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South Africa: Destroying Nelson Mandela’s Dream

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In his inauguration speech as the first democratically elected president of South Africa in May 1994, Nelson Mandela promised a free, non-racial, and non-sexist society for all South Africans:

“We have triumphed in the effort to implant hope in the breasts of the millions of our people. We enter into a covenant that we shall build the society in which all South Africans, both black and white, will be able to walk tall, without any fear in their hearts, assured of their inalienable right to human dignity – a rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world… The sun shall never set on so glorious a human achievement!”

South Africa is a very different country since 1994. Apartheid, that awful crime against humanity, is abolished. All South Africans now enjoy equal rights as citizens and are not forced to live in their racially segregated areas. Beaches and benches don’t have signs “white only.” Growing affluence among some of the South Africa’s black majority – deprived of education, opportunities, and wealth by apartheid – can now be seen everywhere.

Nonetheless, the legacy of apartheid still haunts the country. White people live in affluent neighborhoods while the majority of blacks live in townships and informal settlements. The contrast is still blatant, even after many of the shacks have been replaced by matchbox houses built by the government.

Nelson Mandela stepped down as the South African president in 1999. After 27 years in prison, he wanted to enjoy his freedom and spend more time with his family.

Where is South Africa standing today when it comes to Mandela’s dream of giving hope to the people, building a society in which all South Africans would live in freedom, peace, and prosperity? How glorious a human achievement is the country today?


South Africa is one of the most dangerous countries in the world, where between 2001 and 2006 more than 100,000 people were murdered, nearly 270,000 raped, and 1.3 million seriously assaulted. Every day, around 50 murders, 150 rapes, and nearly 700 serious assaults are committed. The numbers are probably even higher considering the fact that about 30% of all crimes are not reported.

In 2007 the African Union’s Peer Review Report notes that crime in South Africa is “one of the most difficult of the many challenges facing the country in the post-apartheid era… discouraging investment and causing many skilled people to leave the country.”

When in 2006 many people complained about the crime, the safety and security minister in the South African government publicly invited those who “whine” about the crime and violence to pack their bags and leave the country.

At the same time, the police are seen by many as inefficient and corrupt. Instead of combating crime and violence in the country, the head of the South African police was recently charged with “corruption and defeating the ends of justice.”

It will be interesting to see if South Africa will be able to organize the 2010 Soccer World Cup amid so much crime and violence in the country.


No other country in the world is experiencing devastation caused by HIV/AIDS epidemic like South Africa. AIDS is killing about 1,000 people a day in the country where more than five million South Africans, about 12% of the population, are infected with the virus. More than 2 million people have already died and one in eight of the working-age population is infected with HIV. A large number of the victims are youth, the people who are supposed to be the future of the country.

According to the 2007 African Union’s Peer Review Report, there are “1.2 million AIDS orphans in South Africa, who make up almost 10% of the world’s 15 million such children.”

Current South African president, Thabo Mbeki, and his health minister do not believe that HIV causes AIDS. Mbeki views AIDS as “another Western characterization of Africans as promiscuous and Africa as a continent of disease and hopelessness.” In a speech in 2001, he said that the Western world believes that Africans are “promiscuous carriers of germs, unique in the world… they [the West] proclaim that our continent is doomed to an inevitable mortal end because of our unconquerable devotion to the sin of lust.”

Many in South Africa think that, due to their beliefs, Mbeki and his health minister never did enough to make anti-retroviral drugs available to the infected, especially the poor who cannot afford healthcare.

The fact is that AIDS is killing parents, teachers, workers, and youth. During the international AIDS conference held in South Africa in 2000, it was estimated that half of South African young people will die of AIDS. This disease alone may be the key in destroying Nelson Mandela’s dream of a prosperous South Africa.

In a speech during the international AIDS conference, Nelson Mandela said that “AIDS is currently claiming more lives in Africa than the sum total of all wars, famines and floods, and other deadly diseases… In the face of the great threat posed by HIV/AIDS, we have to rise above our differences and combine our efforts to save our people.”

