Book Review: South Africa’s New Apartheid

Book Review: The New Apartheid

In “The New Apartheid,” the author delves into the multifaceted layers of Post-Apartheid South Africa to reveal a compelling narrative that challenges the notion that Apartheid ended in 1994 with the establishment of democracy.

Through an examination of public space, law, wealth, technology, and racial patterns in criminal punishment, alongside the privatisation of justice through emerging institutions of private prosecution and investigation, the book argues that Apartheid was not eradicated but rather privatized by highlighting the perpetuation and, in some cases, the magnification of the legacy of privilege and dispossession established during the Apartheid era.

The Privatization of Apartheid

The core thesis of “The New Apartheid” posits that the overt racial segregation and discrimination that characterized the Apartheid era have morphed into a more covert form of racial segregation and economic inequality, sustained by the privatisation of key aspects of society. This privatization has, in effect, allowed for the continuation of Apartheid-era power relations under the guise of democracy. The author meticulously analyses several domains to support this thesis.

Public Space and Segregation

One of the most visible manifestations of the new Apartheid is in the utilization and control of public spaces. The book describes how urban planning and gated communities continue to enforce segregation, creating physical and symbolic barriers between different racial groups. These spatial arrangements echo the Apartheid era’s Group Areas Act but are now justified under the need for security and property values, masking racial exclusion behind economic rationale.

Law and Wealth Disparities

The legal system and economic structures in post-Apartheid South Africa are scrutinized for perpetuating inequality. The author argues that while the laws have changed on paper to promote equality and justice, their application often benefits those with wealth and influence—predominantly the white minority. This perpetuation of economic disparities reflects neo-colonial patterns, where the control of resources and wealth remains in the hands of a few, echoing the colonial exploitation of land, labor, and resources.

Technology and Surveillance

Technology’s role in sustaining the new Apartheid is another critical area of exploration. Surveillance technologies and social media platforms are portrayed as tools for maintaining social control, enabling a form of digital Apartheid that segregates communities through information access and online engagement. These technologies, while ostensibly neutral, are wielded in ways that reinforce existing inequalities.

Racial Patterns in Criminal Punishment

The book delves into the criminal justice system, revealing racial biases in sentencing, policing, and imprisonment. The author presents a compelling argument that the criminal justice system serves as a mechanism for the social control of black South Africans, reminiscent of Apartheid-era strategies to maintain white dominance. The privatisation of security and justice, through private security firms and prosecution services, exacerbates this issue by creating a dual system of justice that favours the wealthy, predominantly white, segment of the population.

Privatisation of Justice

Perhaps the most damning indictment of post-Apartheid South Africa presented in the book is the privatisation of justice. The emergence of private investigation and prosecution services has created a parallel legal system accessible only to those who can afford it. This development not only undermines the state’s role in ensuring justice for all but also entrenches the inequalities established during the Apartheid era. The author argues that this privatization reflects a broader global trend of neo-colonialism, where state power is eroded in favor of corporate interests that often align with former colonial powers.

Neo-Colonialism and the Preservation of White Privilege

The book makes a persuasive case that the negotiated settlements that marked the end of Apartheid and the transition to democracy were structured in such a way as to preserve white privilege. This preservation is evident in the continuing economic disparities, spatial segregation, and the unequal application of justice. The decline of state power post-1994, as described by the author, has allowed these structures of privilege to not only persist but in some cases to become even more entrenched.

The concept of neo-colonialism is central to understanding the dynamics at play in post-Apartheid South Africa. The author argues that neo-colonialism is not merely a continuation of colonialism under a different guise but is a more insidious form of control that operates through economic, legal, and technological means. This form of control ensures the continued dominance of a minority over the majority, mirroring the colonial project’s goals.

Conclusion

“The New Apartheid” is a seminal work that provides a stark, unflinching look at post-Apartheid South Africa, challenging the narrative of a successful transition to democracy and racial equality. Through its detailed analysis of public space, law, wealth, technology, and the privatisation of justice it challenges the idea of a Utopian Post-Apartheid South Africa which also holds lessons for understanding Neo-Colonialism for Africa as a whole.