Skip to content

South Africans Disillusioned by Promises of Freedom

Twenty seven years into democracy, South African politics is still for the few. And those who complain the most have the least to grumble about. Since South Africa is highly unequal and remains divided into insiders and outsiders – those who benefit from the market economy and those who can’t – we might expect its politics to be a loud battle between those who have and those who don’t. Most commentators believe it is. Within the governing African National Congress (ANC), a battle rages between the “radical economic transformation forces”, who purport to champion the interests of the poor majority, and their market-friendly opponents. Outside it, the third biggest party, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), some in the ANC alliance and the advocates of black consciousness and pan-Africanism are assumed to speak for those who live in poverty. In the country’s insider politics, the majority who try to survive outside the formal economy are talked about, but are never heard. The “radical economic transformation forces” are people trying to gain a bigger share of what the few enjoy, not to share it with the many. The EFF’s chief concern is to challenge white privilege in the insider economy, not to open it to the outsiders. According to one survey, EFF members have, on average, higher incomes and qualifications than ANC members.