South Africa is at risk of revolution unless it reduces high levels of inequality and poverty, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe said.
“The distribution of wealth is unfair, very skewed in favor of a few,” Motlanthe told reporters in Cape Town late yesterday. “It is something to be worried about. It’s an ingredient for revolution.”
The wealth gap has fueled discontent among mainly black, jobless South Africans excluded from the gains Africa’s largest economy has made since the end of apartheid in 1994. Poor communities staged 113 protests against a lack of housing, sanitation and other services in the first seven months of this year, more than in any other year since monitoring began in 2004, according to Municipal IQ, an independent local government research group.
“As public representatives we are not covering ourselves in glory,” Motlanthe said. “In many respects we are failing our people.”
Motlanthe, who is also deputy president of the ruling African National Congress, is backed by the party’s youth league as a possible candidate to replace President Jacob Zuma at an ANC elective conference in December. While party nominations only open in October and Motlanthe has yet to declare his candidacy for the top post, he has made several recent speeches criticizing the government’s performance.
The government’s failure in reducing the 25 percent unemployment rate has left too many people dependent on state welfare, the deputy president said.
“We are already in an untenable position in the sense that we already have 15 million recipients of grants,” he said. “That is not sustainable. It does not address the totality of what is required to attain a better life for all.”
Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan today echoed Motlanthe’s concern that high levels of inequality may add to discontent.
“Unless the world and indeed ourselves in South Africa find a solution to economic inclusivity, combined with really serious and deep political inclusivity, we will have serious fault lines,” Gordhan told a conference in Johannesburg today. “Nations fail when they have non-inclusive political and economic institutions.”
The Gini coefficient, a measure of income inequality, is 0.68 in South Africa, one of the highest in the world and more than the 0.67 at the end of white segregationist rule.
Motlanthe rejected claims that violence at Lonmin Plc’s Marikana platinum mine in North West province this month that led to the death of 44 workers, police and security guards may deter investment in the mining industry.
“Mining is unique in the sense that you can’t take it to another country,” Motlanthe said. “Investors know that. They are also aware that the industrial relations in South Africa actually produce a very stable work milieu. We don’t expect that investors would be put off or discouraged by these tragic developments in Marikana.”