UNITED STATES--The slums in South Africa are as bleak as any in the world- -miles of single-room hovels, each holding a huge family or two, with no electricity or water and only a bucket for waste. Apartheid forced millions of blacks into these slums, and many have not been able to leave. The most important task facing Thabo Mbeki is to improve life for these poor. ...
To help the poor directly, the government cut the defense budget and spent the money building more than 600,000 new houses and providing water, phones or electricity to several million homes. The millions helped, however, are only a small slice of South Africa's poor. Some programs have been badly run and not directed at the worst poverty, which is rural. ...
Mr. Mbeki promises to improve things. He is a strong administrator, but making government efficient is difficult, especially in a poor nation. More progress will come if he can privatize state industries and remove obstacles to local job creation. This will take courage, as Mr. Mbeki is not trusted by the ANC's left wing. But his responsibility is to South Africa's poor, who have waited for decades, and are waiting still.
--New York Times
June 3, 1999
The building of a democracy
UNITED STATES--Kosovo has provided more than ample evidence of the dark and murderous depths the human soul can reach, on any continent, at any time. The racially peaceful South Africa that Mbeki inherits from Nelson Mandela demonstrates that nations also surprise themselves by discovering reservoirs of tolerance, cooperation and mutual respect if their citizens look long and hard enough. ...
Mbeki is the black leader many South African whites thought would never exist--the second one to win a free and fair election in the Beloved Country, and the one who has promised and worked hard to see that the whites are not done unto as they did unto blacks for three centuries.
South Africa is not yet paradise. Mbeki, a shrewd, charming and seasoned political leader at 56, faces ugly challenges to national stability.
Surging violent street crime, continuing heavy unemployment and disinvestment in the economy demand immediate attention. His promises to speed up the transfer of wealth and to stress nonracialism in public institutions raise white fears that this new presidency will not be as strife-free as Mandela's.
June 13, 1999
A peculiar irony
SOUTH AFRICA--It is a peculiar irony of our democracy that we could in Western Cape end up with a government that excludes the biggest political party in the province. If that happens, the ANC may well have to settle for the back benches. Surely that would be unacceptable in any democracy.
There is always the danger that minorities will gang up against the dominant party for reasons that have nothing to do with the more important interests of the province. That is exactly what is happening in Western Cape. It is motivated by a singular desire to keep the ANC out of government rather than a commitment to good governance. And that will only add to the instability that comes naturally with coalition governments.
June 10, 1999
Now for the governing
SOUTH AFRICA--It remains one of the enduring and--dare we say it-- endearing facts of our political life that the ANC has not emerged as a power-hungry organization. It fought a liberation struggle and won--but the victory was for the people of the country, not the commissars.
The great task is to get on with governing this country, and making it a better place to live in for all the citizens. Ruling the Western Cape presents a different challenge. The New National Party, the Democratic Party and African Christian Democratic Party could well shut the door on the ANC. It seems there may have to be an all-party coalition. Even then, there is no guarantee that there won't be continual bickering.
June 10, 1999
Is such a huge win healthy?
SOUTH AFRICA--Now that the ANC is firmly ensconced as the overwhelmingly dominant party, it is worth asking whether such a huge win is healthy for democracy. From the liberal perspective, a concentration of power such as the ANC now enjoys is anathema.
Lord Acton's dictum that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely remains apposite. No doubt the bolstered Democratic Party [DP] will revel in the role of watchdog on abuses of power, which is commendable. All strength to them in this necessary task.
However, for the vast majority, priorities are different. For South Africa in its current stage of development it could be argued that, in the interests of short-term stability, a big majority is preferable to a hung parliament. With many popular demands still outstanding, a comfortable, secure ANC might be preferable. But it is not a prospect we would welcome without the tough, no-nonsense challenges the DP will provide.
June 7, 1999
Lack of any new vision
SOUTH AFRICA--The downside of the 1999 election was that it failed to break the racial voting patterns and the dynamics of liberation politics that persuade people of different political convictions to remain under one flag. It also saw the fragmentation of the opposition and the lack of any new vision for opposition politics. Only a black-led and predominantly black opposition--or one moving in that direction--will be able to ensure the future of multiparty democracy and apply the kind of pressure to the ANC which will ensure accountability and nudge it further in the direction of delivery.
It will also mean a style of leadership which reflects two important realities: That South Africa's future lies in its relationship with African nations on the African continent; and that the legacy of our past demands a constant search for national consensus to promote nation- building ancommon identity. If, by 2004, the opposition parties are unable to mount a challenge which will attract moderate ANC voters in significant numbers, the chances of a functioning multiparty democracy are bleak.
June 6, 1999
Will anc fulfill election promises?
SOUTH AFRICA--The ANC's overwhelming election victory has given Mbeki the strongest mandate possible to do what he promised time and again in the election campaign: to root out corruption, cut the bloated public service, stop the gravy train and instill a new work ethic in the government. The question is whether the ANC will use that majority to fulfill its election promises.
Mbeki asked for a mandate to do exactly that. All indications suggest we are becoming a more mature and critical electorate, determined to hold our leaders accountable. The president-elect has shown himself to be eager to roll up his sleeves and get to work speeding up transformation and producing effective government. The coming months will show whether the president heard.
June 5, 1999
Restraint marked victory speech
SOUTH AFRICA--Restraint marked Thabo Mbeki's victory speech, in which he thanked his opponents for the mostly responsible way in which they had contested the elections. Mr. Mbeki resisted the opportunity to indulge in cheap-shot politics in a gracious but bland address.
