“If we had answers to the fundamental problem of unemployed youth in this country, then we would have solved it.”
– Trevor Manuel
Pervasive unemployment has been a feature of the South African economy since the 60s, peaking in the 70s and continuing to rise in the 80 and 90s. A worrying corollary to this structural unemployment – with its excruciatingly lengthy durations (often up to 3 years) – is the building up of human capital deficiencies among the affected, and the inheritance of these by adolescents still in the education system. A South African Labour and Development Research Unit Working Paper (2008) has already warned that, South African youth “are uncertain about the value of their abilities and schooling as well as the timing of job offers and earnings after studies.” South Africa is a developing country. There’s plenty of work to be done, and enough idle hands to do it; but herein lies the rub: how to seize these idle hands in their youth, and train them up in the way they should go - that is, familiarise them with the world of work - so that when they are old, they will not depart from it.
We examine, in the following pages, the vicissitudes of growing up in post-apartheid South Africa, with particular focus on that crucial transition from adolescence into adulthood; that very uncertain period when the young person has to leave school and enter the world of work. Of particular concern to us is why this actually never happens for a vast number of young South Africans. What, we may ask, accounts for the racial disparities that are so prevalent when it comes to early socialisation into the world of work among South African youth? Here’s an alarming statistic: between the ages of sixteen and seventeen, over 50% of White boys and girls are already in the “work & school” category; for Black boys, on the other hand, the rate of work at the same age group is 7%, and for black girls it’s 1%. We try to account for this, and other similarly shocking statistics, by examining some of the dis-contiguities of Black life in the house that Apartheid built; the Black disadvantage, and its corollary in White disadvantage that became a systemic feature of the South African social economy; the “facts on the ground” that were created, as it were, over the centuries that this terrain became a country of “the Anglosphere” or what Guy Mhone described as an “enclave economy” (Lam, et al, 2009:10; Bond, 2007).
This sort of “structural analysis”, then, would account for the racial differences in rates of work among South African youth by looking at the “extreme spatial segregation” that has, throughout our history, placed White youth in “closer geographic proximity to jobs” while placing Black youth on the periphery – adolescents tend to be mostly employed as supplemental part-time workers in retail sales & clerical jobs, and the low wage service sector, in other words, they tend to be employed in city jobs. Jeremy Cronin makes an unrelated but interestingly pertinent point in John Saul’s Empty Chalice, an acerbic response to A Poisoned Chalice: Liberation, ANC-style by John Saul published in Amandla! Magazine:
Even at the height of popular militant action through the 1970s and 80s, the wave upon wave of uprisings were only ever quasi-insurrectionary in character. Then, as now, the South African working class and urban poor, largely confined to peripheral dormitory townships, are not in relatively easy marching distance of a Winter Palace. (I don’t have current statistics for St Petersburg, but the average working class commute in today’s Moscow is 7km, for instance; compare this to Tshwane’s 25 km!).
Persisting apartheid-style, dormitory townships at distance from work, amenities, resources and other loci of power continue to ensure the reproduction of a displaced and disadvantaged working class.
The comparative disadvantage of black youth is thus written in the very geography of the country (Lam, et al., 2009:11).
There was essentially a large bureaucracy in South Africa that, for its purposes, built Black life to be “discontiguous”, and locked into the lowest strata in an economic caste system. “Discontiguous”, as opposed to cohesive, in that the Black family is often disjoined and apportioned, not only in geographic space but also in economic space. At any given time the black family will inhabit and survive within what Mhone called the “tri-modal economic structures” of an “enclave economy”: the formal economy (Mom works in the city), a rural peasant economy (daughter lives with grandparents in the former rural homelands) and an informal economy that mediates between the two (unemployed family members with “hidden employment” in the same household). This, of course, follows from the policy of removing and relocating Blacks to rural homelands and giving them temporary migrant work contracts; and also to dormitory townships with formal “tenuous but highly valued formal rights to permanent residence and work.” This is the world that Apartheid built for the black child to grow up in.
