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The end of the apartheid system in South Africa left the country socio-economically divided by race. Subsequent government policies have sought to correct the imbalances through state intervention.

Economic inequality and Black Economic Empowerment

Many of the inequalities created and maintained by apartheid still remain in South Africa. The country has one of the most unequal income distribution patterns in the world: approximately 60% of the population earns less than R42,000 per annum (about US$7,000), whereas 2.2% of the population has an income exceeding R360,000 per annum (about US$50,000). Poverty in South Africa is still largely defined by skin colour, with black people constituting the poorest layer. Despite the ANC government having implemented a policy of Black Economic Empowerment (BEE), blacks make up over 90% of the country's poor at the same time they are 79.5% of the population.[1][2]

Part of the policy of Black Economic Empowerment is the imposition of 'employment equity' targets. In terms of this, companies are assessed based on their racial composition. To attain the 'correct' racial balance in a company, the Employment Equity Act allows for legal discrimination against White males and to a lesser extent White females when appointing staff. Government contracts and a few in the private sector are also preferentially awarded to companies with good BEE ratings. In September 2006 the Labour Ministry ordered private companies to classify their employees according to race. The classification was to be done based on a form that every employee had to complete, which used the apartheid-era racial categories. On the form the employee had to confirm whether they regarded themselves as White, Indian, Coloured or African.[3] This caused some controversy and some employees refused to classify themselves saying it was a return to the race classification system of the Apartheid era. In such cases employers were forced in terms of the Employment Equity Act to do a classification based on the general appearance of those employees who refused to classify themselves.

Land ownership inequality and land claims

Eighty percent of farming land still remains in the hands of white farmers;[4] the requirement that claimants for restoration of land seized during the apartheid era make a contribution towards the cost of the land "excludes the poorest layers of the population altogether",[1] while a large number of white farmers have been murdered since 1994 (roughly 313 per 100 000 annually) in what campaign groups claim is a campaign of genocide.[5][6] Human Rights Watch contend that the publicity given to these murders and attacks removes attention from the plight of poor black rural people, and contend that they are purely criminal in nature.[7] Regardless, crime against white farmers receives strong media coverage. Opposition against land reforms fear that by removing commercial farmers from their land and dividing up the land to poor urbanized people with no comprehension of agriculture or agricultural management would lead to a state of famine like the one being experienced in Zimbabwe at the moment.

In Durban a large movement of shackdwellers has mobilized against city authorities claiming that popular attempts to desegregate the city in the 1980s are now being reversed by the mass eviction of shack dwellers.

HIV/AIDS epidemic

In 1982, the first recorded death from AIDS occurred in the country. Within a decade, the number of recorded AIDS cases (overwhelmingly in the black population) had risen to over 1,000, and by the mid-1990s, it had reached 10,000.

In late 1980s, the South African Chamber of Mines began an education campaign to try to stem the rise of cases. But without a change in the underlying conditions of mine workers, a major factor contributing to the epidemic, success could hardly be expected. Long periods away from home under bleak conditions and a few days leave a month were the apartheid-induced realities of the life thousands of miners and other labourers worked. Compounding the problem was the fact that as of the mid-1990s, many health officials still focused more on the incidence of tuberculosis than HIV.

See also


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