Rebuilding Foundations

An exploration of international development work in Africa

Economic Apartheid

In his book, The Mirror at Midnight: A South African Journey (1991), Adam Hochschild argues that during the 1980s white politicians could foresee the inevitable end of apartheid.  Furthermore, they recognized the growing power of capital and economic privileges in international politics.  They knew the white elite could not hold onto political power much longer, but they could retain economic power – which was much more important in the emerging neoliberal world system.

South Africa’s mines were once nationalized, but the government began selling them to private businesses in the 1980s under the usual argument that privatization increases efficiency.  Many scholars argue, however, that the mines were privatized to ensure economic power remained limited to the elite few.

The following article by John Pilger criticizes the ANC for creating a new “economic apartheid” and provides an interesting follow-up to Hochschild’s arguments written over 20 years ago.

The recent Marikana Mine tragedy illustrates the separations that still exist in South Africa between workers and owners as well as politicians and the people they represent.  It was easier to condemn this nation when their oppressions were based on simple black/white divisions, but now it’s following the principles set by our own northern world leaders and international organizations.


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