The Real Apartheid Economy

“It’s nothing personal. That’s just how our economy works” (When Swallows Cry). As I sat watching the play unfold, this line caught my attention. Not only because the context of the scene regarded human trafficking, but because there is truth in these words for the disadvantaged, lower-class in South Africa, particularly the blacks and the colors. This play and the culmination of my time in South Africa has made me call into question the different types economic systems and their uses. It was a dangerous rabbit hole to fall down late at night after such a thought provoking play, but the result was a personal epiphany which has forever changed my views on business and human rights.

As a business student, my first impression of the South African economy was similar to the picture painted by the article we read “What Economic Future, South Africa?” by J. Specktor. My narrow view included its mineral, gold, and diamond exports, its desire for 5% growth over the next 10 years, and staggering unemployment rates (Specktor). However, once we arrived it seemed like every day I added a new layer of knowledge to my understanding of the country’s many micro economies. In the markets and townships, I was exposed to the people’s innovation through microfinancing initiatives and crafty, small businesses. At Robben Island and later Constitution Hill, I learned about the prison economy, where cigarettes and sex were traded for extra food. At the Lesedi cultural village, I discovered that in many South African tribes +11 cows and maybe a horse or two will buy any man a wife. Yet, there was still something missing.

It wasn’t until I sat front and center watching When Swallows Cry through misty eyes that the rest of the pieces fell into place. In the same scene as the previously stated line, the commandant compared the value of African lives (blacks) to those of Americans or Canadians (whites). The first part of my realization was if a white life is worth more than a black life just as the dollar is worth more than a rand that is inflation. If inflation exists and one good or object is being traded for another, than apartheid (and many other systems of oppression) can be classified as an economy in itself. We learned in the fall that the traditionally accepted economy played a role in maintaining and later ‘ending’ apartheid; however, apartheid is a separate system which doesn’t deal with hard currency. In this economy, the human dignity and respect of some are being traded for the financial and political benefits of others. I speak in the present because these tradeoffs still exist and so does the economy of apartheid even though the regulations have been lifted. The inflation between black and white lives may have fallen slightly since 1994, but the gap still exists creating an excellent “exchange rate” for whites. The question of why this has been allowed to continue became so much clear when I examined apartheid as an economic system.

My business classes have taught me that when the exchange rate works in your favor you take advantage of it while you can. Even though economic systems are manmade and controlled by the demand of the whole, it has been my experience that people subconsciously reject the fact that together the collective can change the economic outlook. It is always the economy’s fault, as if it has a mind of its own. Hence lines like “It’s nothing personal. That’s just how our economy works.” However, economic principles point to a potential solution. If those benefitting from a good exchange rate would leverage their power for the good of the whole and if the disadvantaged masses would increase the demand for justice, there would be an economic shift.

Of course, this is much easier said than done. The road to economic recovery faces many challenges; the foremost of which is time. Economic recovery is not a fast process. It takes a lot of time and continuous efforts to improve it. Often the recovery time is unpredictable, one day inflation can be down and the slightest shift could send it skyrocketing the next. Another tantalizing hurtle is the reliance of the advantaged minority to be selfless and go against the grain of the typical business mindset. It is a daunting task, but it is the course that the South African people, and quite frankly the world as a whole, should pursue swiftly. If not, black South Africans will continue to hear the same flimsy excuse, “It’s nothing personal. That’s just how our economy works” for decades to come.


Work Cited

Specktor, J. “What Economic Future, South Africa? | Daily Maverick.” Daily Maverick. N.p., 1 July 2014. Web. 24 Jan. 2017.

When Swallows Cry. By Mike Van Graan. Dir. Lesedi Job. South Africa, Johannasburg. 18 Jan. 2017. Performance.


Will Flood Blog 2

“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to unite in a way that little else does.” This quote said by Nelson Mandela resonates through the history of South Africa from the 1995 Rugby World Cup to the soccer World Cup hosted by the country in 2010. Before arriving in South Africa, I focused most of my research on the economic impact of the end of the apartheid era and the 2010 World Cup, in an attempt to connect the two major events in the country in recent memory. However, since arriving in South Africa, it is clear that the country is still in the post-apartheid era as unemployment rates have risen, education is lacking and the income disparity is as great as it has ever been. As the trip comes to an end, I wanted to explore whether the 2010 World Cup had the economic impact that many people believed it would.

