Poor White Problem Back to Haunt Afrikaaners

by Peter Baxter on August 9, 2008

by Peter Baxter | August 9th, 2008  

Thanks for this piece to South African writer and travel pro Sean Ross

Poor WhitesSouth Africa’s poor white problem is starting to raise a sizeable blip on the nation’s social radar again some 70 years after racially divisive (apartheid) policies had been put in place to end what was then a symbol Afrikaaner embarrassment. That poverty stricken whites, and a sizeable number of them, should again re-emerge in a re-shaped country of mostly wealthy whites and poor blacks is particularly interesting.

Privileges of Colour

It is the dramatic socio-economic changes witnessed in South Africa since the end of white rule in 1994 that have resulted in this ironic turnaround in civil society, as the previously disadvantage black majority population now move into positions previously held by politically protected whites. This is none more evident than in the turnaround of fortunes amongst South Africa’s white Afrikaans-speaking population.

The White Tribe

Descendants from mainly Holland, Germany and France, this white tribe had lived a frontier-type existence outside of mainstream politics and centralized economics since the mid-17th century, before finally securing a political foothold in the country in the first half of the 20th century. This foothold was eventually to be the conduit through which Afrikaaner freedom from poverty was to be gained.

Government policies since 1948 were formalized, racially divisive, and geared at bringing the poor Afrikaaner whites of the time into civil service and other government-related occupations in a tacit exchange for political support. The result was a gradual but successful upliftment of the Afrikaaner people, culminating in a state or quasi-state workforce of over 650,000 at its peak, representing approximately two in five employable Afrikaaners.

Educational requirements for these government positions were at the time minimal, while perks including subsidized housing, health and pension contributions complemented basic salaries to allow for a reasonably comfortable lifestyle. These employees were protected from competition from the nation’s majority of blacks through loyalty to the conservative National Party of the time coupled with a range of legislation further protecting their employment and securing their services through to retirement.

Social Turnaround

But with the change in political power in 1994 came near total switch in the South African civil service employee profile, as newly enfranchised black employees gradually replaced the hundreds of thousands of mostly Afrikaaner employees in positions previously controlled by the state. These employment positions were far and wide and ranged from ports and railways to postal and telecommunications services, in addition of course to the maze of bureaucratic positions created by nearly 50 years of cozy Afrikaaner government brotherhood.

This changing of the guard was implemented mainly by the new African National Congress (ANC)-dominated government and accepted by Afrikaaner employees mainly through a program of friendly retrenchment packages. But while these packages may have seemed attractive at the time, poor financial management, rising inflation, spectacular jumps in high cost items such as housing, and the general lack of skills and education eroded these financial packages in double quick time as incomes disappeared.

Poor Whites

The net result is an ever increasing community of poor white South Africans, predominantly Afrikaans, and predominantly former government or semi-government employees in one form or another, living in conditions previously the reserve of poor blacks.

Statistically, unemployment amongst white South Africans has doubled since the end of apartheid, with around 450,000 (equivalent to 10% of the white population of 4.5 million) deemed too poor to live in traditionally white working and middle class areas. Around 300,000 of these are Afrikaaners (again, equivalent to about 10% of the Afrikaaner population of around 3 million).

White Disempowerment

Of course, the central political theme of South Africa’s new, non-racial government has been programs aimed at the eradication of black poverty and with it the social upliftment of the country’s near 40 million blacks, probably half of which can be defined as poor. In an almost mirror reversal of apartheid’s socio-economic policies, current black economic empowerment legislation is exactly that, empowerment for blacks, with little room for the re-empowerment of poor whites.

The result is that most of the country’s poor whites now feel they have been overlooked by the state and not afforded an equal opportunity to compete for government-paid jobs. Increasingly, they are being forced into white squatter encampments on the periphery of the country’s cities and towns where accommodation is cheap but opportunity minimal. This ironically was the keystone of previous Afrikaaner socio-political strategy, which while although forced through legislation, was geared at preventing blacks partaking on an even keel in white civil society.

