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Is Mandela's economic legacy positive?

Thursday, December 12, 2013
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Nelson Mandela

While there is no doubt that former South African President Nelson Mandela, who died last week at the age of 95, is deserving of every accolade that has been bestowed on him, there is some analysis in the international media which argues that his economic legacy may not be entirely positive.


Nearly 20 years after the pernicious system of apartheid was scrapped, questions are being asked about the extent of the economic and financial progress made by South Africa’s majority ethnic group, which comprises 79 per cent of the country’s population of 53 million people. Put another way, it is being noted that those who prospered the most from the apartheid system—the ethnic group that makes up 8.9 per cent of the country’s population—continue to prosper fabulously after 19 years of post-apartheid, majority rule.


Meanwhile, the lives of most of those members of the majority group—who were entitled to expect that the end of apartheid would have brought them dividends in terms of significant and measurable improvements in the quality of their lives—remain nasty, brutish and short. Much of the reporting on the South African economy emphasizes the fact that the unemployment rate remains very high, while the difference between the incomes enjoyed by the ethnic majority and minority remains as skewed as under apartheid: It is estimated that on average a minority household earns six times as much as a majority one


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