South Africa's Presidential Election : The Challenge for South Africa

The World and I, September 1999 | Go to article overview

South Africa's Presidential Election : The Challenge for South Africa


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.

--Jim Hoagland

Washington Post

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.

--Sowetan

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.

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