have achieved a lot already in only 18 years, which is an indication of further progress to be made," Mr. Zuma said at a local governance conference in September. "This fact gets lost unfortunately in the hurly-burly of competitive politics." South Africa wasn't fated to struggle. After winning the first-ever free vote in 1994, the ANC took the reins of an economy that boasted Africa's biggest stock market and most advanced infrastructure. President Nelson Mandela instilled a spirit of reconciliation and left the white minority in control of the economy. He used steady economic growth to fund social spending to black villages and townships. Enlarge Image His successor, Thabo Mbeki, cut spending and privatized state enterprises. He also prioritized black ownership and hiring. But he was slow to tackle the HIV-AIDS epidemic that exploded in the 1990s and eventually killed hundreds of thousands of South Africans. Mr. Zuma has drawn flak for refusing to fire officials for poor performance. An education minister has kept her post despite a failure to deliver textbooks for six months to more than a million students in Limpopo province. Mr. Zuma said he was enlisting a "presidential task team" to explain the mix-up. The minister, Angie Motshekga, said in June that the government's critics were sensationalizing an isolated failure. "It is not that the Zuma administration is passing bad laws or doing evil things," said Allister Sparks, a South African author and political analyst. "It is that it is doing nothing at all while serious problems compound themselves." The ANC governs in an awkward coalition with the South African Communist Party and the Congress of South African Trade Unions—even as top ANC leaders have become some of the country's most visible business tycoons. Moody's Investors Service last month downgraded South Africa's debt one notch to Baa1 from A3, saying the government appeared increasingly unable or unwilling to address labor strife and inequality. "I don't know how they win back investors' faith in South Africa," Peter Davey, a metals and mining analyst at Standard Bank PLC. "They've almost crushed it." Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu said in August that her department would undertake a "process of collaboration" with mining companies and South Africans to regain the trust of both investors and workers. South Africa's union-driven wage hikes have deterred many foreign companies from tapping the vast pool of unskilled labor. At the turn of the century, some of South Africa's best-known companies, such as Anglo American PLC and SABMiller SAB.LN -0.77% PLC, moved their primary exchange listings to London, where it was easier to raise funding. As a result, the country lost tax revenue. The Marikana miners' strike started as a power struggle between two unions seeking to represent disgruntled workers living in cramped hostels or in shacks without running water or electricity. When the strike started in August, the National Union of mine workers, a political ally of the ANC's, blamed an attempt by its young rival, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, to recruit new members. When it ended the union said mine owners "exploiting" workers were to blame. "Marikana is just an example of monumental leadership failure," said Mamphela Ramphele, a veteran of the antiapartheid struggle and a former World Bank managing director. Speaking in August in Cape Town, Ms. Ramphele said "the unions, Lonmin, police…and of course the president were all missing in action." Through his office, Mr. Zuma declined requests to be interviewed. His spokesman, Mac Maharaj, defended the president's actions in the wake of the shooting, including his appointment of a judicial commission to investigate it. "From the time that violence arose the president has been deeply proactive," Mr. Maharaj said. Born in the rural Zulu heartland to a domestic worker mother and a policeman father who died when he was young, Mr. Zuma melds an easygoing image with the instincts of a veteran politician. But his populist appeal has been dented by scandals. Corruption charges against him linked to a government arms deal were dropped in 2009, a month before he took office. Mr. Zuma said at the time that the charges were politically motivated. Last October, he fired two ministers amid allegations that they violated ethics codes and misspent public funds. In December, 3,000 ANC delegates will vote on whether to keep him as their party leader. He needs that mandate to seek a second presidential term in 2014, and support isn't assured. "If we mess up in the ANC, we have messed up for the nation," said Mathews Phosa, the ANC's treasurer general. He said someone was likely to challenge Mr. Zuma, though no candidates have stepped forward. The ANC-led government hasn't gone far enough in addressing unemployment and income inequality, Mr. Maharaj, the president's spokesman, acknowledged. But he defended what he described