Counter/Narratives has asked me to discuss whether the effects of apartheid have survived after 1994. And, in answering that question, I was asked to consider those effects with reference to land, women, education, the media, segregation, the police, healthcare, and housing. It is important to understand that the term apartheid refers to a specific policy adopted at a specific historical moment in South Africa. It was the policy of the National Party and it was adopted in 1948. As such, therefore, it is a fairly recent phenomenon, whereas the problem of racism is a much older phenomenon in the socio-political history of South Africa. The reason I consider it important to point this out is that there appears to me to be a conflation of concepts in the question. On the one hand, the question refers to the effects of apartheid in today’s South Africa, but the question asks for a discussion of those effects with reference to problems some of which predate apartheid – e.g. the land question, segregation (the germs of legally sanctioned segregation in the context of South Africa can be traced back to Sir Theophilus Shepstone’s spoor laws in the 19th century), and the problem of education (the introduction of education to the Native was problematic from the beginning in that, as Sir George Grey argued for its introduction in 1855, its purpose was from start the taming of the Native).


Apartheid as an institutionalized form of social organisation has been outlawed in South Africa. As such, it is no longer possible to lawfully exclude people from certain areas, study fields, or jobs on overtly racial grounds (except in the case of affirmative action, which is considered necessary in order to advance equality). However, while a number of Black people have found their way to residential areas which were historically deemed to be white, townships are still inhabited by Black people, with a single occasional white face appearing every once in a while, in this or that township. Residential areas in South Africa remain largely segregated without any law requiring segregation. The standard of life in townships generally remains as low as it was during apartheid. That affects, as a general proposition, just about everything which is associated with townships, including education.


Insofar as land ownership is concerned, let us point out that this question cannot be answered only with reference to apartheid. A lot of land was lost by Natives to European colonizers during the wars of dispossession and there were land “transactions” during the early European settlement which are impossible to justify in reason. A number of scholars suggest, for instance, that Natives and Europeans operated with completely different notions on land ownership. Therefore, it is open to doubt that what Europeans saw as a land sale transaction was viewed in similar light by Natives. Natives had no concept of individual land ownership in their customs and practices. Therefore, it is suggested, when Europeans gave them the trivial gadgets which they viewed as payment for land, more likely these gadgets were viewed by Natives as a form of tribute which any newcomer would do in order to earn the right to use the land in common with others, rather than to the exclusion of others. It is also suggested that the fact that Natives occasionally allocated the same piece of land to different people at different times, underscores the unlikelihood that they ever had an intention to alienate the land. I have argued elsewhere that one of the things colonialists did was to impose their own legal systems on Natives. In terms of their legal systems, a contract requires that the minds of the contracting parties must meet in order to create a valid sales agreement. Now, the things which Europeans gave “in exchange” for land were trivial. Back in their own countries, they would never be able to “buy” even remotely comparable land for those things. Why did they not sit back and wonder whether the “contracting” parties had the same thing in mind in these supposed land transactions? But to ask the question is to assume their good faith.

After the guns and trickery had done their job, European settlers institutionalised the whole thing and passed the Land Act of 1913, which confined Natives to 7.13% of the land. The Land Act of 1936 improved that somewhat, and set aside 13% of South Africa’s land for Natives.

When apartheid was introduced in 1948, such was the dispensation insofar as land went. That is not to say apartheid did not contribute to landlessness – many Natives, Coloureds and Indians were victims of forced removals in South Africa under apartheid. The question whether land remains predominantly in white hands in South Africa after 1994, is highly contested. In 2017, the government commissioned a land audit. According to the audit (Land Audit Booklet, 2017: p. 9):

  • The total land area of South Africa is 121,973,200 hectares.
  • Of this:
  • 17,061,882 hectares are owned by the State;
  • 96,550,791 hectares are privately owned; and
  • 8,360,527 hectares are unaccounted for.
  • Whereas “Black South Africans” make up 79% of the population, they own directly 1.2% of the country’s rural land, and 7% of formally registered properties in towns and cities.
  • White South Africans, on the other hand, constitute 9% of the population, but own directly 23.6% of the country’s rural land and 11.4% of land in towns and cities.
  • 33% of land in South Africa is owned directly by individuals.
  • The remaining 67% is owned by companies, trusts, the state, traditional 
authorities, churches and community organisations.
  • Of the land owned by individuals, 13% is owned by women.
  • 2% of the land is in the hands of foreigners.