The phenomenon of black disadvantage in South Africa – particularly the “deficiency in educational accumulation” among Black youth, the grade repetition which is “a fundamental feature of African schooling (SALDRU 2008)” and other curious social indicators – takes on rather sinister undertones when one notices that other comparable social economies in Africa which are significantly poorer than South Africa, have significantly better outcomes. Examining the history of South Africa’s history of social and political “caste formation”, a 1997 Social Indicators Research study (Lawrence Schlemmer and Valerie Møller) points out that “South Africa’s GNP is some 38% of that of the whole of sub-Saharan Africa” and it has “the continent’s largest harbours and a massive advantage over the entire continent in terms of ‘R & D’ and technical capacity”, nevertheless, it lags “behind its overall economic indices in terms of human development.” South Africa is an “upper-middle income” economy with the social indicators of a “low income” economy. What the country’s economic indices would predict in terms of human development, that is, the picture we ought to see following the country’s GDP per capita and expenditure on education, is at odds with what the social indicators tell us about such things as life expectancy, infant mortality and education.
In the case of education, which is our main concern, about 20% of South Africa’s overall budget and 6-7% of GDP was spent on education in the decade leading up to 2007. The outcome was that Black children, who already made up “83% of the matric-aged cohort” and “78% of matric passes in public schools”, accounted for only 59% of university exemptions, only 34% passed Maths at the Higher Grade with “A, B or C aggregate (i.e. those who can potentially continue onto university further studies in engineering, medicine, science or even commerce)”, and only 14% got an A aggregate. This mismatch between economic indices and social indicators betrays a highly inegalitarian society, unequal in condition and opportunity and income; an economic caste system that has persisted since the formation of South Africa as a capital-intensive economy, with vast reserves of unskilled Black labour at the bottom, and an “expatriate investing or managerial elite” at the apex. South Africans performing unskilled labour
live in conditions comparable to those of much poorer African countries; also the “social and geopolitical segregation” that would later be the template for Apartheid policies, ensured the ongoing reproduction of these terrible conditions and kept development out and afar as an unrealistic notion.
Looking through figures from the Cape Area Panel Study (CAPS), a longitudinal and cross-sectional study using Capetonian youths as a representative subset of all South Africans (Cape Town has the largest Black, White and Coloured populations), we see a pattern: half of the black adolescent boys in black schools are two or more grades behind the appropriate grades for their age, (giving 88% of White boys a two-grade head-start); many simply drop out (and my suspicion here is that schools simply fail to stimulate them); and half of those who do finish high school take up to three years to find a job. It seems South Africa has a “social economy” which reproduces idle young men and women with very little knowledge of how to enter the world of work. Or what to do in the world of work. Other studies with differing foci – some on the psychology of idleness (Makiwane and Kwizera, 2009), others on the “psychological sequelae” of chronic exposure to political stress of the sort that has prevailed in South Africa (Slone, et al, 2000) – do supplement the above picture: they place the problem of youth unemployment, a problem that more acutely affects Black youth, within the overarching context of historical Black disadvantage. They understand “the unemployment blues” as a real psychological malady, where the idle person slowly witnesses their usefulness, their talents and their potential wither until they are fully alienated from the world of work, and are finally unemployable. This alienation entails adapting to a mode of being that has no time-structure, is populated by mainly superficial social contacts and many distractions to cope with boredom. The habits of idleness are thus normalised and the idle begin to participate in their own deprivation.
We’ve alluded to the structure of the South African economy - Mbeki popularly described it as, in fact, “two economies” - with its capital intensivity alongside a reliance on cheap and unskilled African labour, its “enclavity”, its “social and geopolitical segregation”, its development into a caste system that reproduces “a displaced and disadvantaged working class” with limited residential mobility. It began as an economy of mainly extractive industries that relied on “hewers of wood and drawers of water” to do the unpleasant labour (and then go away to distant townships and rural homelands after work); and an appropriate education system was legislated to reproduce this archetype. This model has since the 1960s been producing (to borrow Marxian imagery) a permanent “reserve army of the unemployed” which has grown into a menacing “lumpenproletariat” throughout the country.