as Mr. Zuma's collaborative approach to policy-making. "It may appear to some as too slow, it may be described as indecisive," Mr. Maharaj said. "But the fact is, carving a path forward by talking between labor, business, communities and government is one of the most delicate political acts." Meanwhile, Mr. Zuma's allies in the ANC have sought to whip up support for the embattled president. In May, thousands of protesters filled the streets of Johannesburg to demand a local art gallery remove a painting that depicted the president with his genitals exposed. "This government appears to be mostly using its forces to stay in power rather than to create a vision for South Africa," said Greg Mills, director of the Brenthurst Foundation, a Johannesburg think tank. Mr. Maharaj said it was inevitable that the government be "bedeviled with accusations that the incumbent government is neglecting urgent tasks" as the ANC leadership conference approaches. He said, "I think there is no evidence that President Zuma has at all slowed from attending to all those tasks at the community level, in the country, as well as in Africa and the world global economy." Mr. Zuma's travails deepened after the police opened fire on miners at Marikana. That day, Mr. Zuma announced he would rush home from a political summit in neighboring Mozambique to deal with the crisis, but didn't arrive for another 24 hours, when it was too dark to visit the site of the shooting. He didn't speak to the protesters for another five days. "President Zuma didn't come to hear us and what we want soon enough," said Siyamcela Male, a 26-year-old Lonmin miner. "The ANC doesn't want to help us. They want our vote and then they disappear." Mr. Maharaj said criticism about the timing of the president's visit was misplaced, and "doesn't help to find a way forward, it only looks back over one shoulder." Still, Mr. Zuma's critics made the most of his response. Among Mr. Zuma's fiercest critics is Julius Malema, a youth leader who was expelled from the ANC earlier this year for sowing divisions in South Africa's ruling party. Prosecutors recently charged Mr. Malema with money laundering. He was also hit with a nearly $2 million bill in unpaid taxes by the revenue service. Mr. Malema appeared in court recently but didn't enter a plea for the money-laundering charge. Outside of court, he said that he has done nothing wrong and that the accusations were politically motivated. Mr. Malema was the first top politician to visit the striking miners after the shooting. "Many are afraid to come close to you, especially those you elected," said Mr. Malema. Mr. Zuma arrived at the scene four days later. Shielded from the sun by aides holding broad umbrellas, he apologized for coming late. He said he needed to meet with mine executives and police before hearing the workers' side of the story. Write to Patrick McGroarty at and Devon Maylie at Corrections & Amplifications Brazil's President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva left office in 2010 with an 80% approval rate in part because income inequality had diminished. An earlier version of this article incorrectly said his high approval rating was due in part to diminishing income equality. A version of this article appeared October 12, 2012, on page A1 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: South Africa Falters as Unrest Spreads. Wall Street Journal S.Africa's De Klerk blames ANC for economic problems By Eric Piermont | AFP – Thu, Nov 1, 2012 Email Print View Photo Former South African President Frederik de Klerk gives a speech during the Employers' Association … South Africa's last apartheid president F.W. de Klerk has blamed the ruling ANC party for the country's spiralling social and economic woes. In a speech to business leaders late Wednesday, the 76-year-old De Klerk lambasted the wealth-redistribution policies of the ANC. He said they would cause "social engineering in which people's prospects would once again be determined by race, rather than by individual merit and circumstances." De Klerk hit out at what he called the Marxism-Leninism of some members of the ANC ruling alliance, which he blamed for widespread unemployment and the failure to attract investment. South Africa is experiencing one of its worst crisis since apartheid, which De Klerk helped end, earning him a share of the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize with Nelson Mandela. A wave of violent strikes led by miners demanding huge wage increases has rattled Africa's largest economy and highlighted the country's huge social discrepancies. De Klerk acknowledged that some of the country's woes were inherited from the apartheid but argued that the party of President Jacob Zuma was failing to deal with them. "The reality is that it has had to contend with enormous socio-economic backlogs inherited from the past," he said. "By the same token, it was also unfair to blame all the problems of the present