While hosting a world famous event such as the World Cup would seem to have immediate and lasting economic affect for a country, this does not appear to apply to South Africa. In an article written in African Business by Tom Nevin in 2010, he notes that South Africa gained R38 billion in revenue from the World Cup while incurring a R40 billion cost expense (Nevin 63). The combination of the cost of building and renovating stadiums and the less-than-expected attendees resulted in a R2 billion loss for the country.

However, with all of these expenses the country incurred, one would think that the economy would see a boost as all of these infrastructure costs would lead to more jobs and a lower unemployment rate. However, as shown in Exhibit 1, this is not the case. The graph shows that unemployment was at its lowest in 2009, but rose steadily until the end of 2010. The unemployment rate continued to rise and is currently at its highest rate. Much of this can be attributed to the fact that while the construction industry saw increased activity during the World Cup preparations, these companies brought in workers from other countries to fill these jobs. Therefore, South Africans did not benefit much from the spike in expansion. Furthermore, in speaking with South African natives around Cape Town, it appeared that the affects of the World Cup are no longer felt. These natives consisted of colored security guards to white and black businessman and several bartenders. Almost to a person, these people felt that the World Cup benefitted Cape Town for a brief time, but was not sustainable and is no longer impacting them today.

With all of this being said, I want to challenge the notion that the World Cup had no impact or even a negative impact on South Africa. While the data may indicate that unemployment is rising and the wealth disparity is still huge, when looking at the areas that hosted World Cup games, it is impossible to ignore the positive lasting affects of the event.

After our time in Cape Town, it is clear that the area surrounding the stadium benefitted from the World Cup. The V&A Waterfront mall has grown and flourished since being built and has created lasting and sustainable jobs since the World Cup. With over 400 retail locations, the Waterfront is a huge area for tourists to spend money and creates jobs for local people to transport from the surrounding townships. Furthermore, all of the infrastructure, hotels and restaurants built for the World Cup are still thriving with tourism in Cape Town increasing. Tourism brings billions (Rand) to South Africa’s economy each year and shows signs of increasing. According to an article in the Daily South African, South Africa is experiencing a hospitality sector boom similar to the one it experienced in 2010 with many hotel brands looking to open large hotels in Cape Town, Kruger National Park and Johannesburg (Colman 2016). Furthermore, “soccer city” in Johannesburg has greatly impacted the township of Soweto. The stadium still hosts soccer matches between the two local soccer clubs, and other events throughout the year. Also according to our tour guide, when the World Cup came to Soweto, FIFA built many parks around Soweto that the children of the township still use.

While the statistics may indicate that South Africa has not progressed much since the 2010 World Cup, it is impossible to ignore the benefits of the areas that hosted World Cup events. Cape Town has seen large increases in the hospitality sector that is still thriving and providing jobs and foreign investment. Johannesburg and Soweto have benefitted from infrastructure built to transport people form the city to the stadium and other public sector projects. While South Africa is still dealing with the affects of apartheid, the 2010 World Cup seemed to create lasting and sustainable growth in the areas of the country that hosted events.


Exhibit 1



Works Cited


Nevin, Tom. “Was it all Worth it?” African Business, no. 367, 2010., pp. 62-63,

Colman, Michelle. “Tourism Update.” Daily South African. N.p., 1 June 2016. Web. 23 Jan. 2017.

–Will Flood








South African Economy During and After the Apartheid Era: What’s the Difference?

Through our group work in the fall and writing our research proposal, I felt confident that I had a sense of how the South African economy was working. I knew that the economy as a whole is suffering. There are high levels of unemployment (28%), complexities with education access, and there are limited opportunities for sustainable jobs. The formal economy in broad terms made sense to me. However, what I was really ignorant of was the informal economy, and how there are such obvious economic systematic disparities among the people of South Africa.

