The South African economy shrank by 1.3% in the second quarter of this year, with major contractions in mining and agriculture. Tough times ahead for the country, as the slowing down of China and general lack of recovery in Northern markets are not going to be reverted any soon.
This will further exacerbate the basic contradiction behind South Africa’s economic system. Most growth in recent years has come from investment in the rest of Africa, that remains in the hands of few – with a dominant position of white capital – and doesn’t trickle down to the rest of South Africans. Meanwhile restructuring and decline at home means even less jobs in the mining sector and elsewhere.
Considering the bottleneck many graduates are finding themselves in, these pressures will not only be on the poorest, but also on all those who had high expectations that university education would lift them out of poverty towards a better and fairer future.
It is in this context that the rising social movement towards transformation – but also the worrying rise of xenophobia across lower and middle classes – should be understood. South Africa is in for more social unrest, worsening living conditions and economic and political instability if unequal economic and social structures are not addressed head on.