Posted on December 3, 2023

Harvard’s Shocking Admission: Affirmative Action and Critical Race Theory Killed South Africa

Revolver, November 29, 2023


Not too long ago, South Africa was a darling of the global neoliberal order. The nation hosted a soccer World Cup (where its fans ruined things with the abominable vuvuzela). It had that schmaltzy feel-good movie with Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman. The BRIC countries of Brazil, Russia, India, and China gave South Africa a sympathy invite to join the newly-renamed BRICS cabal. South Africa was the nation that would prove a post-colonial, post-European majoritarian multiracial democracy would astonish the world.

A new report from Harvard sums it up thusly:

The early 1990s marked a victory for generations of freedom fighters, and the future of an inclusive South Africa was set in motion. There was no telling what could be accomplished with the full force of South Africa’s human capabilities, creativity, and resilience in combination with its industrialized economy and established comparative advantages in global trade. […] The Rainbow Nation seemed poised to leverage its substantial economic assets at full strength. In 1995, South Africa supported the 47th most complex economy in the world — on par with China (ranked 46th) and far ahead of any other African nation (Tunisia was next at 66th). There was good reason to believe that the economy would grow rapidly, and opportunity would expand to many more South Africans.


Courtesy of the university’s “Growth Lab” at the Center for International Development, we have a lengthy 178-page paper titled “Growth Through Inclusion in South Africa.” But despite the title, the paper is actually about how the drive for “inclusion” has caused growth to disappear from the unfortunate country:

South Africa’s economy is stagnating and, in fact, losing capabilities, export diversity, and competitiveness. While the racial composition of wealth at the top has changed, wealth concentration in South Africa has not and remains very high. Moreover, the broader structures of the economy have not allowed for the inclusion of the labor and talents of South Africans — black, white, and otherwise.

The report is a gruesome, piece-by-piece dissection of South Africa’s failed economy, dressed up in just enough euphemisms to be publishable while allowing the more alert and informed to see the truth.

Income per capita has been falling for over a decade. Unemployment at over 33% is the world’s highest, and youth unemployment exceeds 60%. Poverty has risen to 55.5% based on the national poverty line, yet many more households depend on government transfers to sustain meager livelihoods.

Things are so bad that South Africa is getting utterly, devastatingly clowned on by Mexico, of all countries.

Other countries falter because of bad business cycles, a glut of risky loans, too much debt, or a crash in a major industry. Yet, as Harvard notes, South Africa has a diverse economy, spanning mining, agriculture, and industry, yet its malaise spans more than a decade, a period when much of the rest of the world was booming.

So what’s to blame? Quite simply, an inability to actually govern:

South Africa is facing the economic consequences of collapsing state capacity. This is the predominant driver of South Africa’s weakening economic performance and is at the heart of intensifying macroeconomic stress. … South Africa needs a strategy to recover state capacity or else slowing growth and increasing exclusion will continue to worsen.

Falling “state capacity?” What could they possibly mean by that?

We identify four strongly interacting causes underlying such systematic collapse: gridlock in the ruling coalition that prevents action; an ideology that justifies excluding society from participating in state-reserved activities, over-burdening of public entities with goals beyond their core missions and capabilities, and political patronage that has corrupted both the state and the ruling coalition.

Don’t be fooled: Those are not four different reasons for South Africa’s government collapse. Rather, they are all the same reason. Every cause of South Africa’s collapse above is, in reality, just a manifestation of the ruling ANC’s reconstruction of the entire country along racial lines.


What is the “political patronage” that Harvard describes as so cancerous to the country’s fortunes? It’s not just generic corruption, but in fact a well-known component of the ANC’s entire political order: cadre deployment. The term comes straight from Joseph Stalin himself, who told a class of Red Army cadets that “cadres decide everything” in 1935. The Communist-aligned ANC (they are literally in a coalition with the Communist Party) has adopted the same concept, which calls for deploying party loyalists into every lever of government. From the very beginning, the justification for cadre deployment was a radical redistribution of jobs based on race. {snip}


So, does Harvard’s long report give any of this context? It does not. Instead, the report merely observes, “It is a long-standing policy of the ANC to place party members in influential roles across government and crucially parastatals,” and notes that South Africa would be far better with “merit-based” hiring for employees.

A similar sleight of hand takes place with another cause of the country’s disintegration, the policy of “preferential procurement.” It takes Harvard until page 74 of the report to even define what preferential procurement is, and it does so with the bland definition that it “[gives] preference to previously disadvantaged groups.” Of course, preferential procurement is exactly what it sounds like: giving government contracts to inferior options simply because the ownership is black or female. Just like in the U.S., this leads to ridiculous cases of corruption, inefficiency, and fronting, where black-owned companies simply buy products from a real company and provide them at a markup to the government while taking a cut.

Despite its dry definition, Harvard’s paper actually warns that preferential procurement is utterly destroying the country. These racially-allotted contracts raise government costs by 28% in agriculture, 27% in transportation, 28% in public works, 62% in sports and cultural spending, and so on. Overall, the paper argues that just getting rid of preferential procurement would save an annual amount equal to 3% of South Africa’s entire GDP. When the paper gets to general recommendations on raising South Africa’s state capacity, the very first proposal is to immediately ditch preferential procurement, with the second being to implement merit-based hiring for government employees.