Yet in 2006, Mbeki’s health minister displayed lemons, beetroots, and garlic on the South African stand at Toronto’s international AIDS conference, promoting nutrition as the best way of treating AIDS. The United Nations special envoy for AIDS in Africa described South African government as “obtuse, dilatory, and negligent about rolling out HIV/AIDS treatment,” and that South Africa’s AIDS policy is “more worthy of a lunatic fringe than of a concerned and compassionate state.”


The economy, after growing by an average of 5% in the past four years, is slowing down this year. The Economist estimates that economic growth in South Africa in 2008 will be between 3 and 4%. Experts estimate that growth of 4.5% between 2005 and 2009, and 6% between 2010 and 2014 are needed to reach a target of halving a near 30% official unemployment rate and rampant poverty. About 50% of South Africans live on less than 3,000 rand ($400) a year, and between 25% and 40%, depending on definitions, have no job, even though the country is Africa’s economic powerhouse and contributes about 25% of its gross domestic product.

South African Mail and Guardian writes that the country will battle to reach 4% growth in 2008 “on the back of a crippling national electricity crisis.” South African mining companies, the country’s main industry, have warned that the shortage of power could force them to cut thousands of jobs.

Until a few years ago, South Africa was producing more electricity than it needed and exporting the surplus to its neighbors. But now, the country is experiencing blackouts on a daily basis that will be a fact of life until at least 2012.

Government officials revealed that they knew a decade ago that more electricity would be needed to support economic growth. But, as The Economist writes, the government got stuck in a policy debate about the role for the private companies in electricity generation, so it was only recently that Eskom, the state-owned monopoly that generates 95% of the country’s electricity, got permission to start building new power stations.

Black Empowerment

The goal of the Black Economic Empowerment Act, signed into law in January 2004, is to help those who were previously disadvantaged under apartheid.

It is estimated that the black middle class grew to over 2.6 million over the last few years, representing 12% of South Africa's black adults who make around 180 billion rand a year ($26.2 billion), or 28% of the country's buying power.

But critics say that black empowerment has resulted in wealth being taken from the hands of a few white people and put into the hands of a few black people.

The South African Nobel Peace laureate, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, thinks that “attempts to boost black economic ownership are only benefiting an elite minority.” He believes that “grueling, demeaning, dehumanizing poverty experienced by millions of South Africans is the biggest threat to the country’s security.”

Politics, Power Struggle, and Corruption

In December 2007, the African National Congress (ANC), the South African ruling party, had internal elections for the party’s president who is supposed to be the ANC’s candidate for the country’s president in 2009 elections that the ANC is expected to win easily.

Jacob Zuma, who is seen as a populist candidate with support from the left, won a landslide victory over the current country’s president, Thabo Mbeki, who is ending his second and last term in office next year.

Zuma’s trademark during his campaign for the ANC presidency was singing of a song titled “Bring me my machine gun.”

Many in South Africa and around the world cannot believe that Jacob Zuma is now the president of the ANC and possible president of the country, holding the same position once held by Nelson Mandela.

Zuma, then the country’s vice president, was sacked in 2005, following the conviction of his financial adviser for corruption. He was acquitted of rape in 2006, but admitted to having unprotected sex with his HIV-positive accuser. Zuma, who before the rape trial headed the South African National AIDS Council, said in court that he took a shower to minimize the risks of infection.

He claimed that he could tell by the way a woman sat whether she wanted to have sex with him and that his Zulu culture demanded he should oblige her.

As Mandela was leaving office in 1999, South Africa purchased arms and weapons for 30 billion rand (over $4 billion). This happened while the country was facing massive socio-economic problems such as poverty, unemployment, HIV/AIDS catastrophe, and many others.

Currently, there are investigations in South Africa and many European countries into allegations of high-level corruption in connection to the arms deal. Accusations go all the way to the top of the ANC, including Jacob Zuma, whose financial adviser already received a 15-year sentence for fraud and corruption in the arms deal and other transactions.