A Bitter Irony

This irony is clearly not lost on this group of poor whites, which according to social and human rights watchers is increasing at around 15% per year. Compounding this ironic turnaround of fortunes was a visit to one of these poor communities this week by ANC president and South Africa’s most likely next president, Jacob Zuma.

Speaking to a gathering of about 200 poor and bedraggled white Afrikaaners encamped on the outskirts of the country’s capital of Pretoria, the former stronghold of Afrikaanerdom, Zuma said he was concerned by their plight and would continue to engage with them on matters of social and economic upliftment.

While those words were seen as little comfort for some, the gesture was far greater than these self same people offered Zuma and his flock when the roles were reversed. But while they may be poor, these whites still have access to South Africa’s welfare system which, while meager in its offerings, is nonetheless sufficient to keep 10 million mostly poor, mostly black recipients in with a fighting chance.

{ 14 comments }

Ingbert Klintworth August 24, 2008 at 3:27 pm
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By the way, Poverty amongst blacks is also growing!

Sean Ross have you ever lived in poverty while growing up as a child?

Think about it, – being a poor struggling white living amongst a huge number of also poor and struggling black people. Being different in a poor society, leaves one very vunrable. That could be frightning.

Just ask the poor foreign blacks, they have experienced many horrors already.

Sean Ross get off your high horse and come down to earth. If you don’t care about the poor whites then please don’t write about them. Leave them alone, they wouldn’t want to hear your sarcastic story of a “bitter irony”, broadcasted to the world.

I feel you just wrote it to give ignorant readers a dumb thrill about it.

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tebogo mahlala August 25, 2008 at 6:35 am
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the apartheid government was not the only entity controlling jobs, even the private sector.

there is still extreme racism at work with certain jobs left for whites, especially the afrikaners as they tend to be work pawns for the english.

there are very few educated afrikaners running production across south africa.some being productions managers with just a std 8 not even able to write a proper english letter. i see change inthe future although it is very much resisted.

you also fine these resistance in political parties like the DA.always complaining/whining about something.never giving the solutions

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joseph September 11, 2008 at 11:29 am
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It is quite clear that the person who wrote this article , set out with a predetermined agenda to first blame Apartheid , soley on the Afrikaner people, and to paint all poor whites as comeing from the Afrikaans people. Apartheid was fully supported by the overwhelming by all who benefited from it The English speaking whites , mainly from Britian , the large Portuguese population , and also the huge Jewish population . All supported APARTHEID , all gained from it. To try and twist history that only one population group ,gained and supported APARTHEID is a misleading and a total lie. Among the top echelons of the APARTHEID state, in the Judiciary, Armed Forces , Police, etc , their were many English, PORTUGUSE, JEWISH , all doing their damndest to prolong APARTHEID. If you are going to write about APARTHEID and the poor whites , tell the Truth about all those who benefited.

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Ben January 13, 2009 at 2:38 am
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I Fully agree with the statement made by Joseph.

Personally I think that Blacks are on a road of revenge.
The black youth has been tought about apartheid through their parents and they believe it was solely ran by Afrikaners.
Even though most of them wasn’t even born in this era, they feel that they must take back what was taken from them. Nothing was taken, some things was held back. To carry on in South Africa with the axe of Apartheid hanging over the heads of all citizens is not the correct way to proceed.

Why try and take everything from the whites to give to poor blacks? Making the white population poor and by doing this not actually growing our economical stance, but just replacing it with uneducated individuals?

Government must stop trying to take back, the population for whites are +/- 3 Mil. Where blacks are over 40 Mil.

How can you solve the poverty problem under blacks with such a majority by taking from the whites and still try to please everyone? there is only so much oppertunities.

