Privatising schools and public spaces makes it possible for segregation to operate in a democratic South Africa, a seminar on racism in post-apartheid South Africa has heard.
“There are forms of socialisation that made it possible for apartheid to operate… and have produced separated spaces we live in,” said the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research’s Professor Achille Mbembe.
“Private schools are a breeding ground for the maintenance of the unequal, racialised structures inherited from the past. You go to any major private school here in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, and you see the way the operate.
According to Mbembe, studies needed to be conducted in this regard.
Deep structural networks still existed in today’s society, which had resulted in segregation to a large extent, said Mbembe, adding that the privatisation of space was also entrenching the heritage of segregation.
According to research by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research’s Karina Landman, on four case studies in Gauteng, it is suggested that in gated communities “residents see themselves as different from those outside the area”.
“They have a need to divide themselves from the rest of the city to ensure security and privacy. This leads not only to spatial segregation, but also to social exclusion.
“All residents want is to be left alone, to mind their own business and create their own perfect little world inside the walls … The physical separation, through walls and gates, therefore also gives rise to social differentiation,” it stated.
Mbembe further pointed to “those in power” misusing public funds, which did not help against the struggle against racism.
“It doesn’t mean that black people don’t know how to manage public funds, but the perception that is created does not help at all.”
Racism in South Africa had undergone a “set of transformations”, he said.
“First of all, the deep structures of racism or racial hierarchy, in South Africa are still in place. We cannot fool ourselves into believing that (it) has been properly dealt with.”
Further to this, research needed to be conducted on laws of segregation that existed prior to 1994, and are still “in the book of laws in South Africa” today, Mbembe said.
“Why are they still there? And how is it that we get rid of them?,” he asked.
Structures which have produced what some call “white privilege” are also still in place, said Mbembe. Racist eruptions have also ended up producing a very “ambiguous form of apology”, where people apologise not because they think they have done anything wrong.
“An apology is recognising that I have done something that has hurt or injured a fellow human being – something I wouldn’t have done myself and for which I take responsibility – we have in that cycle false apologies.”
The second was public shaming of racist people, he added.