Triumphant as he was, he really didn't need to. Which tells something of Mr. Mbeki. Accelerating delivery is clearly very much part of his agenda. It must be not only for Mr. Mbeki's political sake, but also the country's. Delivery of jobs, housing, education, health care and a significant reduction in crime are Mr. Mbeki's priorities. The comforting thing is that he knows it.
June 4, 1999
Mbeki's role has to be different
SOUTH AFRICA--Mbeki's role has to be different. If Mandela was the Rainbow Man, Mbeki has to be Mr. Delivery. Mbeki is acutely aware of this. But the emphasis of his victory speech was on work.
Life for the majority of South Africans has not changed much in the past five years. Mbeki realizes that he will have to speed up the transformation of our society. We do not envy Mbeki his enormous task and call on all South Africans, especially those in the minority parties, to help him deliver on his election promises. For the future of our country it is important that Mbeki succeeds.
June 4, 1999
The end of the mandela era
CAMEROON--After the April 1994 euphoria which brought Nelson Mandela to power, South Africa today appears to ha reached political maturity. Contrary to many fears, these elections witnessed no violence.
It is certain that Thabo Mbeki will not have the same charisma as Mandela, but many South Africans agree on the fact that he is a good manager. The inequalities created by the apartheid system are still very difficult to erase. Mbeki will need tact and diplomacy to tackle them.
June 3, 1999
Follow mandela's balancing act
NIGERIA--There is no doubt that Mbeki's predecessor in office, President Mandela, had set an excellent pace for the progress of the country. Consequently, it is being touted that Mandela's shoes may be too big for Mbeki. In other words, South Africa may not be able to find a fitting replacement for Mandela. Certainly, nobody can be Nelson Mandela. But we are confident in the qualities of the new helmsman.
To be sure, Mbeki is respected for his intelligence and political maturity. He has been involved in the democratic struggle all along, and was the pivot of President Mandela's government. However, we need to remind Mbeki that South Africa is still very volatile and that the tendency for certain forces to remain dormant while President Mandela was in power was because Mandela evoked a balancing and moderating aura in the nation's body politic.
June 8, 1999
Democracy taking root in south africa
ZAMBIA--President Mandela has confounded his critics by befriending both friend and foe alike during the difficult transition from authoritarian rule to democracy. The political complexion of today's South Africa truly fits the description of a multi-colored "rainbow nation" Although many of the wishes of the black majority still remain largely unfulfilled, South Africans have displayed a collective desire to march forward and entrench the foundations on which their new multi-racial society was founded in 1994.
The seeds of the frightening crimewave now ravaging the country lie in the four decades of apartheid rule during which millions of blacks were marginalized and denied equal access to education. Until the socio- economic conditions undergo a fundamental transformation, and the black empowerment process is completed, crime will persist. We hope Thabo Mbeki will not face the same frustrations that have been encountered by President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe in his quest to reclaim land expropriated by whites. The endemic crime-related violence in South Africa is a challenge to all--black and white--and the solution, ultimately, lies in rescuing millions trapped in abject poverty. Only then can the apartheid legacy be buried for good.
--Times of Zambia
June 3, 1999
SENEGAL--Should we be concerned about the "after-Mandela" South Africa? Although Thabo Mbeki does not have Mandela's charisma and moral authority, he did have the experience of being "the acting president" for five years and a long-time leader of the ANC.
June 1, 1999
Has he nelson's touch?
GREAT BRITAIN--The richest and most powerful state in the world's most wretched continent is passing into the hands of an unknown and, as yet, worrying figure. Mr. Mbeki is an insecure intellectual, eager to appear an African populist and happy to use the whites as scapegoats.
All who have witnessed South Africa's mutation from apartheid pariah to liberal democracy testify that it has been the "good news" story of the age. It has the luck of the gods. Could Mr. Mbeki yet prove the exception to the African rule?
June 2, 1999
FRANCE--Few heads of state have personified a people and symbolized its hope as Mandela has. "The most famous political prisoner" imposed his calm and determination for a just cause from his prison cell. His vision was to reunify a nation torn by racial segregation. He has amply fulfilled his mission.
South Africa has become a democracy, the only one of its kind on the African continent. The next president has neither the charisma nor the prestige of his predecessor. He will have a major challenge to face in South Africa's social sector. But in spite of these concerns, South Africa is facing the future without alarm and with a certain dose of optimism. This is probably Mandela's highest achievement.
June 3, 1999
First apartheid, then apathy
GERMANY--The oppressive dominance of the ANC carries many risks. Despite assurances by the ANC not to touch the constitution, the development of South Africa depends now more than ever on the benevolence of a single party. This overconcentration of power is also worrying because the ANC is increasingly inclined to intervene in any kind of social sphere.
Despite all the delight about the peaceful course of the elections, an edge of bitterness is coming to the fore. Nelson Mandela's statesman-like resignation cannot obscure the fact that the contours of a one-party state are increasingly visible on the Cape.
June 4, 1999
INDIA--South Africa's second all-race general elections have predictably brought the African National Congress back to power in both Pretoria and in most of the provinces.
What the election marks is the end of the transition from the brutal apartheid system to being a full-fledged liberal democracy. If Mbeki's policies fail to get him the economic growth and social equity he desires, it is the well beaten African path of autocracy that he must avoid. It may be a good thing if Mr. Mandela continues to be around, exerting a moderating influence from Qunu.
June 7, 1999…