Inequality gap in SA is a ‘farce’ and media spin, says Zuma
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PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma has described statements that the country’s inequality gap was widening as a “farce”, and said South Africans should stop falling for the “propaganda” and “spin”.
“Notions that the gap between the rich and poor in South Africa is widening is a farce. Why now, after 1994, do we say it’s widening?” asked Zuma.
Delivering his annual address to the National House of Traditional Leaders, at Parliament, he said that during apartheid black people in rural areas had not even been counted by the government.
“A huge population wasn’t counted. It was pushed into the homelands and many didn’t even have birth certificates. Only in 1994 did we remove restriction and let rural people move to urban areas. That’s why there’s no place to stay [in urban areas].
“The inequality gap is not growing since 1994, it’s narrowing. In pre-1994, there were no black businesses. There were only corner shops and perhaps some butchery. Poverty was worse than what it is now,” said Zuma.
He said the “spin” had increased since 1994.
Taking a swipe at the media, Zuma said: “People writing newspapers are educated and they think they’re writing the truth. It’s propaganda, and we also repeat it, nathi [us], because it is being said by educated people.”
But DA finance spokesman Tim Harris said Zuma was in denial about the inequality gap.
“The truth is… that the latest available statistics on income inequality show that overall inequality has grown steadily,” he said.
“Our economy has become characterised by ‘insiders’ who have jobs, homes and the prospect of rising incomes, and ‘outsiders’ who do not participate in the economic mainstream.”
Harris said experts put the blame for widening inequality on “an underperforming education system, the resultant skills shortages, and the government’s failure to create an enabling environment for job-intensive growth”.
Harris said that despite Zuma’s “best attempts to dispel the facts”, the gap between the haves and have-nots had increased consistently under ANC leadership.
He quoted World Bank lead economist for South Africa, Sandeep Mahajan, as saying: “South Africa is a complete global outlier in terms of its inequality and how inequality has been persistent over time.”
Zuma also denied the Marikana massacre was a sign South Africa was becoming a repressive state similar to that under apartheid, saying such incidents had been a “daily occurrence” during apartheid, and that the massacre could not be compared to what had happened before 1994.
“People were being killed left, right and centre. There was no one to stop it.”
Zuma said the Marikana inquiry was working to establish what happened on August 16, “so we can prevent similar tragic incidents in future in our beautiful country”. 8PBR