South Africa's long walk to freedom

South Africa today is bubbling with political activity. The end of apartheid and the subsequent free election which propelled the African national Congress (ANC) to power opened new avenues for political growth.

However, the newly found freedom has also resulted in the venting of pent-up fury. South Africa is lucky to have President Nelson Mandela as head of the government. He has exhibited political wisdom by his all embracing outlook of a new South Africa.

Unlike some others, he is not a bitter person or who holds any grudge against those who incarcerated him for 27 years.

President Mandela has been striving for national agreement and reconciliation. It is through sheer force of his personality that there has been no major bloodshed in the country. 

However, there are many dissenting voices on how the country should be managed once the term of the Government of National Unity (GNU) ends. 

There are many who don't want the GNU to have a second term. The ANC does not want it while the De Klerk's National Party does not have the power to enforce it. However, South African business, both White, Indian, Colored and many Black, favor a second term by a National Unity Government. The ANC concedes that it has hardly any experience of running a government.

However, some form of power sharing is required for South Africa. ANC members may scoff at this idea but one should remember that stock-exchanges around the world had reacted sharply some days ago as a result of the crisis between Mandela and De Klerk.

The political scene in South Africa is being watched keenly by investors abroad.

There are those investors who are observing closely the constitutional changes that may take place. Many feel that a Government of National Unity is the only solution for stability and security. They believe that this type of government would prevent erosion of White confidence and stop the brain drain as happened in Rhodesia. But South Africa is not Rhodesia. It is a much advanced country with billions of dollars in investments. It is not a Third World country. Therefore the stakes are very high and any political gamble may back fire. It is in the light of all this that political parties are getting ready for future elections.

The National Party, a great believer in GNU, is also trying to shed itself as a party of Whites and is gearing itself to fight the next elections for a greater slice of the votes and for influence as a strong opposition party. 

Some critics of the party believe that the NP should retire their present leadership including De Klerk, Botha, Coetzee, De Villiers, Meyer and Wessels.

All this drama unfolds against the back drop of a deteriorating security situation. Pick any paper and you will read reports of murder, robbery and assaults. There is a slowing debate about the enforcement of the death penalty. Mandela and the ANC are opposed to the death sentence and ANC members of parliament are bound to follow their line.

The National Party, at its federal congress a few days ago, came out in favor of the death sentence for serious crimes such as murder, armed robbery and rape.

However, its chances of getting the death sentence retained is almost hopeless as long as Justice Minister Dullah Omar and the ANC are opposed to it. Omar is known for his dogmatic attitudes and his keenness to spite the NP. However, he should not forget that he is responsible to all the people of the country and not the ANC.

South Africa has the highest per capita murder rate in the world and many South Africans have told me deterrent measures are necessary.

The press reports freely on all divergent views and opinions. It is by going through them that one is struck by the high level of media freedom. And if South Africa is to go ahead on the road to prosperity it is essential that it has a free, unrestricted and responsible press.

President Mandela called for greater morality in public life at the ANC's Bloemfontein Conference last month. Perhaps he was addressing members of his own party some of whom are involved in controversies. Two members of the ANC Peter Mokaha and Dr. Allan Boesak are being investigated for corruption.

Whatever the outcome, observers feel that the ANC should not defend those found guilty of misconduct.

The freedom of the press and the lifting of censorship on the media while ushering in positive results has also had a negative blot. I saw many magazines and books of pornographic nature. In the old South Africa such literature was banned. During a visit to a Black township, I also observed a hastily set up 'shebeen' - disco - housed in a tent!!

If South Africa is to progress and avoid the pit falls of developed and developing countries it should heed President Mandela's call not only for greater morality in public life but also on a personal level.

The ANC which has entered the new democratic era in South Africa with the advantage of holding the moral high ground should see to it that Mandela's "Moral Crusade" permeate public and personal lives.

The harmful effects of pornography and violence and the free distribution of such literature will surely erode cultural and human values. Many South Africans agree that acts of free artistic expression should be tampered with. The welfare of society is paramount.

The new South Africa is facing many calls for peace, justice, democracy. People are aware that they must respond to these calls. It is, therefore, important that national interests and the well being of the country as a whole should be above party and personal interests. South Africa has all the potentials to remain a power house not only for Africa but for other countries in the region.

What separates it from the rest of Africa is the potential ability to escape the ruinous morass of corruption, sloth, political partisanship and inefficiency which has engulfed so many African nations.

That potential must be realized. However, it is for both the leadership and parties to do so. Separate roads will only make a mockery of the long walk to freedom and will engulf the country in a nightmare. Africa does not need that.

  Category: World Affairs
  Topics: Africa, Government And Politics, Nelson Mandela, South Africa
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