One day, our class visited the Langa township. At first glance, this township looked unimaginable. It was nothing like I had ever seen in America. Houses were made from steel scraps and car parts, people were dressed in old and torn clothes, and multiple families together were cramped into a tiny room. The conditions were almost unlivable. At one point, we came upon a market with various handmade items. Our group looked around for a while before a couple of people made some purchases from the woman. She was overly grateful and shook our hands saying “god bless you all”. I started to inquire about the economy to our guide. She explained that most everyone living in these townships are living in extreme poverty. They are making less than a living wage, and therefore depend upon “group collection”, where families and friends combine their money to buy items/electricity/food for the whole group. What very little they are buying, they share with one another. I then asked what people in these townships did for work. Our guide explained that this was a very complex issue. She stated that some men woke up early every morning to travel to more urban areas to work. These men may only have the chance to work a couple of days a week, because sometimes the bus to the city was too full, or men would get to work and they would be told that they are not needed that day. Thus, lots of people are only brining home a two day/week salary, and that is not a livable wage for one person, much less a family.

The women in the townships had a variety of roles. Most mothers stayed in the townships to look after the children. Some women made creative crafts and various items to sell to tourists who come into the village. The kids would go to school. However, getting the children to school was even difficult. Those who could afford transportation for their children could arrange their children to be driven there. Most cannot afford transportation, and so these children and their mothers are walking miles to and from school each day. I also learned that school is only mandatory until grade 8. Therefore, some of the older children would drop out of school to look for work just to bring in more income.

To be honest, I was disturbed by a lot of this. I told our guide that my group was researching the economy in South Africa post-Apartheid. At first she chuckled, and seemed to joke that “not much has changed for us”. Intrigued, I asked what she meant by that. In short, her response dealt with the idea that the impoverished townships and the poor are not reaping any economic benefits, but instead these communities are continuing to struggle for years and years. The women who work endlessly on homemade crafts and goods barely make any profit, and the money that they do make never lasts long. Thus, the cycle of poverty continues. Their lives are essentially the same as they were during the Apartheid, when there was purposeful segregation and economic inequality. On the bus ride back from Langa, I thought about our tour guide’s comments and reflected on my own observations. Immediately I thought back to our class discussion and the “dance of the lemons”. The way we discussed this saying in the fall was regarding the issue of less educated and essentially lower-quality teachers would be assigned to teach in poorer districts. This perpetuates the cycle of poverty because then children are less motivated and may not finish their education, and they remain “stuck” in what they know. After talking with the principle at Ekukhanyisweni Primary School, she noted that teachers are so undervalued and outnumbered that most days they have to spend more time waking up and prompting children in class rather than actually teaching material. This caused me to start to think about the dance of the lemons in a broader sense in dealing with the economy.

During the Apartheid era, blacks and coloreds were separated from the white superior race. Blacks were forcibly removed from their homes and neighborhoods and driven into overcrowded townships. This made it especially difficult for blacks to make money because their homes were now extremely far away from major cities and economic opportunity. Whites had the benefit of living close in the cities and could walk to work without showing a passbook. They were reaping the economic benefits of the Apartheid system, while blacks and coloreds struggled in poverty. Today, it is unbelievable to me that there really is not a noticeable difference in terms of the economic disparities between races. Sato’s “Forced Removals, Land Structures, and Restoration of Land in South Africa” says, “many of these damaging removal effects are still present currently within the townships” (Sato 18). I now understood why our tour guide made the comment that “not much has changed here”

So now I have to wonder: what is the solution? Is there an easy one? Because the strong economic divide is so closely correlated with the continuing social and racial divisions, it is reasonable to conclude that drastic social change is imperative. Basic changes need to be made in order for economic growth to be equitable amongst South African citizens. Infrastructure and access to sustainable jobs should be main priorities in terms of restructuring the economy for the future. In doing so, this will create more accessible opportunities for economic advancement for people living in townships. If people had access to a proper education, they would therefore be able to contribute perhaps to the formal economy, and there would be less people in townships who exclusively contribute to and rely on the informal economy. I appreciate that this would be the product of an ideal economy. In truth, for sufficient change to be made, this takes a lot of time, and time is uncertain. As Brooks’ “What economic future, South Africa?” says, “predicting the future ultimately relies upon the assumptions one must make about future government behavior….not an easy business” (Brooks 1). Though legally and technically speaking, Sough Africa is living in a post-Apartheid economy, it seems that many of the inequitable and unjust economic effects are still present in this country today, specifically in areas of poverty and townships. Ironically, during our visit to Freedom Square in Soweto, one of the core principles of the South African Congress Alliance from 1990 states “all apartheid practices shall be set aside”. Unfortunately, until social and economic change has progressed, the effects of these economic disparities between races will remain stagnant.