The mismatch between economic indices and social indicators - specifically expenditure on education and the sort of person the South African education system produces - suggests that if these conditions are to desist then we need to have a conversation around an overhaul of the entire economy, and its rebuilding in accordance with the principles of economic and social justice. With the Soviet Union long gone the concepts of “nationalisation” and “expropriation” and other redistributive measures can now enter public discourse without their easy dismissal as part of the tentacles of the Red Menace or some Kremlin machinations. The South African economy and its education systems continue to produce a vast under skilled and idle caste of young men and women. What sort of economy ought we to create so that all these idle hands would be put to use lest they grow into a permanent criminal underclass?
Michelle Slone, Debra Kaminer, Kevin Durrheim, The Contribution of Political Life Events to Psychological Distress among South African Adolescents, Political Psychology, Vol. 21, No. 3 (Sep., 2000), pp. 465-487
Dr. Rènette du Toit, Unemployed Youth in South Africa: The Distressed Generation?, Minnesota International Counseling Institute (MICI), 27 July – 1 August 2003., pp. 1-24
Lam, D., Leibbrandt, M. and Mlatsheni, C., Human Capital, Job Search, and Unemployment among
Young People in South Africa, (2009), SALDRU Preliminary Draft, University of Cape Town
Lam, D., Leibbrandt, M. and Mlatsheni, C., Education and Youth Unemployment in South Africa, (2008)., SALDRU Working Paper Number 22, University of Cape Town
Monde Makiwane and Stella Kwizera, Youth and Well-Being: A South African Case Study, Social Indicators Research, Vol. 91, No. 2 (Apr., 2009), pp. 223-242
Vallerie Møller, The unemployment blues: psychological effects of unemployment on the individual, (1992). CSDS Working Paper, 6.
Burns. J, Edwards. L and Pauw. K (2010) Wage Subsidies to Combat Unemployment and Poverty:
Assessing South Africa’s Options. A Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit Working Paper Number 45. Cape Town: SALDRU, University of Cape Town
Lawrence Schlemmer and Valerie Møller, The Shape of South African Society and Its Challenges, Social Indicators Research, Vol. 41, No. 1/3, Quality of Life in South Africa (Jul.,1997), pp. 15-50
VALERIE MØLLER, QUALITY OF LIFE IN SOUTH AFRICA — THE FIRST TEN YEARS OF DEMOCRACY Social Indicators Research, Vol. 81, No. 2 (April 2007), pp. 181, 183-201
Patrick Bond, Primitive Accumulation, Enclavity, Rural Marginalisation & Articulation, Review of African Political Economy, Vol. 34, No. 111, Debates on the Left in Southern Africa (Mar., 2007), pp. 29-37
Then came the first shot – straight into the crowd, without warning. Other policemen took up the signal and more shots were fired. Twelve-year-old Hector Pieterson fell to the ground, fatally wounded. He was picked up by Mbuyisa Makhubo, a fellow student, who ran with him towards the Phefeni Clinic, with Pieterson’s crying sister Antoinette running alongside.
The World photographer Sam Nzima was there to record Pieterson’s last moments. “I saw a child fall down,” he says. “Under a shower of bullets I rushed forward and went for the picture.”
Photographer: Sam Nzima
Jackson State Killings, May 14-15, 1970.
JACKSON, Miss. (LNS) — Jackson police chief Pierce addressed the students. “Ladies and gentlemen, we have something to tell you.” He went no further. The police turned and began firing into the crowd of 200 students who had gathered on the campus of Jackson State College, Mississippi’s largest black university. A tape made by local TV recorded more than 30 seconds of uninterrupted gunfire as hundreds of rounds of ammunition were fired through the crowd into an adjacent women’s dormitory, suddenly spotlighted by huge police searchlights.
