South Africa is a country replete with contradictions. On the one hand, it is a poster child for inequality. Tons of litres of ink have been used to tell the story of how South Africa is one of the most unequal countries in the world.

Just a little over 50% of South Africans live in abject poverty. Our country’s economic growth has been vegetating way before the Covid-19 pandemic. The inflation rate lingers on the high side. Unemployment has risen many notches above 30%. Flip the coin and you discover that ours is a country that has been hailed as having one of the most advanced constitutions in the world. It has a bill of rights that supposedly focuses on expanded socio-economic rights. All the glamour around this has failed to reverse the alarming statistics of poverty and inequality. Economic policies, and the socio-economic guarantees of the Constitution are all an illusion.

Colonialism and apartheid implicitly designed an unequal country. Geographically, the racist regimes, pre-1994, sliced South Africa into areas of viable farming controlled by white people, underprivileged homelands for black people and cities where the white elite had absolute domination and regulated all locale decisions.

This geographical arrangement reinforced pathological inequalities in the provision of education, health and other important services. As much as South Africa has been praised for its realisation of dinner dress political equality for its citizens, there is mounting dissatisfaction with the democratic decision arrived at in 1994.

There are two common ground charges that prevail. The first one is that 1994’s virtuous outlooks are dented, with intent by the political and economic elites. The second insinuates that 1994 was considerably uncompleted in that, regardless of the handover of political power to a majority government, it has fallen flat when it comes to addressing the control of the economy by a white elite…and a select politically connected blacks. Poverty and inequality remain unscathed. A plethora of lofty policies have failed dismally to alter the fact that ours is a country that continues to spawn extreme inequalities.

The recent violent unrest demonstrated that our country is a tinderbox, with its structural inequality and unemployment which drive people to desperation.

The economic mayhem created by Covid-19 has made things even ghastlier, with the economy shedding over two million jobs in the second quarter of 2021.

This is an extremely dangerous situation.

Circumstances enfolding poverty make it easier for fanatics to target the vulnerable and resentful feelings of our country’s underprivileged. Radical sections of society will find fertile ground to generate sympathy for whatever nefarious cause they harbour… resulting in the spread of violent unrests and subversive activities. To put it simple, inequality and poverty have the propensity to create pressure that may flare up into deadly civil disobedience. In March of 1991 when the civil war started in Sierra Leone, rebel leaders gained extensive support for their course from the country’s disillusioned youth who were shut out from any form economic activity.

Without meaningful resources for sustenance, the youth veered into violence as the only feasible way to better their lives. What this means is that those that sit hopeless by the side of the road, hungry and with no hope of accessing the promised ‘better life for all’, pose a serious threat to national security. Destitution has a disruptive consequence on our country, which may eventually lead to civil unrest and instability.

A 1986, United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution which states: “The right to development is an inalienable human right by virtue of which every human person and all peoples are entitled to participate in, contribute to and enjoy economic, social, cultural and political development, in which all human rights and fundamental freedoms can be fully realised.”

As leaders of the republic swiftly move from one blunder to the next, they must take heed that it is no shock that the people who are used as pawns by illegal organisations for drug trafficking, sex slaves, criminals, often come from the ranks of the unemployed, unemployable or dreadfully poverty-stricken.

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