During the party’s elections in December 2007, the ANC delegates elected seven convicted criminals as members of the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC), party’s second-highest decision-making structure. Six more NEC members are currently subjects of criminal investigations.

Jacob Zuma was recently charged again with fraud, tax evasion, and money laundering and is due in court in August 2008.

These and other high-profile cases have been investigated by the Scorpions, the FBI-style unit independent of the South African Police. Scorpions are seen as the most effective crime-fighting unit in post-apartheid South Africa.

Since Jacob Zuma’s takeover as the ANC president, the ruling party has demanded that the Scorpions be disbanded by June 2008, two months before Zuma is due to go on trial.


South African primary and high school education is in ruins. The Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools maintains that only 2,000 out of 25,000 schools in the country can be called functional. The majority of schools still lack basic infrastructure, equipment, and qualified teachers. The current rate of attrition among teachers is about 20,000 per year.

Children are growing up in a “culture of violence” where violence is normal, and it results in students exhibiting intolerance towards their fellow students in schools. Township schools are particularly vulnerable to violence due to their poor infrastructure and their location in areas with high crime rates.

Some of the factors that cause violence in townships and subsequently in township schools are poverty, dysfunctional family life, high-density housing, a high population turnover, exposure to violence and crime, and the abuse of alcohol and drugs.

A study by the South African Institute of Race Relations reveals that South African schools are the most dangerous in the world. Only 23% of pupils who participated in the study said they felt safe at school. This puts South Africa more than 20% below the worldwide average of 47% of pupils who said that they felt safe at school.

Last year’s African Union’s Peer Review Report notes that the new South Africa is “failing to provide its children with a way out of poverty, damning them to a life of violence and deprivation.”

In 2006 and 2007, 535,000 students left South African schools without any passing certificates and a very uncertain future.

Failure to address problems in South African schools will further increase alienation of students from schools and education, escalate drop-out and crime rates, substance abuse, unemployment, poverty, and overall socio-economic decline. These factors will contribute to a spiraling and destructive cycle of conflict and violence.

Shattered Dream

After spending 27 years in Robben Island prison, Nelson Mandela came out spreading the message of peace, reconciliation, and hope. He saved South Africa and its people from destruction. His dream was to build a society in which all South Africans would live in freedom, peace, harmony, and prosperity.

Today, South Africa does not look like a glorious human achievement. Millions still live in shacks, without jobs, education, electricity, water, and hope. The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), a partner in the governing alliance, claims that about 20 million South Africans who are unemployed and live in poverty “are even worse off than under apartheid.”

Millions are infected with AIDS, while at the same time their government does not believe that HIV is causing AIDS and is not doing enough to provide medicines to the ill who cannot afford them.

Mandela dreamed of non-racial and non-sexist country, yet South Africans are still required to declare their race in all applications and documents. Like during apartheid, skin color plays a major role in getting a job today.

The fact that South Africa has the highest rate of rape in the world and is called the “rape capital of the world” shows that the country is far away from being non-sexist.

Mandela wrote in Long Walk to Freedom that, “to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” Desmond Tutu thinks that “it seems as if we [South Africans] have perverted our freedom into being irresponsible. Rights go hand in hand with responsibility, with dignity, with respect for oneself and for the other.”

In South Africa today, people are not safe anywhere – in homes, schools, streets, parks, at work. The horror stories of sadistic murders and rapes that occur daily have become ordinary. Critics say that moral degradation in South Africa has become a distinctive feature of the new order. These same critics are labeled racist if they are white or “coconuts” (black outside, white inside) if they are black.

A lot of people around the world looked upon the new South Africa, hoping to find in it hope, a model for peaceful resolution of deep-rooted conflicts. The negotiations that ended apartheid are indeed a prime example of how to negotiate and manage deep-rooted conflicts. But the fact that South Africa today is one of the most dangerous countries in the world and with a very uncertain future shows that post-apartheid South Africa is in no way an example to be followed.

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About Savo Heleta

  • Great article.

    In ten years, South Africa = Zimbabwe. (Maybe five.)

