The Review of Black Political Economy

, Volume 15, Issue 4, pp 47–62 | Cite as

Surplus people and expendable children: The structure of apartheid and the mortality crisis in South Africa

  • Thomas R. De Gregori
  • William Darity


South Africa’s apartheid scheme is considered as a paradigm case for the creation and maltreatment of a putatively surplus population. Both active and passive policies are identified that are utilized to contain the numbers of the black population of the nation. Of particular significance is a strategy of neglect that has led to exceptionally high infant and child mortality rates in the “homelands.” In addition, the South African authorities’ efforts to destabilize neighboring regimes in Angola and Mozambique has had similarly adverse repercussions on mortality rates there.


Infant Death Child Death Rate South African Government Black Labor White Settler 
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  2. 2.
    An early excellent account of the forceful removals of Africans resulting from apartheid, can be found in Cosmas Desmond,The Discarded People: An Account of African Settlement in South Africa (preface by Lord Caradon, foreword by Nadine Gordimer), (Harmondsworth, England: Penguin, 1961), 265 pp.Google Scholar
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    Laurine Platzky and Cheryl Walker,The Surplus People: Forced Removals in South Africa, (Johannesburg, South Africa: Ravan Press, Surplus People Project, 1985). The authors also note the attempt to create an African elite “with a stake in the system” as part of the process that is dispossessing the Africans of any ability to work. p. xxii.Google Scholar
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    Since blacks, beyond those necessary for the economy, are not wanted in white South Africa, housing for them is extremely scarce. One estimate for “the average number of black persons per family housing unit ranges from 12 to 24 depending on how it is calculated. The comparable figure for whites is 4 persons per housing unit.” Michael O. Sutcliffe, Department of Regional Planning, University of Natal, “The Crisis in South Africa: Material Conditions and the Reformist Response,” quoted from an unpublished manuscript, p. 7.Google Scholar
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    World Development Report 1985, (New York: Oxford University Press for the World Bank 1985), pp. 174-175 and 218-219. Since this was written, 1984 data have become available. The absolute difference in the infant and child death rates for Uruguay and South Africa remain the same. The only difference is that in the 1984 figures, South Africa has ahigher per capita income than Uruguay. The calculations are fortotal excess mortality in relationship to income. Since it is generally acknowledged that the white population has a mortality experience comparable to economically advanced countries it is reasonable to assume that these excess deaths are principally black, coloured and Indian. The largest portion of these would be blacks simply because they are the largest segment of the population and their mortality rates are higher than the other two. However distributed, the total deaths are those of innocent victims of apartheid. 1984 data found inWorld Development Report 1986, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986), pp. 181 or 233.Google Scholar
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    Cedric De Beer makes the same estimate of 30-50 thousand child hunger deaths in a definitive study,The South African Disease: Apartheid Health and Health Services, (Johannesburg, South African Research Service, 1984), p. 55. He also notes the large number of black infant deaths that go “unrecorded”—which makes our earlier estimates of “excess deaths” extremely conservative.Google Scholar
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    SADCC (Southern African Development Coordination Conference) has commissioned careful, scholarly studies of the human and economic costs of South Africa’s regional destabilization. Their data, parts of their reports, and their analyses can be found in Hanlon, op. cit., pp. 12263-12265, and Reginald H. Green and Carol B. Thompson, “Political Economies in Conflict: SADCC, South Africa and Sanctions,” in Johnson and Martin, pp. 245–280.Google Scholar
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    Paton, p. 72.Google Scholar
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    Carol B. Thompson, “SADCC’s Struggle for Economic Liberation,”Africa Report, Vol. 31, No. 4, (July/August 1986), pp. 59–63.Google Scholar
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    Paton, p. 236.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas R. De Gregori
  • William Darity

There are no affiliations available

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