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Lisa March 4, 2009 at 8:48 pm
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All of the comments I read sound like disgruntled white people wherever you may be, now you know what it feels like to be ignored, oppressed, and put ina helpless position. It does not matter whether they were afrikanners, british,jew they were all white oppressors in a land that they invaded , Africa is not their home and to come over and treat the Africans that way is barbaric and totally unacceptable! White peopledo that shit everywhere they go, they bring their broke, bedraggled, smelly asses upon otherwise peaceful people enjoying their culture, life and the LAND YAHWEH gave them .That conquest/explorer shit is no excuse to act like you just rolled out of a cave and aint used to noting.Blacks have welcomed them an look what they got – so don’t whine and cry now take it like a warrior, but as we see everyday YOU can’t handle what you dish out- you cowards blow your own brains out proving that you do NOT know YAHWEH because if you did you would know that suicide is the one unforgiveable sin, so you have yor ancestors to thank for all that youre suffering- go back where you camr from i’m sure those europeans would love to take in their white bros & ho’s!

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Sad April 8, 2009 at 1:52 am
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Lisa that was harsh. We don’t have to forget our oppressions be we are mandated by God to forgive. He requires that we leave vengence and judgemetn to him. Educate me, really, doesn’t YAHWEH reqire it as well. WE do ourselves injustice when don’t. The cultrue of the African people is to forgive, reconcilliation, if I remember correctly was the start of healing for the African people.

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Craig April 25, 2009 at 9:13 am
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All the comments and opinions are never ending and tainted with scars of personal experience and resentment. All the tears and hatred will never change yesterday. Think tomorrow of how it can be. If everyone just stopped judging and politicizing the wrongs that can never be changed or equaled with violence, wars and more prejudice. Religion, race, fanaticism are all facts of life. Waking up to continue the wrongs and retributions for yesterday will never create the tomorrow we want. Electing a countries leader who will bring the answers and solutions with wisdom, dynamic intellect and cognitive charisma is far from the one that sings “Bring me my machine gun”, who is clouded with rape and corruption accusations, which is so far from being his ideal, respectable, honorable and decent US counterpart. Education is a process, so is economics. Politics is not, nor is right and wrong. It’s simple. Start what is right and look at one ’s self and take the good in your heart and use it. The evil on earth is less than the goodness we know and want. We can eliminate the bad with choice, a standing together and uniting our choice. Take the truth and believe in it. Some whites are Africans, Some blacks are Americans. They are equally right to stay there. They can live with choice and help to make the world a better place. We sure don’t need a Taliban that will make an inhumane religious zealot’s ultimate belief and goal, to deprive the human race of freedom, progress, medical cures and to treat women like sub humans. We don’t need a leaders that thrives on a majority rule who don’t know the difference between hurtful yesterday and uncertain tomorrow. Another Mugabe is exactly what Africa does not need. The right man is not someone who uses his podium power to enrich himself with false promises and educating his followers with past blame, reminders of yesterday, the opposing side, the only ‘one way only’ win with me. The reality is transparent, but not all want to see this and some cannot see it as they are blinded with intolerance, prejudice and greed. Do what’s right! Start a new tomorrow for Yourself. Maybe that will rub off onto the next person standing next to you.