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    I agree with RJ in his assessments here.

    Excellent article – South Africa is headed to be worse than Zimbabwe in less than five years.

    I would note that with all the problems you have outlined above in South Africa, along with what you’ve noted about Darfur elsewhere, the UN is planning another anti-Israel Jew-hating hatefest in Durban next year and that is where its attention seems focused.

    From the two articles I’ve seen you write, I’d get out of South Africa if I were you. Some ANC goon is liable to kill you because you are too honest and too forthright for their tastes.

    Cry the beloved country.

  • STM

    There is no way that South Africa is headed down the same path as Zimbabwe.

    Things are pretty grim in some quarters, but not that grim overall.

    There is one factor that changes the equation when you compare it to Zimbabwe.

    Many blacks are now part of the new elite of South Africa, and that elite also has a lot of whites.

    The middle-class is now made up of both blacks and whites in significant numbers, and both these factors work against Sth Africa going down the Mugabe route.

    BEE may seem like it sets the platform for that, but it actually has spread the wealth around a bit.

    And the more wealthy blacks and whites you have living together in affluent suburbs, the less likely it is you will see the kind of racist policies perpetrated by the Mugabe regime.

    Don’t ignore its problems, but please look to the giant strides South Africa has made in the past few decades,

    In terms of its coming together, as in Mandela’s vision of a “rainbow nation”, what’s happened in modern South Africa in two decades couldn’t have happened over a period of 1000 years in most countries.

    There’s always a darkness before the dawn, and let’s face it, it was a very long night from the time the British influence declined and the Afrikaaners took control and implemented apartheid to the undoing of that cruel and flawed ideology.

    That there wasn’t immediate widespread bloodshed was a miracle and a testmaent to the determination of the black majority to forgive and rebuild and the white minority to place their trust in that process.

    Give credit where credit’s due … and take comfort in the fact that South Africa is still the continent’s economic powerhouse and its food bowl.

    In my view, it is a shining beacon not a fizzling lamp doomed to go out.

  • Especially while it possesses citizens like Mandela and Desmond Tutu – who, BTW, is the living person I most admire.

  • Gogo

    I dont think apartheid is important anymore.the past is done and we are moving forward.Why should white people always be reminded about it on a daily basis and my generation had nothing to do with the regime

  • “Especially while it possesses citizens like Mandela and Desmond Tutu – who, BTW, is the living person I most admire.”

    Good call!

  • STM

    Gogo: “I dont think apartheid is important anymore.the past is done and we are moving forward”

    True. Which is why I for one don’t believe that modern South Africa is going the way of Zimbabwe.

  • South Africa is gr-r-reat:

    The term is familiar by now, but the “necklace” is so benign a description that it barely hints at the horror of one of the world’s most savage forms of execution. This is how it happens. In the townships of South Africa, militant black youths first capture a victim. Next they chop off his hands or tie them behind his back with barbed wire. Finally they place a gasoline-filled tire over the terrified victim’s head and shoulders and set it ablaze. The melting rubber clings like tar to the victim’s flesh, while flames and searing fumes enshroud him. Within minutes the execution is over. By the time the police arrive, the charred body is usually burned past recognition. Horrified family members, who may be forced to watch the killing, are often too intimidated to identify the murderers.

    Winnie Mandela, the wife of jailed Black Leader Nelson Mandela, caused a furor last April by declaring, “With our boxes of matches and our necklaces, we shall liberate this country.” A.N.C. leaders later told her to stop making such statements, and at the group’s 75th anniversary celebration in Lusaka two weeks ago, A.N.C. President Oliver Tambo declared, “Of course we are not in favor of necklacing. We don’t like necklacing, but we understand its origins.”

    It’s an old article, yes. But the ANC has power now, and Mandela has his Nobel Peace Prize (just like Yasser Arafat). Meanwhile, over 50 people are murdered a day in SA, and the power is going out.

    The World Cup should be fun. I predict more tourists will be robbed/raped/murdered than goals scored.

