n Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe - Armoede in Suid-Afrika

Volume 44, Issue 2_3
  • ISSN : 0041-4751


It is often alleged that the indigenous population groups in South Africa - like the San, the Khoikhoi and the different African tribes - were living in poverty and were undernourished before the arrival of the white people. Anthropologists are, however, of the opinion that this was not the case. They regarded poverty in the ranks of the indigenous population groups as a consequence of colonialism.
After the discovery of gold several laws were enacted to turn a large part of the African population into an impoverished proletariat with no choice but to seek contract labour - at very low wages - in the mines and on white farms. The black labour repressive measures were responsible for a systemic impoverishment of mainly the Africans for a period of almost 100 years. During the struggle period (1974-1994) stagflation and creeping poverty were experienced. During this period the income of the top 25% blacks increased sharply, while the income of the lower 60% blacks declined ever more sharply.
The ANC government was convinced early in the 1990s by the corporate sector to implement a neo-liberal and global-orientated economic policy. Consequently the trends of the struggle period - i.e. the enrichment of the top 25% of black people and the pauperisation of the lower 60% of black people - were perpetuated unabatedly over the past 10 years. Presently 22 million South Africans (or 48, 5%) are living below the poverty line. Over the past years income became more unequally distributed and the Human Development Index declined.

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