Works Cited:

Spector, J Brooks. “What Economic Future, South Africa?” Daily Maverick, 1 July 2014,            future-south-africa/#.WIYp8hsrJPY. Accessed 30 December 2016.

Sato, C. Forced Removals, Land Struggles and Restoration of Land in South Africa: A             Case of Roosboom. Retrieved January 22, 2017.

-London Vaughn

A Garden Solely Watered Cannot Truly Grow

By: Dawn Winsor

Our group attended the play “When Swallows Cry” at The Market Theater in Johannesburg. This play and the messages that came out of it really resonated with me and changed my outlook on many things having to do with South Africa and our group’s affect on it.

What are we doing here? Why did we come and what did we expect to leave behind?

Since I was young, I’ve always had this urge to visit Africa and “give back”. I’m not exactly sure where this longing came from, but it’s a main reason why I applied for this Winter Term program in the first place. I’ve always known I was lucky for the life I was given, for the privilege I benefit from, and the freedom I didn’t sacrifice anything to have. In the same regard, I’ve also always known this wasn’t the case for much of the world. I felt that in a sense it was almost my duty as a fellow human being to give at least a bit of my time, money, and support to those who need it because I simply have ample amounts in comparison.

So here I was, days left until my departure back home, thinking I had done something of value in my short time here. I knew my contributions were small – miniscule in fact – but nonetheless they were contributions and I thought the efforts my classmates and I put in made a difference to at least some.


Then I saw “When Swallows Cry” and that’s when I started to value our contributions here much differently. My subconscious observations made in the last month were finally recognized and articulated out loud, contrasting much of what I believed before coming on this trip.

In the play, three different stories were told. The first was about a wealthy man from Canada who came to Africa in hopes of “helping” its citizens. Instead, he was kidnapped and held hostage by two natives because his life was “worth hundreds of African villager’s lives”. They snarked at the white man’s desire to “help”, giving off the impression that money is all they really want and need to keep their village alive and well. The other two stories were about men from Africa who risked everything to escape the dangers of their homelands and find some sense of safety and longevity (even if it meant being locked up in another country’s prison for the rest of their lives). However it seems their tragic deaths were inevitable because the same world that “wants to give back” wants to solely do so on African turf. These men were immediately suspected as dangerous and harmful intruders whose safety nobody wanted to take on. They all ended up dead without truly entering these new lands because, to them, death seemed a better alternative than the horrible conditions they were being sent back to.

After this play I felt as if my eyes were finally opened to a much more truthful reality – one that was honestly difficult to stomach. I suddenly felt as if our efforts here were worthless in the grand scheme of things. Unappreciated by the masses because frankly, what is a free lunch and a new pair of shoes really going to change?

I now saw Africa, and places alike, as a garden left uncared for. Every now and again there’s someone like me who comes along with her watering pot and pours some amount out over a small patch of this multi-acre terrain. Indeed, that water gets absorbed almost immediately. Thirst-quenching grounds of dried up dirt and seemingly lifeless plants pull in its hydrating molecules. But ultimately, the water poured out isn’t nearly enough to bring the flowers back their strength, and even so there still remain acres of dried patches just like that one, equally desperate for nourishment. Places like these do not lack the potential to grow into beautiful botanical gardens filled with life and color, however. In fact, the roots embedded in these forgotten lands contain some of the most beautiful plants of which can be credited for the growth of most other healthy gardens nearby. But these lands need more than just a sporadic pour from a watering pot. In fact, all the hydration in the world couldn’t properly bring this garden back to life. Overtime, it seems destructive weeds of corruption and ill-distributed power have grown in place of what used to be. Decades and decades of oppression cast a shadow over African land that seeks sunlight for growth and strength. We saw that apparentness in our daily observations and discussed those disparities thoroughly in class and after museum visits. Africa needs more than just watering pots. It needs the deep-rooted problems to be weeded out. It needs equal distribution of sunlight. It needs a change of climate.

