I have had the opportunity to consider and write about the economic disparities and realities in South Africa. In seeking to connect South Africa with the global discussion concerning struggling economies, here are some thoughts and reflections.
South Africa has a booming economy, but we must consider the fact that our seemingly successful economy is only benefiting certain parts of South African society - the middle to upper class.
President Thabo Mbeki has been put under much criticism over the last two weeks concerning Jacob Zuma, who could very likely be the next president of South Africa. However, President Mbeki has at the very least openly provided critique of our South African economy and the fact that we have bought into a capitalist economy, which ultimately further disenfranchises the poor and the marginalized.
The United States is currently going through one of its most troublesome times concerning its economy. Our concern as global citizens should be, "How can we find a hybrid economic system that seeks economic growth and simultaneously empowers the multitudes of people who are disenfranchised by economic systems - who are in many cases stuck in poverty and struggling just to put bread on the table?"
There seems to be a hegemony in South Africa where people of influence and power are not willing to question the flourishing of the rich and the elites while post-apartheid policies have not dealt with issues of chronic poverty, housing, and unemployment. But the same can be said for the U.S. and other democratic countries where people are "free and equal."
Why is it that people, organizations, and institutions of influence have no social conscience or desire to ask critical questions about the plight of the poor? Instead, we come up with simple answers to complex situations. Simple answers such as, "the poor are poor because they are lazy; they don't seek out opportunities; they are happy to just go from door to door begging; they don't have the drive to be successful."
What response will we provide to the growing global gap between the rich and the poor?
There may be a need for a radical revolution within our global economy, where we seek out a democracy that is driven by a concern for the development of all people -- a hybrid economy that allows profit without a cost that denies the healthy development of all peoples.
Seth Naicker is an activist for justice and reconciliation from South Africa. He is currently studying and working at Bethel University, in St. Paul, Minnesota, as the program and projects director for the Office of Reconciliation Studies. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com