Pazartesi, Ekim 09, 2006


Writer: Edward Phatudi

The first decade has gone by; South Africa a country which marveled the rest of the world by the historical transition it undertook to achieve a democratic regime. A country (South Africa) which has been under Dutch east Indian company colonial rule, British colonial rule and apartheid regime close to three centuries. In all that period the majority of the people have been pacified, grossly robed of their self esteem, psychological and cultural identity as African people.

The developments that led to the transition to end injustice, inequities and captivity from a crippling system were made possible by a political will from both the leadership of the African National Congress and National Party in the early 1990’s. The Negotiation process named CODESA facilitated by the National Party government went underway and were ‘frank but cordial’, which led to the first democratic elections in the country. On the 10th of May 1994 Nelson Mandela was sworn as the first democratically elected President of South Africa..

President Nelson Mandela’s term was used to put in place the Policies of reconstruction and development and the introduction of the Truth and reconciliation commission to facilitate the confessions and exposure of politically motivated crimes and their pardons, With the intention of promoting reconciliation. However critics say that the commission discouraged rather than encouraged reconciliation because it was seen as being lenient towards the ANC leaders, the process none the less was hailed as a success both in South Africa and in the international community.

In 2004 the country went to the polls the for the third time to elect Thabo Mbeki (Nelson Mandela’s successor) as the president of South Africa, who will be serving his second and last term.

It is with this background that one will be able to contextually fully comprehend and understand the significance of the country’s achievements thus far in only ten years and challenges that are facing the country.

The ‘New South Africa’ is currently undergoing a historical restructuring process both internally and in relation to the African continent and the rest of the world.
Over the past ten years policies and measures were specifically put in place to address the imbalances caused by colonial and apartheid legacy. The existence of what is loosely coined the two economy (one poor the other rich), the attempt was to decrease the gap between the poor mainly the majority and the rich predominantly the minority.

One of the profound challenges facing the country is the stringent capacity to deliver efficiently and timely to its people and often used by critics and the opposition as failure of the ruling party to deliver. This is an unfortunate reality which must be addressed by both government in creating an enabling environment and the private sector in expanding the technical skills and personal capability.
Since 1994 South Africa went through a wave of an escalating reported crime largely coursed by lack of capacity and insufficiently trained police staff .According to statistics South Africa(mid year estimates 2004) there is nationally one police officer for every 415 citizen. It will take the efforts of government in improving the conditions, increasing the police force and a reasonable remuneration, civil society in assisting the police force to detect and arrest the suspects and an efficient court system in trialing and prosecuting them.

In recent years South Africa’s disturbing and a concerning scourge of HIV/AIDS epidemic, the scourge has led it to be both a political and a human issue. The government has rolled out AZT or Nevirapine to pragnent woman and infants. The former President Nelson Mandela has been an influential patron in making the public aware of the epidemic and endeavoring to remove the stigma of shame associated with the infection. His most recent display of his preaching was when he declared to the South African Public and the rest of the world that his only surviving son Makgatho Mandela died from an AIDS related illness.

When the country opened itself to the rest of the world, the country’s fiscal condition was in a bad shape. South Africa had a huge budget deficit, huge inequalities between the rich and the poor high level of unemployment.
Today South Africa as a strong middle power and an influential emerging economy enjoy low inflation rate of 3.6%,though what is seemingly relatively high interest rates at 11%, they have been falling from high levels of 17% a couple of years ago ,the country’s deficit leveling at around 3% and a Rand/Dollar exchange rate at around R5.84 to 1 dollar and a relatively stable foreign reserve account. The above achievements are attributable to the country’s economic fundamentals and the governments macroeconomic strategy labeled GEAR(Growth Equity And Redistribution) a stable political environment, a policy introduction of employment equity(its aim being to ensure proportional representivity in the work place),the facilitation of the introduction of black economic empowerment charters which its objective is often misunderstood, its aims are to redress the imbalances in the economy which in the past and to an extend today, the white minority have been dominating the economy (the details of the black economic empowerment will not be elaborated satisfactionately as it falls out of the scope and objective of the article) and of course favorable global economic conditions particularly in the emerging economies.
The critics of the government’s GEAR Policy have cited the shortcomings of the policy in reducing high levels of unemployment, reducing poverty and stringent labour laws which are seen as hampering the economic growth and employment.

South Africa’s relation with the rest of the world post apartheid regime and the beginning of the democratic era was somewhat ambiguous and almost undefined. The Ruling party’s close relation with the so called the ‘pariahs’ or ‘threats’ of the world like Cuba, Iran and Libya even concerned western powers to intervene and try direct the country’s diplomatic relations. The attempt by the United States to influence South Africa to distance itself from Libya failed dismally, the country asserted itself on the direction of its diplomatic relations. The assertion was mainly informed by the moral principle of maintaining a friendship dating back during the years of the struggle and the hospitality which the countries have given to the ruling party.
This however was not achieved without criticism both locally and internationally. They maintained that South Africa should not be associated with such countries as they will be alienated (both politically and economically) by pivotal critical western countries. The Lockerbie issue vindicated South Africa’s diplomatic relation with Libya, as it served as the catalyst to broker a deal of handing over the suspects to the United Nations.

South Africa’s foreign policy has been constructed from the premise of rebuilding relations with the Fellow African States and building new strategic partnerships in critical regions in the world.
President Thabo Mbeki’s administration foreign policy on the African continent is somewhat prudent and cautious. South Africa’s hegemonic position on the sub regional level and she being Africa’s wealthiest and well resourced country, she is cautious of being overbearing and dominating. At the same time endeavoring being a facilitator of solving conflicts on the continent and uniting the continent in order for it to speak with one voice, this is seen with south Africa’s presence in Democratic Republic of Congo Burundi Togo and Cote d’Ivoire, that may seem ambitious and idealistic but it’s a course to be pursuit by generations to come till its achieved.

South Africa’s relationship with its neighboring state Zimbabwe has sparked criticism towards Mbeki’s approach of quite diplomacy when dealing with the Zimbabwean issue. The proximity of the country, the close relationship between the ANC and ZANU-PF and President Robert Mugabe’s stature through the African continent makes the approach a complex diplomatic issue for South Africa to deal with. The Last thing South Africa needs is to publicly condemn and polarize Robert Mugabe and risk to loose the moral currency which the country so needs to obtain co operation with critical regions on the continent in order for it to push the African Union’ Agenda of reconstructing and rebuilding the continent.

South Africa is strategically using regional and global structures such as SADC (Southern African Developing Countries), UN and AU to pursue its diplomatic objective. It has opted to use the SADC in dealing with the Zimbabwean issue. It has formed strategic partnership with Brazil and India in creating strong lobby group to put forward the agenda of the poor developing countries on the western countries discussion tables.

South Africa, a decade has gone by; challenges are laying ahead, the country with enormous potential, a country full of opportunities. History will be the judge of today’s sociological and political events.

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