    But hey, it’s progress!

  • The future of SA rests in the hands of this man:

    Jacob Zuma is the president of the governing political party, the African National Congress (ANC).

    As probably the most prominent Zulu African National Congress politician and a leader for leftist constituencies within the ANC, he has rallied the support of many even after his dismissal from the party in 2005 due to allegations of corruption. He remained popular, especially amongst Zulus, and the youth league of the African National Congress (the ruling party of South Africa) argue that Zuma has served The struggle well. Though his political future appeared more clouded during his rape trial, his most vocal supporters stayed faithful, gathering outside the courthouse to support him during his trial and celebrate the not-guilty verdict.

    Zuma became the President of the ANC on 18 December 2007 after defeating incumbent Thabo Mbeki at the ANC conference in Polokwane.

    Zuma is an economic populist, who has occasionally described himself as “socialist.” He has received support from trade unions and from the South African Communist Party.

    According to The Guardian and The New York Times, he has spoken of redistribution of wealth, and he has allied himself with socialists and communists that seek to redistribute wealth to the poor.

    [He’s corrupt and a rapist…]

    Jacob Zuma is a self-proclaimed polygamist and has been married at least four times:

    1. Sizakele Khumalo, whom he met in 1959. She lives at his home at Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal. They have no children.
    2. Foreign Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, with whom he had four children, but from whom he is divorced.
    3. Kate, with whom he had five children. She committed suicide on December 8, 2000.
    4. Mantuli Zuma married Mr Zuma five years ago. She has a five-year old daughter and a seven-month-old son with him.
    5. Nompumelelo Ntuli, the mother of two of his children, married on January 8, 2008.


    1. Zuma paid lobola [dowry] to the clan of Thobeka Stacy Mabhija, 35, with whom he has two children.
    2. Zuma paid 10 cattle as lobola [dowry] for Swazi Princess Sebentile Dlamini in 2002.
    3. Lobola [dowry] has been paid for Bongi Ngema, with whom he has a 3-year-old son.

    Mbeki has never publicly criticised Mugabe’s policies …

    In a 2006 interview with Der Spiegel, Zuma expressed sympathetic sentiments towards Mugabe and implied that Western criticism of Mugabe was partly motivated by racism, saying”

    “The Europeans often ignore the fact that Mugabe is very popular among Africans. In their eyes, he has given blacks their country back after centuries of colonialism,”


    “The people love him, so how can we condemn him? Many in Africa believe that there is a racist aspect to European and American criticism of Mugabe. Millions of blacks died in Angola, the Republic of Congo and Rwanda. A few whites lost their lives in Zimbabwe, unfortunately, and already the West is bent out of shape.”

    He [Zuma] said same-sex marriages were “a disgrace to the nation and to God” and “When I was growing up, an ungqingili (a homosexual) would not have stood in front of me. I would knock him out.”

    Oh, and here’s a picture of the future leader of SA:


    Feel confident yet???

  • here’s a picture of the future leader of SA

    Sneakers and man-boobs. What’s not to love?


  • Silver Surfer

    Well, at least he doesn’t appear to be celebrating Kwanzaa

  • Silver Surfer

    BTW, how many of the negative commentators here have actually been to South Africa?

    …. thought so

  • STM, I completely agree with you that “in terms of its coming together, as in Mandela’s vision of a “rainbow nation”, what’s happened in modern South Africa in two decades couldn’t have happened over a period of 1000 years in most countries.” I truly believe that the largely peaceful transformation from apartheid to democracy was a miracle that should be an example to follow.

    Dr Dreadful and Jordan Richardson, how much influence Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu have on the current South African government and politics?

    For example, Mandela asked the government to do more to combat HIV/AIDS catastrophe – they denied links between HIV and AIDS and promoted garlic and lemons as the best medicine. When Tutu said that “too many of our people live in grueling, demeaning, dehumanizing poverty… we are sitting on a powder keg,” President Mbeki said that “it would be good if those that present themselves as the greatest defenders of the poor should also demonstrate decent respect for the truth”.

