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Mandela Dream Still Project in Process

  • James Butty

An unidentified woman cries as she protests against the police opening fire and killing striking mine workers a day earlier at the Lonmin Platinum Mine near Rustenburg, South Africa, August 17, 2012.

An unidentified woman cries as she protests against the police opening fire and killing striking mine workers a day earlier at the Lonmin Platinum Mine near Rustenburg, South Africa, August 17, 2012.

It’s been nearly 20 years since Nelson Mandela first took office, and 13 years since he stepped down as South Africa’s first black president.

A new book, "After Mandela: The Struggle for Freedom in Post-Apartheid South Africa" is by Douglas Foster, associate professor at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. The author poses the question whether the dreams that Mandela promised South Africa will be fulfilled.

Foster said while the political and economic governance of South Africa is a project in process, there is a strong realization that the promises of the Mandela revolution of 1994 have yet to be fulfilled.

“Like in much of the rest of the world, the political liberation has not been followed by social justice and economic justice. In the South African context, you had a very unequaled system in which class and race were completely intertwined, and the tremendous inequalities that were created as a result of that. So, I think the answer to that is it’s a project in process, and there’s a very real and sometime quite vibrant and even violent fight to remind people who are running the country that the promises of 1994 have not been fulfilled yet,” he said.

Foster said he believes the primary dissatisfaction among South Africans since the Mandela revolution of 1994 is the widening gap between rich and poor, as reflected in the recent strike at the Lonmin Marikana platinum mine.

“I think the kind of frustration you hear often on the streets and among young people, particularly in working class and poor communities is, is the ANC [African National Congress] in office but not in power. And what that standard phrase means is that there hasn’t been enough change in terms of distribution of wealth, that control of the main economic levers, ownership of a vast proportion of the wealth is still wealth held in the hands of minority whites,” Foster said.


He said the level of dissatisfaction in the ruling ANC is so prominent that some members are calling for a change in leadership in the same manner as at the 2007 ANC congress in Polokwane when there were concerns as to whether then South African President Thabo Mbeki should continue as president of the party.

“I think you see the exact same kinds of questions being raised now about the leadership of President Jacob Zuma, and certainly it looks as though there is unfolding at the moment an effort to replace him with his deputy president [Kgalema Motlanthe]. So, in some way the more things change, the more they stay the same,” he said.

Foster agreed that other factors might have contributed to the delay in achieving social and economic progress in South Africa, including the HIV/AIDS pandemic, global capitalism and corruption.

Coincidently, South Africa's Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe warned Wednesday that the country’s growing wealth inequality could lead to a second revolution. He told journalists that the country’s “conspicuous consumption… in the midst of grinding poverty” was an “ingredient for a revolution.”

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