United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has blamed apartheid for inequality in South Africa. 
File picture: Carlo Allegri/Reuters
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has blamed apartheid for inequality in South Africa. File picture: Carlo Allegri/Reuters

UN Secretary-General blames apartheid for inequality in SA

By Loyiso Sidimba Time of article published Jul 18, 2020

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INTERNATIONAL - United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has blamed apartheid for inequality in South Africa.

Guterres, a supporter of the anti-apartheid movement, delivered the 18th annual Nelson Mandela lecture virtually from New York on Saturday.

The lecture, titled Tackling the Inequality Pandemic: A New Social Contract for a New Era, was also in honour of the Struggle icon’s youngest daughter Zindzi, who died this week at 59.

”Colonialism created vast inequality within and between countries, including the evils of the transatlantic slave trade and the apartheid regime here in South Africa,” he said.

South Africa is one of the most unequal societies in the world, according to Statistics SA.

Guterres said even before the Covid-19 pandemic that prevented him from coming to deliver the lecture at the North West University, people around the globe understood that inequality was undermining their life chances and opportunities. 

He said millions of people across the world took to the streets to make their voices heard against high and rising inequalities.

According to Guterres, the anger feeding two recent social movements reflects utter disillusionment with the status quo.

“Women everywhere have called time on one of the most egregious examples of gender inequality: violence perpetrated by powerful men against women who are simply trying to do their jobs,” he said. 

Guterres said the anti-racism movement that has spread from the United States around the world in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder was one more sign that people have had enough.

He said people were tired of inequality and discrimination that treats people as criminals on the basis of their skin colour and the structural racism and systematic injustice that deny people their fundamental human rights.

Guterres identified colonialism and patriarchy as two of the historic sources of inequality.

He said the global north including his own continent of Europe imposed colonial rule on much of the so-called global south for centuries, through violence and coercion.

Despite a wave of decolonisation, Guterres continued, the legacy of colonialism still reverberates and this is visible in economic and social injustice, the rise of hate crimes and xenophobia, the persistence of institutionalized racism and white supremacy.

He said the global trade system also produced a new form of colonialism by getting formerly colonised countries locked into the production of raw materials and low-tech goods.

“Africa has been a double victim. First, as a target of the colonial project. Second, African countries are under-represented in the international institutions that were created after the Second World War, before most of them had won independence,” said Guterres.

He described millennia of patriarchy as another great source of inequality in the world.

“We live in a male-dominated world with a male-dominated culture. Everywhere, women are worse off than men, simply because they are women. Inequality and discrimination are the norm. Violence against women, including femicide, is at epidemic levels,” said the former prime minister of Portugal.

Guterres said women were still excluded from senior positions in governments and on corporate boards.

”Fewer than one in ten world leaders is a woman. Gender inequality harms everyone because it prevents us from benefiting from the intelligece and experience of all of humanity,” he said.

Guterres, who described himself as a proud feminist, has made gender equality a top priority and that gender parity was now a reality in top UN jobs.

He urged other leaders of all kinds to do the same.

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