The White Shantytowns Of South Africa

“Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! I have as much soul as you, and full as much heart!” —Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre

In A Nutshell

South Africa has long been plagued by poverty. Across the nation, millions of citizens are forced to live in shantytowns and decrepit slums, a hangover from the enforced inequalities of the apartheid era. But while the majority of South Africa’s poor are black people, a completely new class has emerged since the seismic social shifts of 1994—formerly well-off white people who now eke out an existence in grinding poverty.

The Whole Bushel

When Nelson Mandela was elected president of South Africa in 1994, there was widespread hope that his government would wash away the extreme poverty and despair faced by millions of his countrymen. Unfortunately, a huge percentage of black South Africans continue to live below the breadline—only now they’re being joined by their white neighbors, too. It’s estimated that around 100,000 Afrikaners (descended from Dutch settlers) are currently camped out in shantytowns, trapped in dire poverty.

One of the most infamous of these is Coronation Park. In 1994, it was a getaway spot for wealthy whites wishing to escape the city. Today it’s a decaying slum: a wasteland of unemployment, malnutrition, and hopelessness. Families live in tents or broken shacks and rely on food hand-outs to survive. Drugs are a problem and the massive inequalities have given rise to an undercurrent of extreme racism in some parts of the park.

Although not as numerous as the country’s infamous townships, dozens of white camps like Coronation Park now exist across the country, each with their own unsolvable problems. Prior to the end of apartheid, South Africa had a system of guaranteed jobs, housing, and subsides for poor white citizens. With the end of minority rule, maintaining these subsidies became both immoral and logistically impossible. The result was a growing number of whites with no jobs, no backup, and no safety net. In 2008, then-presidential candidate Jacob Zuma visited another settlement at Bethlehem and expressed astonishment at the sheer number of whites living below the breadline.

Now, obviously these settlements need to be seen in a historical context. The number of black South Africans living in similarly impoverished conditions is huge, with the added downside that they were just as poor prior to 1994. That whites are now also penniless is an unfortunate side effect of bringing equality to millions.

Show Me The Proof

BBC News: South Africa’s hidden white poverty
Reuters: White poverty in South Africa (photo slideshow)
Radio Times: Reggie Yates on Extreme South Africa

  • notoored

    it shows that the stereotype of whites automatically having it easy and living the easy life is wrong. just like any other race, a lot of caucasians live in bad conditions too. in the end, everyone of every race has people who live in crap conditions

    • inconspicuous detective

      if people ever checked out eastern europe or russia, they’d see white men and women aren’t always affluent, college educated individuals with the world at their feet. stupid idea to begin with, but everyone has their stereotype.

    • OC

      I never thought that, ever.

      • lonelydisco

        Weird, huh?

  • Hillyard

    Like many things, equality can be a two edged sword. Having been guaranteed jobs during apartheid, they now have to compete fairly for work. There is possibly some boomerang discrimination going on, but karma is a bitch sometimes and what went around is now coming around. I’m not saying that this is a good thing, but now some of these people are learning how bad their non-white countrymen had it during apartheid.

    • OC

      I’m surprised to hear you say that. What do they call it? Competition? Free markets? Maybe they can fake schizophrenia and do deaf interpretation.

    • Partyforever

      Sure pal, you should just check how good things were across the borders of South Africa where communism was in practice.

      Mozambique $123 a person per year income.

      Zimbabwe $230 a person per year. 250 million % inflation. 90% unemployment.

      Tanzania $300 a person per year.

      In South Africa, the average wage was $5 an hour.

      “South Africa’s ability to compete globally was also affected by labor militancy, in part because, officials estimated, a worker’s cost to employers in 1994–including wages and benefits–averaged US$5 an hour in South Africa, or double the average labor costs in Mexico or Brazil and more than five times the average labor cost in China.”

  • Koki

    It’s actually quite funny that the majority of these poor white people happen to be Afrikaaners who were steadfastly pro-apartheid and wanted it to last forever. Karma truly is a bitch

    • OC

      When they arrived they had nothing, but just being white entitled them to, at minimum, 2 maids, during Apartheid. My professor had told the class they had the highest standard of living ever. I guess now Dubai or Saudi Arabai are living highest.

      • Partyforever

        As an Afrikaner, I can tell you a little about South Africa about which you know absolutely nothing about. During apartheid, 50% of those in government was black. It is a big country half the size of Europe. 35 million people. The whites didn’t have all the jobs in government, despite what you have heared. There were millions of black people that together made out the policemen and women, soldiers, teachers, traffic cops, maintenance staff, border guards, hospital workers. Currently, 93% of the government staff is black! 93%! So while the whites had given the black population at least half of the jobs under apartheid, today, the white population, which is 10% of the population, doesn’t even get jobs. And every white was retired from the government after 1994: that’s almost 400,000 skilled whites.

        But let me put things into perspective: 5 million took away 5 million jobs at most from 37 million people. Now 30 million act as if they need affirmative action, when in actual case, it was only a tiny minority ( 12% ) of highly skilled people that took away jobs from a overwhelming poor uneducated and unskilled majority. ( 75% ).

        Now 75% want all affirmative action.

        And in case you didn’t know, by 1955, 89% of the black population was still illiterate. At the end of apartheid, South Africa had the highest literacy rate in Africa: 93%.

        • Jacko

          And I’ve never met a nice South African

          • Mike_88

            That’s because you’re a judgmental prick.

          • KentuckyKid

            And I’ve never met a South African that I didn’t warm to.

    • Mike_88

      Karma? Whites carved SA out of nothing. No one even lived there 500 years ago when whites arrived. They earned the land through blood and sweat and now they’ve given it all away…

  • OC

    National Review had an article recently called, “white ghetto” that got a lot of traffic. We know that throughout Europe things are desperate. Greeks, I think NPR said, remove very ill elderly from the safety of nursing homes because the elder’s pension is their only income. Throughout Appalachia, lots of poverty. Every city has a Skid Row, and what KILLS me are Vets with artificial limbs standing at freeway entrances, and people in wheelchairs with all of their stuff hanging off, and Very old people too — with all of their belongings. America is not the $1,000 blue jeans that Kimye wears, not at ALL. That’s why I can’t watch TV. It is so ridic.

  • Vag Owner

    feel bad for the kids, but like others cite…karma for the adults. if i was them i’d just relocate to a nearby colonized place like australia or return to europe, but there they still won’t be given automatic jobs or even as much sympathy as they’re getting now.

  • Mike_88

    White people need to discard the concept of egalitarianism and “fairness”. It’s what’s gotten them where they are in the world. At the bottom of the heap.