IT IS hard to think of anything more bizarre than SA’s transformation denialism and black-on-black racism.
Despite the fact that there has been a spectacular amount of transformation, the established consensus is that little has changed and that whites still own everything. Although black people have proven their ability to prosper from post-apartheid liberty, they are bedevilled by the myth that they need the government’s discriminatory helping hand.
A corollary of transformation denialism is pessimism. There is much to be pessimistic about, but there is also lots to celebrate. We can wallow in misery or acknowledge success and emulate its causes everywhere.
We should be worried, very worried, about having the world’s most despicable rate of sustained unemployment, spiralling government debt turning us into a Greek tragedy, comical communists in control of key government departments, unprecedented crime and corruption, government schools and hospitals that neither educate nor cure, the erosion of property rights, and a tsunami of destructive policies.
Many imagined miseries are nonsense. There has not been a "slow pace of transformation"; it has been astounding. What liberated black people have accomplished is not recognised because it has been and continues to be thanks largely to private enterprise rather than government coercion.
Almost everything you ever read or hear about what share of something blacks or whites have is false. Platitudes float around as if someone somewhere checked the facts. Myths about facts cause bad policies. Last week, my office gathered all available facts. Illustrative examples follow.
The number of black people earning more than R400,000 a year grew 1,000% from 120,000 to 1.2-million between 2000 and last year; 90% are in the private sector. The black middle class grew 333% from 1.8-million to 6-million. Between 1996 and 2011 total black disposable income grew 370% from R161m to R756m, and personal income grew 300%. There are more middle-class blacks in formerly white suburbs than the entire white population. Latter-day racists who demand coercive land redistribution do not know that black buying has grown to 50% of all voluntary transactions.
Post-apartheid racism is characterised by blacks underestimating blacks. Their factual misconceptions inspire counterproductive policies.
Blacks have not acquired only tiny proportions of land, listed shares, degrees, incomes, savings, judicial and managerial positions, etc. The percentage of black judges increased 248% from 25% to 62% between 2000 and 2012. Blacks in top management, and blacks with cars, doubled. Black phone ownership increased 223% (90% of households have cellphones).
Back literacy is up 50% since 1994. Youth illiteracy is nearly nonexistent at 4%. Black life expectancy defied AIDS and rose from age 53 to 60 in five years between 2006 and 2011. Private schools are 72% black, and blacks have more than half of all degrees. Blacks living on less than $2 a day fell from 16% to 2.5% since 1996.
Blacks are approaching or have surpassed 50% in almost everything: share ownership; new companies; medical aid membership; insurance policies; car sales; credit cards; and so on.
To say that little has changed, is a racist slur. It implies that apartheid did no harm, and that blacks are inherently incompetent, hence the proclivity for welfare dependency and racist policies. The welfare budget exploded from R10bn to R100bn between 1994 and 2011. Social grants are the main source of income for 40% of black households, of which the government is proud rather than ashamed. It takes no pride in the progress of self-sufficient blacks.
Two aberrations explain why the government denies what blacks have accomplished under its watch. First, the African National Congress’s (ANC’s) moribund alliance with the South African Communist Party enables the latter to cannibalise it from within. Second, the megalomaniacal lust for power requires citizens to believe that they have a crisis and that maximal power is the solution not the cause.
• Louw is executive director of the Free Market Foundation