on the past," he said, adding that "the ANC was primarily responsible for the current crisis." Yahoo News - - South Africa: Zuma Blames 'White Control' For Economic Woes, While Bidding For Second BY Palash R. Ghosh | June 27 2012 12:20 PM The president of South Africa has complained that his country’s economy remains under the domination of “white males” almost 20 years following the collapse of the apartheid regime. (Photo: Wikicommons) The ruling African National Congress is virtually guaranteed to win next year's election with party leader Jacob Zuma gaining another term in office, but the ANC has alienated and angered South African churches. Sponsored Link Open an account with TD Ameritrade Speaking at the opening of a policy conference of the ruling African National Congress Party (ANC) on Tuesday, Zuma declared that the government needs to undertake radical measures to transfer more of the nation’s wealth to the black majority. “The structure of the apartheid-era economy has remained largely intact,” Zuma told a large crowd of ANC delegates. “The ownership of the economy is still primarily in the hands of white males as it has always been.” He also warned that despite some gains made over the past 18 years, the deep-seated problems of poverty, unemployment and inequality posed long-term risks for South Africa. Among other measures, Zuma’s ruling party has proposed that the nation’s key mining sector pay more in taxes to finance social spending and also wants to encourage state-owned enterprises to create more jobs. “The time has come to do something more drastic toward economic transformation and freedom,” Zuma said. Some in the ANC have long demanded that South Africa’s mining companies be nationalized, but there is disagreement within the party over this issue. While some radical party members, like former Youth League leader Julius Malema, believe that state ownership of mines would ease high unemployment among black people, a research paper produced by the party itself earlier this year warned that nationalization of mines would bankrupt the state. Other youth members of ANC have called for the state to confiscate white-owned farms, echoing language heard in the past in neighboring Zimbabwe, which led to violent seizures of white-owned land there by the government of Robert Mugabe. There is indeed a deep racial economic chasm in South Africa that democracy has failed to fix. One half of the overall population (which is 80 percent black) remains trapped in poverty. According to Statistics South Africa, the unemployment rate for blacks (29 percent) is almost six times the rate for whites (5.9 percent). On the whole, about one in four South Africans is jobless. The London-based economic consulting firm IHS Global Insight estimates that whites in South Africa have an average income seven times larger than that of blacks. Indeed, with the exception of Cyril Ramaphosa, the executive chairman of private holding company Shanduka Group and prominent mining executive Patrice Motsepe, almost all of the dominant business leaders in South Africa are white -- including Marius Kloppers, the chief of BHP Billiton, the world’s largest mining company; Brian Joffe, the boss of the Bidvest Group conglomerate; Jacko Maree, CEO of Standard Bank Group, Africa’s largest financial services conglomerate; Raymond Ackerman, the founder of retail giant Pick n Pay; and Nicky Oppenheimer, chairman of the mining giant De Beers Group and the wealthiest man in the country. However, while Zuma may be partially correct in his assertion that the white minority exerts a disproportionate influence on the economy, he may be seeking to curry favor with the black population ahead of an election for ANC party leadership later this year. Whoever is the ANC leader is virtually guaranteed to win the next presidential election in 2014. A victory in that poll would keep Zuma in power until 2019. “My initial impression is that President Zuma’s opening speech was primarily political – designed to win a second term – and mollify critics on the left – and the poor,” said Pat Thacker, Africa Analyst for the Economist Intelligence Unit in London. “It’s also convenient to still blame apartheid for the government’s failings -- although that position is getting a little dated now.” Thacker adds, however, that while the issue of nationalizing the mining sector will not be addressed by the government, it may seek to impose higher taxes on mine companies and also speed up efforts at land - - International Business Times - Zuma: I didn't know there were poor whites 24 JUL 2008 17:42 - DENISE WILLIAMS African National Congress president Jacob Zuma on Thursday addressed a gathering of more than 1 000 poor white Pretoria residents. MORE COVERAGE Solidarity wants Zuma to address white poverty Poverty is one of the biggest challenges facing the majority of South Africans and it does not discriminate according to racial lines, African National Congress