Mandela legacy of peace is under serious threat
IT WAS a day I thought I would never see. Having spent my youth as a sporadically active anti-apartheidist (I was deported from South Africa in the mid-1970s), not in my wildest dreams did I think I would witness Nelson Mandela walking free.
In the four years between that famous day and Mandela's swearing in as South Africa's first democratically elected president, I was equally certain a peaceful outcome was impossible.
Yet out of this combustible landscape, on a continent that specialises in downward spirals, came peace, and Mandela's Rainbow Nation.
Now, 20 years on, dark clouds are gathering. Mandela's success at transforming the ruling ANC from a liberation movement to a democratic political party has been all but undone during the rule of Thabo Mbeki, his strange, remote successor.
To expect a moral turnaround from his successor, Jacob Zuma, a wild populist with a dubious fiscal and sexual history, is probably asking too much.
Meanwhile, the gap between rich and poor continues to widen and the crime rate keeps soaring. Democratic institutions are being challenged, and most worrying have been the threats to the judiciary.
Many of the socio-economic problems have been deferred by the construction boom tied to this year's football World Cup.
But if South Africa is to avoid becoming as dysfunctional as the rest of the continent in the years that follow, it will have to return to the values that Mandela so brilliantly articulated 20 years ago. (© Daily Telegraph, London)