Fallen Anti-Apartheid Icon Leaves Behind Inequality
by Moyiga Nduru
JOHANNESBURG, Feb 1 (IPS) - Leading anti-apartheid campaigner Adelaide
Tambo's struggle for equality in South Africa has paid off in areas of
political participation, but the economy still remains in the hands of the
country's white minority, say researchers and campaigners.
Tambo, widow of the late African National Congress (ANC) leader Oliver
Reginald Tambo, died in South Africa's commercial hub, Johannesburg, Jan.
31. Known affectionately as 'Ma-Tambo', she was a fierce fighter and
activist for political and economic transformation. She was 77.
"Politically, people like Adelaide Tambo would be glad that there has been
tremendous progress in South Africa. Anybody can form a political party and
become president," Frans Cronge, researcher at the South African Institute
of Race Relations (SAIRR), told IPS in an interview.
The sacrifices made by revolutionaries like Tambo, Nelson Mandela, the late
Walter Sisulu and Govin Mbeki have enabled the ANC to assume power after the
demise of the racist apartheid system in 1994, following 300 years of white
rule. And Tambo became an ANC member of parliament. Like all in the ANC
cadres, her goal was to achieve economic equality in a highly racially
diverse country. "South Africa has achieved much in terms of economic
growth. But in terms of economic equality not much has been achieved," Azar
Jemmine, a director at Econometrix, a Johannesburg-based think tank, told
IPS in an interview.
"Eighty percent of the economic power in South Africa is in the hands of
whites. The remaining 20 percent is split between blacks, coloured
(mixed-race) and Indians," he said.
"Inequality is not only racial but has increased tremendously in the black
community," Jemmine said. "Sixty percent of blacks are very poor, 30 percent
have achieved a little and 10 percent are doing very well."
"Of the 10 percent highest earners in South Africa, the proportion of blacks
classified in this category has increased from 14 percent in 1992 to 32
percent in 2006," he pointed out.
South Africa has a population of about 47 million: 37. 3 million blacks, 4.4
million whites, 4.2 million coloured and 1.2 million Indians, according to
"In most businesses, top executives remain white. There is a relatively
small pool of black candidates. You can blame apartheid for this disparity.
But in 20 to 30 years' time, if we are still having this problem, we'll
blame the government of the day," he said.
Some ANC officials are calling for affirmative action to bridge the racial
gap. But some campaigners and researchers say that approach will not work.
"Affirmative action is not going to help the previously disadvantaged
people," Cronge said. "Education is going to help them."
"We need to educate and train people to acquire skills. This is important,"
Jemmine said. "We should embark on knowledge intensity and skill intensity
[reposted by www.theblacklist.net]
South Africa's schools, especially black ones, needs to be improved. In the
last race-based profiles of school performances in 2003, the Education
Department's results revealed a huge disparity.
"Of the 800,000 blacks who should have written their matrix (university
entrance examinations), 833 got 'A' aggregate to qualify them to join
faculties such as engineering or medicine. Of the 66,000 whites, 6,503 got
'A' aggregate. This means one in 10 whites obtained 'A' aggregate and only
one in 1,000 blacks obtained 'A' aggregate. This is a problem," Cronge said.
Power sharing and equitable distribution of resources were not the only
headaches that preoccupied Tambo. She has also left behind the debate over
changing the "white" place names, which is splitting South Africans along
But, before she died, Tambo realised her dream of renaming Johannesburg
International Airport to O.R. Tambo International Airport, after her
husband. The name changes have outraged whites who have accused the
black-dominated ANC government of embarking on a deliberate policy to erase
Take Pretoria, the South African capital, for example. It's already being
called by some government departments "Tshwane" -- a Tswana word, means "we
are all the same". Pretoria, to which Afrikaners attach a lot of emotion,
was named after the Afrikaner hero Andries Pretorius in 1885.
"Legally, the name has not yet been changed. It's still Pretoria," Kallie
Kriel, of Pretoria Civil Action, which is fighting to keep the name, told
IPS. "So far, 12 major Afrikaans names have been changed since 2000. They
include big cities such as Petersburg which has been renamed Polokwane and
Louis Trichardt which has become Makado."
"It's the Afrikaans names which are being targeted," he said. "The Afrikaans
names have specific importance and cultural values."
But some believe that race relations are actually better in South Africa
than they have been historically.
"In a recent study, the majority of South Africans said they believe that
race relations have improved. But they believe that race and racism remain
part of daily life," Cronge said. "In any society in the world, there is
discrimination. Look at what's happening in the Middle East. And look at
what's happening in Iraq between Sunnis and Shias."
Tambo, a medical nurse by profession, was married to Oliver Tambo, law
partner of former president Mandela. After the 1976 Soweto uprising, she and
her husband fled, settling in Britain. Tambo, who collapsed at her home in
Johannesburg, after 30 years had returned to her country, before South
Africa's 1994 multiparty elections.
Tributes have been pouring in since her death. "Starting from 1944 when she
began working for the ANC as a courier, Ma-Tambo devoted her entire adult
life to the struggle against apartheid and the creation of a democratic
non-racial and non-sexist society," President Thabo Mbeki said in a
"As well as being a pillar of support to her late husband and president of
the ANC, the late Oliver Tambo, Ma-Tambo contributed to the struggle
immensely as an activist in her own right," he said. (FIN/2007)