Why Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) and Integration failing in South Africa?

Black Economic Empowerment

Our country became a democracy during 1994, but 21 years down the line we are still faced with a lack of housing for the majority of our people and economic equality. Surely many will say that South Africans are more equal now than most were during Apartheid, but why are we still faced with blames of racism and general hatred amongst races and classes? Where did our Government fail in particular to address these inequalities which have encouraged me to evaluate these issues from the property industry’s perspective?

Writer’s Summary of this Article:

I am of the view that our Government had dismally failed with BEE and Integration, because it has not stimulated our property industry at all for White people to also move to townships and rural areas like it had encouraged Black and other races to make their homes in historically White areas. The fact that a few White people have moved to townships only because they could not afford staying in richer areas, doubt those few White families as “trash” but millions of Black families must still be satisfied staying under those same or even worse conditions as well.

If one looks closer to what our Government did to ensure that there is proper integration of our people after several years of a draconian system of segregation, one will notice that its main aim was to bring our previously disadvantaged communities to our historically white dominated areas and allow them to integrate with the so called economically stable classes which were mainly dominated by White people.

Black Economic Empowerment
Another master cartoon by Zapiro

This worked relatively well only within these areas and today one will see many Black, Indian, White and Coloured people staying in harmony there. Most of them have integrated so well becoming great friends having social gatherings together and with the Rugby World Cup 2015 on our doorsteps we’ll even see them supporting the Springboks together, but for some reason those mainly Black people who were not so fortunate still staying in townships and in rural areas have still been left somewhat in a system of segregation and effectively not economically stable.

South Africa has been doubt the “Rainbow Nation”, but what does that actually mean for these millions of unfortunate people who must still endure poor housing and service delivery in these “segregated” areas? On paper Apartheid has been abolished, but segregation is still alive and well in these areas outside our economic powerhouse cities and towns for one great reason which everyone somewhat overlooked. I haven’t come across even one article or news clip which has been addressing what I have realised and identified occurring within the property market which could be the major factor why South Africa has failed with Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) and proper integration of all our races.

When I visit townships and rural areas, one thing is so obvious for me as a White Boer man standing out very clearly amongst everything else. Where are the White people staying amongst the previously disadvantaged people? Shouldn’t our Government have also concentrated in bringing White people considered to have the money for development to these areas as well and not only focused in bringing Black and other races to them?

Once in a while one reads in the media about a poor White family who decided that it was more cost effective to move to a township and these few White families are impossible to miss and become somewhat like celebrities where in many instances people flock there to have a look at them like animals in a zoo. “Just look at them! How can they stay amongst the Blacks under these poor living conditions?” are regular sentences being used by these mainly White visitors, but also the newly crowned “yuppie” Black youngsters who were privileged enough to obtain a university degree and afford staying in an upmarket apartment in Sandton.

I find it hard to comprehend how our economically stable people from all races can still identify these few White families as “trash”, but for several years (and still ongoing) so many Black and other races had to endure those same poor living conditions. These few White families are not supposed to be highlighted, but accepted as a symbol and part of those millions of others in similar or even worse conditions than they are.

Our Government has established very few programmes to invite property investors to our townships and rural areas to build multi-million Rand malls, but for some reason has totally left out bringing White families to these disadvantaged areas to stay and integrate amongst the mainly Black population and upgrading the housing around these commercial and industrial developments. Today our Government has still no plan on the table to encourage White people to fully integrate with the traditions and living conditions of our other races resulting in so many socio-economic problems and encouraging racism.

Driving through Soweto, above various other traditional townships, one will notice clusters of large luxurious homes only inhabited by those few Black people who have made the decision to stay where their hearts are and not minding to see a corrugated shack next to the mansion or in the area. For them who were brought up amongst their own poor people, moving to a Florida Hills luxury home nearby was clearly not an option which I really respect them for not following in the steps of hundreds of thousands of fellow Sowetans who traded their places of birth symbolising hardship for the “privilege” of staying next to a White family.

My opinion is that the economic stable classes in our country of which our White population is still considered to be the dominant, have absolutely no understanding of how the disadvantaged are feeling and the issues affecting them. The only way in which mainly White people can start to really understand these issues and actively do something about it, is to live in these areas and experience the same problems these communities are facing. If more White people are lured to the townships and rural areas of South Africa, it is possible to establish a culture of White integration into these poor and underdeveloped communities and to encourage direct household investment through these White families.

The problem amongst our people in general is that when a person from one race approaches another unknown person from another race, the logic assumption is that the other one is automatically a racist. If only this approach is handled in a slight different way by rather assuming that the other person is not a racist, our general acceptance for each other will be much different and more prosperous.

