Despite all the warm words from President Jacob Zuma about tackling poverty, inequality has risen since the end of apartheid.
This is revealed in stark terms by the World Bank.
As the Bank’s economists put it:
“In South Africa, the top income share roughly doubled over 20 years to levels comparable with those observed in the United States.”
The graph below says it all.
South Africa is by far the most unequal society in the developing world.
And the sharp increase in the share of the top 1% of society takes place mostly after the ANC came to power in 1994.
The World Bank report – ‘Taking on Inequality‘ – which has just been published, reveals that South Africa has the worst income distribution in the world.
The country is right at the bottom of the international distribution league, as measured by the Gini coefficient.
What is particularly striking about these findings is that they come at a time when inequality is actually declining across the world.
The World Bank points out that countries as diverse as Brazil, Cambodia, Mali, Peru,and Tanzania have all reduced inequality significantly in recent years, just as South Africa was heading in the opposite direction.
What is lacking?
The problem is not with the theory.
The ANC has initiated a range of apparently pro-poor strategies.
These include cash transfers to poor families and universal access to education and health care.
The problem has been how the economy is really run, with corruption endemic across the board.
Vast sums have been syphoned off into the pockets of the newly emerging black middle class, who have used their political connections to enrich themselves.
And the losers, as ever, have been the poor that the ANC say they represent.