A black middle class in such a socially segregated society merits closer attention as to its definition and its further deconstruction. Which are the characteristics, the aspirations, the self-definition, but also the political orientations of such a group?
The political climate remains fragile and the mentality of most opposition politicians hardly offers meaningful alternatives. This is possibly an explanation – but no excuse – for the undemocratic practices permeating almost every one of the region’s nations. Beyond multi-party systems with regular elections, they resemble very little of true democracies.
The so-called middle class appears to be a “muddling class”. Rigorously explored differentiation remains largely absent – not to mention any substantial class analysis. Fortunately, though, the debate has created sufficient awareness among scholars to explore the fact and fiction of the assumed transformative power of a middle class.
Namibia marked its 27th independence anniversary on Tuesday. Despite the government’s populist rhetoric, Namibia remains a rich country with poor people. Redistribution of wealth is mainly limited to a new black elite. These are office bearers, party stalwarts and those with close ties to the state. They thrive through a policy of so-called affirmative action and black economic empowerment.
It is dubious that African middle classes by their sheer existence promote economic growth. Their increase was mainly a limited result of the trickle down effects of the resource based economic growth rates during the early years of this century. Their position and role in society has hardly economic potential and dynamics inducing further productive investment contributing towards sustainable economic growth.
Who benefits from withdrawal from the International Criminal Court as a response to the double standards and asymmetrical power relations in global politics? Leaving the ICC erodes international criminal jurisdiction and thereby the protection of people further, especially on a continent where no other local, regional or continental court with a similar mandate exists.
The world has edged closer to placing the same value on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people as it does on human rights. Sadly, not all states, including many African countries, are on the same page.
While at best of dubious value – if not outright dangerous for the consequences in policy spheres – the Failed States Index should be no substitute for common sense. It reinforces stereotypical Eurocentric perceptions and is at best another sign of patronising and paternalist worldviews.
It takes quite some fantasy to imagine how, based on the living costs in Africa’s urban centres, a $2-a-day threshold catapults someone from the $1.99 margin as criteria for poor into a middle-class existence. And then into playing a pioneering role in the continent’s future transformation.
It is normal for resistance movements to adopt rough survival strategies and techniques while fighting an oppressive regime. Unfortunately, such confrontational mentality becomes entrenched in an authoritarian political culture that is based on the claim that liberators have an entitlement to rule within a new elite project.