When the cease-fire order was given, two lay dead and dozens of wounded people lay scattered in front of the dorm and in the lounge inside.
Two dead. Phillip Gibbs, a Jackson State student who was walking with his sister to the dorm, was shot as he was leaving the building with his hands over his head. He died on the way to the hospital. James Green, a senior at nearby Hills High School, returning home from his nighttime job, was killed instantly as he stood across the streets from the dorm.
April 29: 20th anniversary of the Los Angeles Rebellion against racism following the “not guilty” verdict for police in the Rodney King beating.
Flyer issued by the Movement for a People’s Assembly demanding amnesty for the 18,000 people rounded by the LAPD and National Guard during the 1992 rebellion.
“Genuine equality between the sexes can only be realized in the process of the socialist transformation of society as a whole.” - Mao Zedong, Introductory note to “Women Have Gone to the Labour Front”, 1955, The Socialist Upsurge in China’s Countryside, Chinese ed., Vol. I.
Mods in Japan
You can’t make this shit up. Racist NYPD-McDonald’s alliance offers stop-and-frisk rewards
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Three Strikes, You’re In!
McDonald’s and the New York Police Department Launch Joint Initiative
New York, New York (March 6, 2012) - McDonald’s and the New York Police Department are launching “Three Strikes, You’re In!,” a bold new program that rewards New Yorkers for their patience with the NYPD’s “Stop and Frisk” policy.
With “Three Strikes, You’re In!,” individuals who are stopped and released three times without charge are eligible for one Happy Meal™ at participating McDonald’s stores. To receive their Happy Meal™, customers must record each stopping officer’s badge number, as well as the the time and location of the stop, on a voucher obtainable at these stores.
“This is just one way McDonald’s gives back to the communities we’re a part of,” said Mark Ramos, a McDonald’s spokesperson. “We’re proud to provide copious, satisfying, affordable food in areas that other chains don’t dare operate. With ‘Three Strikes, You’re In!’ we’re showing we also recognize these communities’ safety and civil liberties problems.”
“‘Stop and Frisk’ gets dozens of guns off the streets each year, makes respectable citizens feel secure, and lets would-be criminals know that we’re watching them,” said New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly. “It generates some resentment in these low-income communities, since most of those stopped are innocent, but with the help of McDonald’s, we’re showing we understand. We can’t afford to change ‘Stop and Frisk,’ but we’re happy to compensate those who are stopped in the course of keeping the City safe.”
“Three Strikes, You’re In!” is a project of McDonald’s 365Black.com, which celebrates African American culture and achievements all year round. To download your own “Three Strikes, You’re In!” vouchers, please visit www.threestrikesyourein.org. Non-citizens and those with criminal records are ineligible.
In reference to the distinctive art of the DPRK and the traditional rubric “painting on Wednesday” to present you an artist painting Shin Yung Heck “Our teacher.” Juche 67 (1978), 104 x 155 cm Oil on canvas.
“General Strike!” by Cristy C. Road
You can kill the revolutionary, but you can’t kill the revolution
THE REVOLUTIONARY WOMEN OF LIBYA: Mother and 17 year old daughter who are an example of the masses of Libyan women who have volunteered to take up the government weapons training and government issued weapons on offer and to run one of the very few checkpoints in Tripoli. Masses of women are also fighting on the frontline.
All of this mother’s sons are fighting on the frontline and in tears she explained to us that she would be happy to give her blood to protect her beloved leader Muammar Gaddafi and country who she said has always worked hard for the liberation of Libyan women. She called for death to NATO and told them to face the people on the ground instead of being cowards in the sky. She said every Libyan who dies is her child, that it is why it is her duty to do everything in her power to defend her family, people, leader and country.
The 17 year old sister said Muammar Gaddafi is her father because of all he has done for the liberation of women in Libya. She said her mother brought her up to be strong and stand up for her people.
By Lizzie Phelan, photo by Sukant Chandan
“Capitalism has had its day — revolt!” Young Communist Movement of France (MJCF)