Agri-SA takes the view that South Africa’s policy on land is driven by perception and emotion, rather than facts. Therefore, a parallel land audit was conducted by Johann Bornman in partnership with Landbouweekblad and Agri-SA (hereinafter the Agri-SA audit). The Agri-SA audit suggests that:

  • More than 50% of agricultural land in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal is already in Black hands (The study takes the trouble to point out that these are the two most fertile provinces in South Africa).
  • 7% of agricultural land in South Africa is owned by landowners “who are not white”.
  • Landowners who are not white control more than 46% South Africa agricultural land.
  • Through ordinary commercial purchase, Black entrepreneurs and farmers have obtained double the amount of land the state has bought for Black owners as part of its land redistribution programme.

In order to come to terms with the magnitude of the land reportedly bought through ordinary commercial transactions by Black entrepreneurs and Black farmers, we need to inquire into the amount of land the government bought for redistribution. According to the Rand Daily Mai(23 July 2018), the total land distributed via government redistribution programmes amounts to 15,039m hectares. If twice that amount of land has been purchased by Black entrepreneurs and Black farmers through ordinary commercial transactions, then they hold between them 30,078m hectares. If the Agri-SA audit was intended as a response to the government audit (there was criticism of the government audit to the effect that it focused on rural land, that it used the registration of title deeds as a method for determining ownership, and that its numbers are not credible), a comparison between the two audits must remain difficult. To enable easier comparison, the two audits would have needed to use the same categories. Then we would be able to say according to Audit A, X is the situation regarding rural land, agricultural land, etc. whereas according to Audit B, the corresponding figure is Y. The two audits would also have needed to use the same concepts – if the original issue in contention was land ownership, “demonstrating” that non-white persons are in control of more than 46% of South Africa agricultural land does not speak to the issue in contention: it is conceptually and practically possible to be in control of something you do not own.

So, therefore, if the Agri-SA audit demonstrates, with reference to agricultural land, no more than that non-white South Africans control more than 46% of said land then, for whatever that is worth, the proposition can be accepted whilst insisting that the original question of ownership remains moot. And the reader must wonder why it was necessary to insert the notion of control, when the issue in contention was ownership. Then the issue of ownership must be restated. On the version of the Agri-SA audit we must then assert that 26.7% of agricultural land in South Africa is owned by landowners “who are not white”. On that version, therefore, 73.3% of South Africa’s agricultural land must fall outside the ownership of landowners “who are not white”. If the issue in contention is ownership of South African agricultural land, pleading that black people control more than 46% of that land does nothing to address the issue in contention. But even if it did, it would merely enable us to say that approximately 54% of South African agricultural land is still controlled by white people.

Say land which is in private hands (as per the government audit) amounts to 96,550,791 hectares, and that Black people hold (as per the Agri-SA audit) 45,117m hectares of this, (15 039+30 078), then 46.7% of privately owned South African land is in Black hands. But this proposition is counter-intuitive and would require, as would any proposition which appears on its face to defy common sense, convincing evidence before it can be accepted as a correction of what common sense suggests. It is well worth noting that a study conducted by the University of Pretoria places land acquired by Black people through ordinary commercial transactions during the period under review more conservatively at 4.8m hectares. If we add that to the land purchased by the government for redistribution (15,039m), we would have the more realistic figure of 19.8m hectares.

It would seem, therefore, that the land question in South Africa is far from being resolved. That this is so should in any event be clear already from the decision by the government that the constitution should be amended in order to allow for land expropriation without compensation. Ironically, if so much land were already in Black hands as Agri-SA suggests, then it would follow that Black people have not done badly in ensuring food security over the past number of years. Then all the talk about land expropriation without compensation being a threat to food security would be meaningless.


In South Africa, education is divided between public and private education. The government lays down the policy about minimum standards education has to meet, whether it is offered at public or private schools. It also sets the curriculum for public and private schools. Education is further divided into basic and tertiary/further education. Before 1994 there was much talk in liberation organisations about free and compulsory education in a post-apartheid South Africa. What happened instead was that education was made compulsory up to the age of 15 or grade 9, without being made free. However, education can only be compulsory if it is free. Making it compulsory whilst not being free, renders enforcement impossible. Although there are resources in place to assist needy students, but as student protests suggests year in and year out, these are not nearly enough to meet the demand.

As I have pointed out in a previous section of this paper, residential areas in South Africa remain largely segregated without any law requiring that. The effect is that schools also remain segregated without any law requiring that. Generally, schools in previously officially white areas are better resourced than township schools. The situation gets a little worse in rural areas.

Almost immediately after taking office, the ANC lowered the aggregate pass mark for matric students. Coupled with the practice of moderating matric results after the effect, instead of moderating examination question papers and then living with the examination results yielded, this has given rise to the critique that education standards have been lowered after 1994. A number of universities in South Africa have raised the issue that many students who pass matric are not quite prepared for university education.


