It is twenty-eight years since South Africa became a democracy and the socio-economic effects the apartheid system created only gets worse. One of the biggest issues we still face is the glaring disparity between those with wealth and the poor.
The standard of living for many South Africans differs greatly. Since the end of Apartheid there has been little to no change in the country’s wealth inequality. This is due to great discrepancies between the availability of economic opportunities.
South Africa is also considered the most unequal country according to modern indicators of wealth. The measures of one’s wealth include their house or land ownership, cash, corporate assets, and debts.
For many, the concept of understanding the true severity of wealth inequality can be difficult. Amaarah Garda, a Masters student at Wits University, has taken this challenge head on. Garda recently took part in the Wealth Inequality Art Competition, which was run by The Southern Centre for Inequality Studies at Wits. Her inspirational depiction of the wealth inequality South African’s face won her the prize.
Garda’s winning artwork showed a R200 note that replaces Mandela with a mini-informal settlement next to a river, where a lady seems to be drawing water. On the other side of the river, a man plays golf. Garda displays an emblem on the note that has a value system surrounding it, she elaborated on this further.
“It is the fundamental beliefs basically, of the system of inequality. The words I have put in there are meritocracy, that’s specifically my favourite one because I think it’s a myth that I would like to dispel. The idea of if you are poor, it’s because you deserve to be poor and if you are rich, it is because you’ve just worked harder than everyone else.”
Addressing wealth inequality
Garda addresses other terms of our current state that need looking at, such as aid, private property, exploitation, and free markets.
There has been a lot of conversations surrounding wealth inequality, following Amaarah’s artwork. Garda is not surprised and explained this is a conversation that occurs regularly. People often turn a blind eye or don’t understand it fully. This prompted her to enter the competition to showcase the seriousness of the situation in a different form. Three thousand five hundred individuals have more than 32 million South Africans who struggle daily.
Although combating this is not an overnight fix, we can work to reduce or improve our current state. The introduction of a wealth tax or pass tax on luxury goods are options being looked at. Limiting the ratio of pay between top executives and workers. Or implementing a progressive and accommodating income tax system are amongst others.
With our wealth inequality indicator on a constant rise, we as South Africans must do the best, we can actively address the severity of the issue and hopefully create a better future for everyone. Listen to Amaarah Garda’S Interview on the #AshrafGardaShow.