Days after the play, we went to the school that Elon’s been working with for the last decade or so. We played with the students and afterward gave them new shoes, jerseys, trousers, ties, etc. to replace the poor condition of many of their current clothes. The principal herself told us that our efforts over the years do indeed make a difference and truly go a long way. Additionally, Dr. Layne informed us that when we initially began volunteering with this particular school, 10% of the kids owned shoes. A decade or so later and only about 10% now do not. Then I thought about Langa, one of the townships we toured during out trip. A school from Germany sent its students over to the township every three months over the span of a few years in efforts to build a giant amphitheater for the townspeople. Today that amphitheater is filled with beautiful art and other creations made by the people of the township. That school from Germany gave Langa the chance to express itself and showcase their people’s work properly. Efforts like these don’t go unfelt, as small as they may seem.

However, as much as I started to revalue our contributions here, I couldn’t mute out the messages that stuck with me from “When Swallows Cry”. Why do these problems continue to exist if our work “goes a long way”? What was the director trying to articulate in the story of the two men that saw our “help” as useless? Kurt, a one-man-show actor who came to visit our classroom during our trip, depicted the struggles of class and race so strongly existent in South Africa’s society. He discussed the scale of whiteness, and how those who are an ounce more “white” than others socially feel more superior and worthy. Even thinking back to the school that we visited… the principal mentioned how overcrowded all of the classrooms are (some without teachers to even fill them). Two different languages are being taught at that one school with a short faculty to really keep these kids on track. Yes, our efforts don’t go unfelt, but when you look at the bigger picture, decent education is more important than a decent uniform, isn’t it?

So I guess going back to this whole garden analogy, maybe the water pots are highly necessary. Maybe they’re buying us time – time to figure out the tools and methods necessary to weed out the corruption and change South Africa’s climate. One free meal does make a difference in a child’s life, especially when they don’t often know where the next one will come from. Providing clothes and supplies to education establishments is essential for the growth and development of its pupils. However, I certainly believe we could all be using this bought time more wisely, with a bit of a sense of urgency.

There have been countless efforts that we’ve learned about (both in the fall and on this trip) where leaders like Nelson Mandela have led movements of equality and social justice. People in South Africa aren’t standing still; these beautiful plants are pushing as hard as they can through the dry, unnourished soil, attempting to break through the oppressive weeds grown among them. I think that our efforts need to be a bit more focused on helping them break through the grounds. We need to continue watering, but also make a significantly better effort towards tackling the root of South Africa’s problems. As Hannah put it once, “we need to be upstandards of society”. Now that we’ve seen the horrible conditions and unbelievable class and racial disparities that exist in South Africa (and often times right here at home), we need to find a way to stand up for our fellow human beings. What are the tools that will bring this incredible garden back to life?

“When Swallows Cry” was one of the many productions we were lucky enough to see on our trip here. It provoked much thought in my previously unchanging opinion on places like Africa and how people like me – groups like us – have an effect on it. These productions, especially the one at The Market Theater gave me the most honest insights into the truths of South Africa. Though I was able to observe with my own eyes and learn from class explorations, everything was finally clear when I sat in the audience of each production. South African theater, after all, is considered to be “…revolutionary in nature, and challenges the established ‘white, heterosexual, culturally exclusive norms and values’ (Davis, 1996). It was certainly revolutionary in my perspectives and insights on both the state of the nation as a whole and what it really meant for our group to be here.


Works Cited

Davis, G. V., & Fuchs, A. (1996). Theatre and change in South Africa. Amsterdam: Harwood Academic .



Happiness Isn’t Always Material

When our class visited Zwelihle I was overwhelmed by the welcoming attitudes of the people that we met. They accepted us into their community and let us interact with their children with no hesitation whatsoever. This showed me that the residents there had complete trust in our group to help however we could at the time. They did not second-guess our intentions for the visit. All they did was open their arms and guide us on how we could best help them out at the time.

