BBC Africa Debate asks if ‘black and white’ still matters in the Rainbow Nation

Johannesburg: 22 August 2012 – South Africa’s race relations are the focus of the August edition of BBC Africa Debate. South Africa @18: Does ‘black and white’ still matter in the Rainbow Nation? will be presented by the BBC’s Audrey Brown and Karen Allen from Johannesburg on Friday 31 August, with a panel of four 18-year-old South Africans.

Earlier this year, on 27 April, the country marked the 18th anniversary of its first multiracial elections heralding the birth of Nelson Mandela’s “Rainbow Nation”. This 18th year of freedom also marks the coming of age of the first South African citizens to be born after the end of the racist apartheid regime. These teenagers are now able to vote for the first time.

South Africa is one of the most diverse countries in the world, racially as well as ethnically. It is also one of the most unequal societies in the world. Its inequalities correlate with race and concern is growing that this socio-economic imbalance or divide is increasingly threatening the country’s stability.

According to the South African Institute of Race Relations, per capita personal income among white South Africans is nearly eight times higher than that of the country’s black citizens. 29% of black South Africans are unemployed compared with 5.9% of their white compatriots.

President Jacob Zuma has called for greater state involvement in mining and land ownership to address inequalities inherited from apartheid – which he said pose a “grave threat” to Africa’s biggest economy. Nobel Peace Laureate and former South African president, FW de Klerk, has warned about new racism in South Africa. He said the governing ANC’s rhetoric was increasingly becoming hostile to white South Africans and that the ANC is using racism as a “smokescreen” to hide its failures.

Earlier this month, South Africans were shocked when more than 30 striking mine workers were shot dead by police during protests over wages. The incident highlighted the growing frustration by South Africa’s workers with poverty, unemployment and inequality.

BBC Africa Debate Senior Producer Rachael Akidi says: “As South Africa is living its ‘adulthood’, we have put four ‘born frees’ – children born in the new South Africa – at the centre of our debate, on the panel. How does their experience of growing up in the new South Africa reflect the state of race relations in the country? Does ’black and white’ still matter in the Rainbow Nation? We want to know whether race relations in South Africa have improved over the last 18 years.”

BBC Africa Debate presenters Audrey Brown and Karen Allen will be talking to the panel and an invited audience including politicians, government representatives, policy makers, trade unionists, business representatives, academics, students and media executives.

This edition of BBC Africa Debate will be recorded on Friday 31 August at 10am local time in Chalsty Centre, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. It will be broadcast by BBC World Service at 19.00 GMT on the same day. The programme will be repeated on Sunday 2 September at 13.00 GMT. The debate will also be online at, on Twitter #bbcafricadebate, #bbcafrica, on Facebook and Google+ on the BBCAfrica page.

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