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Kurt May 3, 2009 at 12:18 pm
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As a coloured Afrikaner I can see that Lisa does confuses the Afrikaners with the history of European colonialism.
Afrikaners are descended from white protestant indentured servants(slaves who could by their freedom), Asian slaves(Malays/Indians), and the TRULY INDIGENOUS PEOPLES OF SOUTHERN AFRICA WHO INHABITED SOUTHERN AFRICA BEFORE BLACKS.
The white and Asian workers who were brought to the Cape intermarried with the Khoisan and developed a new language–Afrikaans.
AFRIKANERS WERE OPPRESSED BY EUROPEAN COLONIALISTS AND IT WAS THE BRITISH THAT MADE ONE COUNTRY OUT OF THE AFRIKAANS-SPEAKING PEOPLES(WHITES AND COLOUREDS) WHO WERE EXCELLENT FARMERS AND THE BANTU-SPEAKING BLACKS.
WHITE AND COLOURED AFRIKAANS PEOPLES LIVED IN THE WESTERN AND NORTHERN CAPE BEFORE COMING INTO CONTACT WITH BLACKS.
THE BRITISH EMPIRE FORCED THE BLACK TRIBES AND THE AFRIKAANS-SPEAKING PEOPLES AND EVEN UNDER APARTHEID MORE SCHOOLS WERE BUILT FOR BLACKS THEN ARE BUILT NOW.
AS A COLOURED AFRIKANER I FEEL INSULTED THAT YOU WOULD CALL MY PEOPLE INTRUDERS IN AFRICA WHEN WE LIVED IN THE CAPE BEFORE BLACKS.
IN MY VEINS RUN THE BLOOD OF THE ORIGINAL KHOISAN AND WHITE FARMERS WHO INTERMARRIED WITH THE INDIGENOUS PEOPLES.
BLACK SOUTH AFRICANS LIVED ON THE EASTERN COAST OF THE COUNTRY UNTIL THE EARLY 1800s.
WHITES AND COLOUREDS LIVED ON THE WESTERN COAST WHICH IS MOSTLY SEMI-ARID LAND AND WERE LOOKED DOWN ON BY EUROPEAN COLONIALS.

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AL May 8, 2009 at 7:05 pm
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LISA
Its a shame you feel that way. and honestly its because of people with your mentality that Africa is the F*** up it is today so congratulate your self on your narrow minded views. people like you make me sick and are the reasons for the shit hole that has become of Africa.

now I’m not saying that the atrocities that the white and Persians and Asians and Blacks from years past are justified. But unfortunately its human nature and progression has a very steep price. FREEDOM has an even steeper price but ignorance is like a plague that destroys the fabric of society, and you my dear are ignorant. Now go read up about the world we live in and the atrosoties caused every day buy humans and the fact that change is started buy a single visionary person to create a better world for every one.

p.s. take a look in Europe how many blacks have moved their in search of a better life cause people like you F***** Africa and you will also see they are welcomed in So called White countries UK France SO MAKE LIKE YOUR NEW PRESIDENT GET SELF EDUCATED AND STOP TAKING SHIT AND MAKE A DIFFERENCE or shut the F*** UP

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AL May 8, 2009 at 7:08 pm
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One last think to every one the past is history leave it their. If you don’t all work together to build a bright future were are not gonna have one. Irrespective of colour, race, loaction the choice is your bitch and moan or make a difference

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Rudi August 23, 2009 at 8:35 pm
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Lisa you don’t have a clue. Best you keep your mouth closed and do what AL said. You’re not doing anyone a favor. Typical, why do you have to swear like this to make a statement. You might not think so but we all understand pure/clean english. Leave the F…..to yourself.
p.s. “black people in europe” You wrong. they’re their because their own people are killing them….

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Mexican-American August 30, 2009 at 1:31 am
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My parents crossed the Mexican border into the United States in the early 70′s. They worked the fields for $2 an hour, but taught themselves English at night. They were able to save money, start their own business, and put 3 children thru college. Their business is still going strong today. All of us have college degrees and professional jobs. My parents stressed the value of an education. I don’t have any sympathy for Afrikaners who are too lazy to seek out an education. It was obvious for many years that change was coming and that apartheid would end. That fact that many of you chose to remain ignorant and unlearned is YOUR OWN fault. I suppose it’s much easier for your wives and daughters to be whores and spread their legs than to do the work it takes to get an education. I don’t have any sympathy for a person who never bothered to do anything to improve their situation and are now stuck in circumstances of their own doing.

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mokaka modimo November 18, 2009 at 7:12 am
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south african whites are world famous for being racists.why protect them?they brought this onto themselves.the have always had shi#ty evil hearts.let them pay for their sins.nobody in the world likes them.they are too selfish and still racist at work.blacks in south africa are more educated(fnb survey) than whites yet all the nice jobs go to whites.those people are evil

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Alistair December 11, 2009 at 3:22 pm
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Karma!! Maybe they’ll leave and go back to Europe.

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