On that particular trip we visited a school full of children on their very first day of the year. Some were quiet and reserved while others couldn’t get enough of our attention. We introduced them to Play-Doh (which surprisingly didn’t interest them all that much), colored with them, and played outside with them as well. At first, the majority of the kids held back and did not interact with anybody much. However, after a little while most of kids began playing with somebody and enjoying themselves.

After playing with the kids for a while, our group prepared and served them lunches, which consisted of hot dogs, chips, apples, candy, and a juice box. Although it was a simple and inexpensive lunch, the kids seemed very happy and the teachers seemed grateful. Following lunch for the kids it was time for lunch for our group. I knew we were eating at a nice restaurant that day and so I expected the bus ride to be decently long. I was shocked when we arrived at the restaurant only five minutes later.

We had arrived in Hermanus, the whale-watching capital of the world. There were glass pools, extravagant restaurants, and luxury resorts that all overlooked the ocean. Multi-million rand houses dotted the coastline as wealthy (mainly white) residents and tourists laid out in the sun to try and get a tan. But I noticed a discrepancy between the two areas other than the economic gap. The people in the beach town were not nearly as welcoming as the people in the township were.

The contrast between the picturesque beach town and the poor township that we had just visited was stark. Less than two kilometers away from hungry children were lavish meals that costs upwards of R250 per person. Kids wondering whether or not they’ll go to bed hungry gave way to people deciding whether or not to have dessert. The proximity between the rich and the poor in South Africa surprises me every time I encounter it. There have been multiple times where I have looked out one side of the bus and witnessed somebody begging for food and then turned around to look at the back of a house in a well-off neighborhood. Back in the United States the change in more gradual and less shocking. I know where to expect the bad parts of town and where to expect the wealthier people to settle. I know the cultural norms that surround both areas and so I know what to expect when approaching both landscapes. When we started visiting townships in Cape Town, though, I was thrown off. I was thrown off by the extremity of their poverty, by the sheer quantity of people living in these communities, and by the proximity to wealthy communities. The whole experience took me out of my comfort zone and made me just utterly bewildered about the whole concept. How could you enjoy yourself on an expensive vacation when blatant poverty is literally down the road from your beach house?

We touched upon the subject a few times during class discussions and we always came back to the same answer, you just had to either ignore or accept what was going on around you. I understand the concept. If you work hard and earn your money you should be able to enjoy it however you want, even if it does happen to be minutes from people living in poverty. In the beginning I just could not understand how the people living in these townships could seem so happy whenever we visited when they knew that people had extra food and space less than two kilometers away. I also didn’t get how they were so happy and accepting when we pulled out our iPhones and expensive cameras after getting off our luxury tour bus to take pictures of their homes and communities. After trying to understand on my own I had my perspective turned around and was forced to think differently by a guest we had come perform a show for us. He made us do an exercise that forced us to look at ourselves from the township resident’s perspective. All of the sudden it hit me. Maybe they aren’t always happy; maybe they actually don’t truly like it when we come to visit. I am sure that at least some of the people of the townships are excited to see us and genuinely enjoy our company for the short time that we are there. But I am also sure that some people see us as spectators that think we are truly helping a lot, even though we really aren’t, by buying a few items from the vendors and giving food to the kids for a meal or two once a year.

This all made me realize something bigger. No matter where people live geographically, there are always going to be people better off than others living close by. That’s just the way the world works currently. It’s not all about me helping on my small-scale individual level. It’s about the communities and the people within them. Everybody can use some help now and again no matter who you are or what you do. But it’s more about the people you have surrounding you, such as family and friends, than the things you have surrounding you, such as a nice car, that truly help you out when you are in need. That’s what I came to realize while visiting the townships and wealthy areas of South Africa. It’s true, the people in the townships could have been nicer because they wanted us to spend money there, but maybe it was because they have such a tight knit community that they all fall back on when they are in need. A community that helps you out when you need it most can make you much happier than an ocean view from your balcony.