Media in South Africa are largely divided into print and electronic media. The print media are largely independent in the sense that they are not state-owned. They certainly enjoy more rights under the 1995 constitution than was the case under apartheid. From time to time there are of course tensions between the media and government operatives, but this is a quite natural phenomenon. The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) is a public broadcaster and owns 19 radio stations and 5 public broadcasts. There are free to air television channels which must be registered by ICASA (Independent Communications Authority of South Africa) in order to broadcast. There are also a number of free radio stations, which must be similarly registered in order to broadcast in South Africa.


Like education, South Africa’s healthcare is broadly divided into the public and the private spheres. The choice as to which system a person will use is influenced by the resources the person commands. Swirling, Van Breda and Van Zyl suggest that poverty in South Africa has increased after 1994, and that its correlation with “race” and sex is higher than it was before 1994. At the dawn of 1994 unemployment figures in South Africa stood at 3.7m. At the end of 2017 they stood at 9.4m (Politicsweb, 21 December 2017). That represents an increase northwards of 60% in the unemployment rate (using the strict definition) in 23 years. According to figures released by Stas SA, the overall unemployment rate of South Africa between October 2017 and October 2018 was 27.5% (again using the strict definition). The levels of poverty together with the problem of unemployment impact significantly on a majority of South Africans’ ability to access private healthcare. It is estimated that 80% of the population relies on public healthcare whilst a mere 20% of the population is able to access private healthcare. Whilst that is so, existing facilities – and at times supplies as well – are inadequate to accommodate the huge numbers of people who are condemned by their conditions of existence to rely on the public healthcare system. Therefore, often times, there are reports about overflowing hospitals and patients not having beds in public hospitals.


In 1994, the government produced a White Paper on Housing. The paper indicated that there was a housing backlog of 1.5m houses in the urban areas. The paper indicated that the backlog was increasing at a rate of 178,000 units per annum. The 1996 national census indicated that there were 1.4m shacks or informal dwellings throughout South Africa. The 2011 national census indicated that the number of shacks or informal dwellings had increased to 1.9m.

How does that compare with the government’s delivery of houses? In a paper titled Fact Sheet: The Housing Situation in South Africa, Kate Wilkinson suggests that:

  • In the first five years of ANC rule, some 700 000 houses were delivered. [That translates to an average of 140 000 houses per annum – MS.]
  • Between 1994 and 2014, the government delivered 2.8m houses. [Again, that translates to an average of 140 000 houses per annum – MS.]

Now, then, if the housing backlog increases by 178 000 units per annum, the increase up to 2019 (25 years) would be something like 4.5m. If we hold the government’s delivery constant at an average of 140 000 houses per annum, it would deliver approximately 3.5m in the corresponding period. That would translate to an under-delivery of 1.0m units in the period under review. But considering that the baseline figure of housing backlog was 1.5m at the beginning of the period under review, and that 140 000 units were delivered in year one, the housing backlog in urban areas would be sitting at around 2.4m units. The dialectic of housing must of course be viewed against the prism that it still occurs in a segregated context, which as I indicated earlier, is not legally sanctioned. Therefore, such housing units as the government has been able to provide, generally occur in areas which are in any event already under-resourced. Whether the government’s model of house provisioning is sustainable in the long term is debatable, and I say nothing about that for the purpose of the current exposition.


I have assumed that the inquiry here is whether the police force/service in South Africa has been transformed post-1994. But that in itself could mean a number of different things. The command structure of the police has changed in that it is no longer a lily-white affair. Notionally, it has also changed in that it is now considered to be a service, rather than a force. The legal framework within which the police function has also changed. So, for instance, the police no longer have the power to detain people indefinitely without charge, they are required to warn arrestees that they are free not to answer questions, to inform that that they have a right to legal assistance during questioning, and that if they do not have money to pay for it, the state can arrange legal aid. Overall, therefore, the police in South Africa currently operate in a considerably more clearly defined legal environment than they did pre-1994, when they were virtually a law unto themselves.

Nevertheless, there are still instances where police action has given rise to serious concerns. The manner in which they killed Andries Tatane in the Free State in 2011, and continued firing shots into his body when he was down, was an act of callousness which is hard to justify in a country which prides itself of respect for human rights. The Marikana massacre in 2012 conjured up memories of police brutality in the Sharpeville massacre in 1960. There are also several footages available on the internet showing South African police officers act brutally towards members of the public. Another factor which is an ugly blemish on the police is just the sheer levels of corruption in the police service.