South Africa finds another new word for inequality
Gavin du Venage
Last Updated: April 19. 2010 7:36PM UAE / April 19. 2010 3:36PM GMT
Julius Malema, the chairman of the ANC's youth league, is the
personification of tenderpreneurship in the Rainbow Nation. EPA
Words such as "commando" and "apartheid" have been South Africa's
contribution to the English language over the years. Now the country
is likely to add another: tenderpreneur.
The term is, like "oligarch", a far-from flattering reference to
connected businessmen who use political influence to make vast
fortunes from the country's shaky attempts to grow a modern economy.
A tenderpreneur is likely to be black, a member of the ruling African
National Congress (ANC), and adept at using affirmative action laws to
feather his or her nest.
Over the past year the word has become common in local media and among
bloggers, and regularly tumbles from the lips of analysts and even
politicians, especially those who have been unable to take advantage
of the system.
No one represents tenderpreneurship as visibly as Julius Malema, the
multimillionaire chairman of the ANC's powerful youth league.
Mr Malema, 29, is as well known for his flash lifestyle as he is for
his rabble-rousing speeches calling for the nationalisation of mines
and apparent endorsement of attacks on white farmers.
He has reportedly won contracts worth 140 million rand (Dh69.5m) in
the past few years, to build roads, cemeteries and bridges in his home
province of Limpopo, to the north of the country. At least one bridge
built by his company, SGL Engineering, has had to be closed after it
began to fall apart months after completion.
Mr Malema has become a constant source of media copy. The country's
scrappy newspapers have run lurid stories about his wealth, love of
250,000-rand Breitling watches and the wild parties that outrage his
neighbours in upmarket Sandton, north of Johannesburg, the site of one
of his homes. Not bad for a guy with no more than a high school
If Mr Malema represents the worst sort of political opportunism, his
actions also speak of a deeper malaise that Africa's biggest economy
has been struggling with since white rule ended in 1994.
Under apartheid, blacks were legally excluded from holding all but the
most menial of jobs. Black education was specifically crafted to
produce a generation of labourers.
As a result, the country has what Thabo Mbeki, a former president,
called a "cappuccino economy" – a froth of whites at the top, with a
mass black underclass below. A recent survey by the respected South
African Institute of Race Relations showed per capita income for
whites is 135,707 rands, compared with 19,496 rands for blacks.
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