Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Freedom Eases South Africa's Pain

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Freedom Eases South Africa's Pain

Article excerpt

For many white South Africans, Joe Slovo used to be a hate figure: a white man who led the Communist Party and planned guerrilla war against the regime. But when he died last week, newspapers printed respectful tributes to him as a negotiator who helped create the new government and served as its minister of housing.

To visit South Africa is an adventure in the suspension of disbelief. Whites who used to bluster defensively about their country now ask eagerly, "How do you like the new South Africa?"

To be out of pariah status in the world is wonderful. The end of apartheid liberated white South Africans as it did black.

There is reason for euphoria. Not many societies have gone through so radical a political transformation with so little pain. But it is important to understand that the necessary process of social change has barely begun.

In a country with surplus electric generating capacity, 63 percent of the black population lives in homes without electricity. Many have no running water.

High schools have just finished the school year. Economists say that of graduates seeking work, only 5 to 7 percent will find jobs. Nearly half the national work force is unemployed.

Land is a profound problem. Millions of blacks were forced off their land - not just 100 or 200 but 20 years ago, when the machinery of apartheid ground on. Under the new constitution, a land-claims commission will decide how to compensate them for the theft.

The victims of what was called "removal" from land were dumped in poor rural areas. You drive today through beautiful farm land and then come to the Ciskei, one of those dumping grounds: bare ruined plots crowded with people. The Ciskei's population is nine times the carrying capacity of the land.

Or go to the suburbs of Durban. Squatters have built shacks right up against modern apartment buildings. What is to be done to house the desperate urban poor?

Education may be the most urgent need of all. The architects of apartheid deliberately degraded the education of blacks so they would be fit only to serve a white-supremacist system. …

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