Traditionally Whites have been brought up and brain washed by European believes that races may not integrate and that each race should live separately. Unfortunately our Government has not focussed on changing this perception amongst White people by encouraging them as well to make their homes amongst the Black and other races of our country and not only telling White people to allow people from other races to live amongst them. Instead, those few White people taking that step to live amongst other races are now being outcast as “Trailer Trash” or even worse derogatory insults are thrown at them by not only their own White people but also by other races.

The fact is that due to the vast gap amongst economic classes in South Africa, the poor White group is the only one who would be eligible amongst our current standards to integrate with the Black communities by relocating from their White poor areas to the townships. However, this will in fact result that townships will become formally known as poor suburbs where the poor of all races are trapped in ghettos known in Western countries. Instead of encouraging integration, this will most definitely result in even more socio-economic problems which South Africa can’t afford at this stage of our democratic development.

But what can we do to encourage White people of all economic classes to make their homes within townships and rural areas? Firstly, I am of the view that estate agents working in townships and rural areas should start to market these properties amongst White people as well. By doing this, more White people will realise that there is absolutely nothing wrong for Whites to stay in these areas just like that there is nothing wrong with other races staying in predominantly White areas. White people will start to see the house prices in townships and compare it to the house prices in the cities and towns therefore making an informed decision when wanting to buy one.

South Africa can’t afford to have clusters of race exclusivity in our country and the fact that this is still so visibly happening, leads to race hatred. Blacks are saying that Whites staying in these clusters of Whites are racists while Whites say that because there are only Black people staying in Black clusters that these Blacks hate Whites. I know for a fact that there are really only a small minority of South Africans who are racists, but due to wrong assumptions I have mentioned earlier we are made to believe that all Blacks or Whites are racists preventing us from properly integrating with each other holistically.

Secondly, large corporations must be encouraged to build their head or regional offices in townships and also to develop housing schemes for these employees of all races around it. This will definitely stimulate Whites, Indians and Coloureds to make their homes in these townships and the same must also happen in predominantly Indian and Coloured areas.

For example, I regularly used to visit the Magistrates Court in Tokoza situated to the South of Alberton and it is impossible to miss that gigantic structure towering above the low cost houses around it. We thank our Government for building this Courthouse in this township, but how many of those employees working there are actually staying in the area? Surely from all the White people I have become to known there, none of them are Tokozans mostly staying in the traditionally White area of Alberton and even many of the Black employees are not even staying there. What did the Department of Justice and Correctional Services do to persuade these White people to move closer to their place of work, if that was even in its direction of thinking? A rhetorical question I suppose…

From my own experience as a White man, I really don’t think that it is a matter that these White people don’t want to stay in Tokoza near the Black and Coloured people. They were all simply not provided with the option by their employer the Government, or anyone else, to even think about it. After 21 years of a new democratic regime, White people were never provided with the option to make their homes within townships fully integrating with other races too. This has lead to the wrong general assumption that all Whites are racists and should have been done alongside encouraging other races to move to the White areas way back in the beginning.

We shall only be able to properly integrate with each other once race clusters are fully eradicated. We can’t just only focus in migrating Black people to predominantly White areas with no counter flow as well. It would have been much easier for South Africa’s democratic development if the Government had not only focussed in putting the fish in the bowl instead of removing the bowl so that every fish could have been able to swim freely around in the lake. Yes, the business centres are in our central business districts of our cities and towns, but just like hundreds of thousands of people commute between Pretoria and Johannesburg daily irrespective of the distance, there would have also been no problem commuting between the townships on the outer skirts of Johannesburg to the CBD at lesser distances for all these White people.

Thirdly, our Government should be working on generous BEE incentives for those businesses establishing their head quarters in townships and rural areas. For example, Telkom SA recently established a head quarter in Centurion, but could have easily made it in Tembisa or other nearby township for exactly the same or even less capital investment. For most of these managerial employees doing mostly office work, travelling to Tembisa from where they are staying would not have been an issue. If these corporations add a housing project for their employees with such an investment, Government should incentivise them even more.

The fact that there was no counter flow of White people to these disadvantaged areas is for me an indication that our Government has dismally failed with proper BEE and Integration of all our people. In particular, this is also an indication to me that our townships and rural areas are still being deprived of private capital investments from mainly the more privileged White people now putting our Government under severe pressure to implement more drastic measures to redistribute wealth like for instance land redistribution without compensation.

If South Africa through our Government and political parties like the Democratic Alliance (DA) and Freedom Front Plus (FF+) are not going to actively start a programme telling White people that it is acceptable to make their homes in townships too, South Africa stands a very good chance to burn within the next couple of years just because Integration of White people amongst other races was not stimulated the past 21 years as well. We are therefore way behind schedule and must start this process urgently.

I have only planted a seed now, but shall definitely write follow up articles about this important subject soon.