Article written

  • on 31.05.2014
  • at 11:00 AM
  • by Kevin Hind

The story of a South African “tribe” 0

In October 2013, former South African president Thabo Mbeki, speaking at the Bethesda Methodist Church in the north of Johannesburg, warned us of a resurgence of tribalism in South Africa. In January of this year, Mbeki once again had the courage to speak out.

Calling this the “homeboy phenomenon”, he explained that this process is engaged in consciously and deliberately, and feeds corruption on a massive scale. He explained further that tribalist politicians offer material benefits for support and votes, and that it often defines access to political power or state resources. Tenders and other business opportunities are given out on a tribal basis, leading to a politics constructed along tribal lines.

Yet this is not limited to the public sector. In the private sector, tribalism promotes the creation of self-sustaining and mutually supportive bubbles based on ethnicity. During the hiring process, tribalist bosses will preference people from their own social grouping for top jobs. In workplace disputes, they will not be impartial but will often favour their tribal comrade. During business deals, especially within corporates and multinationals, ethnic affiliation becomes a big factor in building trust between two parties and often in concluding mutually beneficial deals.

Yet no one really listened to Mbeki’s warnings. Well, some people might have, but no one really did anything about it. And as he predicted, tribalism has become worse – at least among one South African ethnic group.

Voting is probably the best indicator of tribalist allegiances, as evidenced by statistics from the 2014 national elections:

* 92.8% of voters from two related tribes voted for the same party.

* Most of the rest of that tribe, about 165 715 people, voted for another much smaller tribalist party.

* That leaves only a few percentage points from these tribes who voted for other political parties without any tribal affiliation.

This presents an increase of an already homogeneous voting bloc. In 2009, 83.9% of these same two groups voted for this very same political party. Which tribes are these, you may ask, and which party did they vote for?

continue reading on Africa is a country

By Jared SacksAfrica is a country 

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