  • STM

    This begs the question.

    What do you do with the garlic and lemons.

    Eat ’em, or what … ??

  • The health minister believes that building up the immune system through good nutrition is the best way to combat HIV/AIDS.

  • Also, showers after rape.

  • akon

    you white people are losers always compaining about everything. where are youe leaders who were spearheading the so-called white reign(apartheid), you guys are suffering, settling for second best and your leaders have deserted you in a black whole,catch my drift? oh zuma ain’t nothing,wait till i’m president. i will mugabeniuse your kind!
    from blaqmale

  • Akon,

    Hi there!

    I’m one of those “whining losers” you talk about. Got a “necklace” for me to wear, eh? Well, you’ll have to come here to deliver your little gift, you know. I have enough sense to stay away from South Africa, with folks like you on the loose.

    Looks like you’ve gone from a near “saint” (Mandela) to a fuckin’ street thug (Zuma) for a leader. It’s truly a shame that Mandela is still alive to see what his beloved country has degenerated into. When he doesn’t close his eyes, I’m sure he cries.

    Good luck stayin’ alive in SA, with all the AIDS, murder, crime and police corruption you have to live with. Looks like the best you can hope for is the BEE not stingin’ you in the butt. The Afrikaner régime was a nasty bunch, I’ll grant you, but at least they kept a patina of civilization on the place. Now?

    You couldn’t get me to go there for a million euros – for any reason.

  • strooge

    i just don’t understand how you people are, some of you have never been to South Africa and yet you are quick to judge. for example, what were you saying when george Bush was on a killing spree in Iraq? as soon as an incident of this sort takes place in poor lil Africa, oh there you are!i’m a christian and a firm believer in equality,i’ll be the first to admit that what happened in South Africa recently was immoral and maybe South Africa is not the ideal place to live in right now because of all the crime and HIV rate going up rapidly. South Africa does not look like the ideal place to be in but what about America, the rest of the world? i’m sure you know the saying “it is not about loving that perfect something but about loving that imperfect something perfectly” and yes i love Sth Africa and yes i am worried about everything that’s happening in my country but that’s only because i care a lot about Sth Africa.so don’t stand there and point out our faults.

  • Truth

    SA is a friggen mess. Stop making excuses for it, stop living with blind hope for the future.

    DEMAND better than you have, fight for it… remove every corrupt person there is from power.

    HIV is a precursor to AIDS, if your leaders cant deal with that simple scientific fact remove them in any way you can.

    You moved past apartheid only to squander and piss on the promise it gave you.

    For the love of God and the future stand up and fight.

  • Same Here

    America will undoubtedly suffer this same fate. It is clear that the black man cannot exist without the white man, at least in a civilized form. Just look at the social programs and “free money” that has doomed our financial markets.

  • Bill Gibbons

    Most people saw this coming, but did not want to believe it. Mandela was mere window dressing who did not even have a hand in selecting the ANC cabinet ministers. The ANC was a Marxist organization from the beginning. They are riddled with corruption and cronyism. Why are we so surpised at the outcome?

    ANC cabinet ministers and their cronies are billionaries, who care nothing for the poor and destitute in the townships. They will continue to sing the same old song of playing the “liberators” of the masses, in spite of losing over a million jobs, turning a blind eye to the horrendous crime rate, and putting overtly anti-white policies in place just to keep the votes coming in from the very people they are supposedly helping. Just like Mugabe in Zimbabwe, the ANC is leading South Africa down the road to ruin.

    Do not expect a common-sense, honest and responsible government to take power. In spite of the increasing popularity of Helen Zille and the Democratic Alliance, The ANC, the South African Communist Party, COSATU (a powerful, Marxist unuion) and the ANC Youth League under the racist and thuggish Julius Malema will ensure that the ANC will remain in power until the country completely dies.

    Then, like Mugabe, they will blame everything on the county’s past white leadership.

  • White American

    The current condition of SA is beyond criminal.. I am a white American who has always wanted to visit… Now that I have the means I choose not to…