president Jacob Zuma said on Thursday. He was addressing a gathering of more than 1 000 poor white Pretoria residents in the city’s Bethlehem settlement. On what he referred to as a historic day, Zuma, flanked by Social Development Minister Zola Skweyiya and Tshwane mayor Gwen Ramokgopa, told the people that the government is committed to hearing and resolving their plight. “We are dealing with problems that affect our people and they are problems of life and death,” he said, adding that he was “shocked and surprised” by the reality of poverty in the white population but that he was “itching” to interact with the people to find solutions. Zuma said he had met businessmen, wealthier Afrikaners and farmers, but had not until recently been aware of the poor white Afrikaners in the Tshwane area. “All this time I did not realise a section [of the population existed] that could be referred to as poor whites.” He said it was only when he met trade union Solidarity—which hosted and organised Thursday’s gathering—before his first visit to the informal settlement that he became aware and realised the importance of concentrating on the poor. “They told me there is poverty ... I said, ‘Are you sure?’ They said, ‘Absolutely sure.’” Growing problem Solidarity general secretary Flip Buys said poverty is still the biggest problem for poor black people but that “new white poverty” is growing fast. Between 1997 and 2002, he said, white unemployment had risen by 106%. “The problem is, it isn’t politically correct to talk about white poverty, but poverty knows no colour.” Skweyiya echoed the sentiment, saying white poverty is not a myth. He said the government had come to listen to the people and is committed to resolving their problems. “There is a perception that there is no poor among the white people. This [large gathering] proves beyond a reasonable doubt that this is a myth,” he said. Ramokgopa said it was not the first time that she had been working with the poor whites in her municipal area, adding that she will continue to work with the new ward councillor to bring about change. She said rising food and energy costs could also “tip” those who are just above the poverty level into a poverty situation. She urged people to register for social grants. “We need to ensure that this city is a caring city and that we uproot poverty.” Wait and see Despite holding an application for a social grant, Joseph von Berg—who is unemployed and lives in a homeless shelter—said he has tried repeatedly but never been given any financial aid from the government. “I’ve lost a lot of jobs [because of my epilepsy] but I’ve never been helped,” he said. Sharan de Lange, founder of the Uncle Ben’s Den mission and shelter, said she will wait to see if Zuma and the government will deliver on their promises. “I’m positive, but I’m a girl who wants to see. It’s good, but only if they do what they promise.” She said her mission, which houses more than 100 homeless and elderly people, has not received any help from the government—only from Solidarity and various religious organisations. Her biggest complaint is the water and electricity tariffs, which she wants the government to subsidise. She pays between R10 000 and R12 000 a month for these services. “If this [the subsidy] comes out of this meeting, then I will be glad,” she said. Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Mulder said Zuma’s visit to Bethlehem gave the party hope for the future of the country. “This approach differs hugely from the approach of the current government that South Africa consists of one white wealthy community and one poor black community.” He said the ANC will still have to do much more than just take note of the reality of increasing poverty among white people. “A new policy on poverty alleviation will have to be created which is implemented on a non-racial basis,” said Mulder.—Sapa Mail & Guardian - - COMMENTS BY SONNY Zuma has had his fun at Manaung. We hope that his attack on the whites of South Africa was misconstrued as usual. The 2011 Censorships were flawed and don't tally with reality. The DA opposition should call on the President to look into his assumptions that SA White earn more and are wealthier than all other races in SA. In which civilised country are National Censorships done in pencil? We demand that the President appoint an independent commission to investigate the allegations! An independent body should check the results and interview SA citizens to verify the true position in SA. Numerators were seen 'in public' where they were altering results on the forms. Communist propaganda and rhetoric should not be tolerated in South Africa! The ANC may be in power now, however, they are fallible and can easily be replaces by more democratic powers! The ANC needs investigation for corruption and theft, not the white electorate. SOUTH AFRICA COULD STILL BECOME PART OF THE "AFRICAN SPRING!"

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