The often stated, “You people had 30 years and you stuffed up the country” is grinding the patience of black people.
Black forgiveness is very real. But it is wearing thin. Across media platforms, white voices drive this “30-year narrative” and black voices echo them.
South Africa has huge challenges of unemployment, low education levels and chronic poverty.
We also have a government that has struggled to keep its word on policy promises and its fingers out of the till.
Notwithstanding, one of the most insulting statements currently is where largely white people use lingering black poverty to point to the failure of the ANC government.
Has the government been found to be inept and corrupt? Unequivocally yes. Should more have been done? Yes.
But let’s look for a moment at the “arm blanke vraagstuk”, the poor white issue of 1916, that became a big issue for the government and the Dutch Reformed Church (DRC) at the time.
It took these parties 16 years to just discuss and research white poverty. With conferences in Cradock, Stellenbosch, and Bloemfontein between 1916 and 1922, attended by DRC clergy, politicians, and academics, and later involving the US Carnegie Foundation
that did a study on the issue and published its report in 1932, it found white poverty was chronic and affected 17% or 300 000 white people out of a white population of 1.8million.
Pause for a moment: Using 1652 as the nominal starting date up until 1932, the date of the release of the Carnegie Report, the task of identifying and documenting the plight and powerlessness caused by white poverty took 300 years, despite various white governments being in power at the time.
Some claim the Carnegie Report was the blueprint for the 1948 apartheid policies. Between 1948 and 1994, white wealth exploded with a burgeoning middle class, upper middle class, and the super-rich. How did this happen?
It happened because, using the data of and recommendations made in the Carnegie Report, the governments in power prior to and after 1948, provided jobs for uneducated and partially educated white persons on the mines, railways, harbours, police, military, forestry, and at all levels of government.
Parastatals such as Yskor and Eskom were formed. Universities became partners and accelerated white education.
To further help white people, the Carnegie Report painted a painful picture of “the psychological traits of the poor white person, highlighting an isolation mentality in the psyche of the poor white person. The report recommended steps towards improving education and reducing social isolation, and addressing their diet, in addition to increasing government subsidies to poor white people urgently”.
Prof Herman Giliomee, in his book states that: “The so-called poor white problem became the most pressing social issue in Afrikaner politics early in the 20th century.”
It took various white governments 309 years to solve white poverty (16521961) and a further 33 years to cement white wealth (1961-1994).
Broad-based white economic and political empowerment was a policy from 1652 up until 1994 that initially served 300 000 poor white people out of a population of 1.8million white people in 1936, and later benefiting all 5million white people in 1994.
And all done at the deliberate and calculated impoverishment of the black majority.
Today, 18million black people are living in extreme poverty, earning between R760 and R1558 per month, out of a population of 60million.
In 1916, the government had to deal with 17% of the white population and only 6% of the total South African population.
They took 45 long years to fix white poverty and cement white wealth.
In 2024, the government is dealing with more than 30% of the population. Think again before you use the 30-year insult when you have benefited from both a short-term 45-year and long-term 342-year economic empowerment programme.
* Lorenzo A. Davids.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.
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