Five reasons Nelson Mandela would worry about South Africa today

“We admit that the organisation is in trouble,” South African president Jacob
Zuma told delegates at a conference in Soweto, the township where Mandela
lived.

He then added ominously: « If anything goes wrong with the ANC then
everything will go wrong with the country.”

Mr Zuma freely admitted to members of his party’s youth league last month that
the vehicle for the struggle against apartheid by Nelson Mandela and his
contemporaries is “shaken”.


Young lawyer and ANC member Nelson Mandela pictured circa 1952 in
Johannesburg (Jurgen Schadeberg/Getty Images)

In fact, the party’s secretary general Gwede Mantashe was so alarmed by Mr
Zuma’s candour that he interrupted his speech to call the president over for
a whispered conference.

Mr Zuma returned to the podium moments later, joked about “an intervention”
and changed the subject. He later hinted that he would be leaving politics
before long, and said that people would come and go but the ANC would
remain.

The president is running scared

The ANC’s problems extend right up to its president.

Mr Zuma will not attend today’s Mandela memorials – instead, his deputy Cyril
Ramaphosa, a veteran of the struggle against apartheid who was Nelson
Mandela’s preferred successor, has been travelling all over the country
fighting fires.

Mandela memorials are particularly problematic for Zuma – at the memorial
service held in Soweto just days after the revered former president died, the
current, discredited president was loudly heckled and booed
as he
made a mumbling speech in front of some of the world’s most powerful
leaders.

Mr Zuma is on a conveniently-timed state visit to China so will not attend
today’s Mandela memorials

Today, the president will not even appear before parliament for its
three-monthly equivalent of PMQs. Why? The last time he did, opposition MPs
heckled him and chanted “pay back the money” in reference to the £12.9m of
taxpayers’ money that was spent on “security” upgrades to his private home
in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal that included a swimming pool and amphitheatre.

Crime is on the up again

With the trial of Oscar Pistorius, the Paralympic athlete recently convicted
of shooting his girlfriend dead thinking she was an intruder, South Africa’s
violent crime problem has once again been thrown into the spotlight.

South Africans have celebrated several years of decline in the country’s
violent crime epidemic, but those feared most, including armed house and
business robberies have actually more than doubled over the past decade and
the murder rate, which was in steady decline after 1994, has turned upwards
over the past two years, reaching 47 per day this year.

The country’s adored football captain Senzo Meyiwa captain was recently shot
dead by robbers and the ANC’s former spokesman Jackson Mthembu was nearly
killed at a cash machine. Such cases have sparked calls for the return of
Col Bheki Cele, the tough-talking former police commissioner who urged his
officers to shoot first and ask questions later, but was then sacked for
corruption.

Reconciliation is a work in progress

In a
speech to celebrate 100 days since taking office
, Nelson Mandela
told parliament that reconciliation would not be possible without
reconstruction and development.

But today, many South Africans remain frustrated at the slow pace of change,
and continued poverty and inequality.

They also appear to be forgetting the oppressive and criminal nature of
apartheid.

And this is trend is particularly strong among whites:

The same study revealed that South Africans are showing record low levels in
trust in their national leaders – even black South Africans who
traditionally recorded the highest levels of trust – and only half of those
polled agreed that a united national identity was desirable.

« The danger of forgetting is that it encourages denial,” said Dr Kim
Wale, from the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation which conducted the
study. “The implication is that we are doomed to repeat the past. »

Voter turnout is down – but a strong democracy is emerging

Some 73 per cent of the country’s 53 million people voted at elections
in May this year
. Though that level of turnout would be the envy of
many Western democracies, it is down from the 1994 turnout was 86 per cent –
fuelling concerns that the “Born Free” generation that never knew apartheid
is uninspired by the current crop of politicians.

Despite these woes, the elections proved one thing – Mandela’s dream of a
democratic South Africa is becoming a reality.

Thirty-three
parties participated
, compared to 19 in 1994.

The result saw a fifth historic win for the African National Congress party –
but the 61 per cent of the vote it won was down from 65 per cent in 2009.


A woman wearing a Nelson Mandela t-shirt casts her ballot in the township
of Nyanga on the outskirts of Cape Town (Schalk van Zuydam/AP)

The official Democratic Alliance opposition increased its share from 16 per
cent to 22 per cent, and a noisy new party emerged with 6.4 per cent of the
vote.

The Economic Freedom Fighters is run by the bad boy of South African politics,
Julius Malema, its MPs wear domestic workers’ overalls to parliament and it
has promised to hold the ANC to greater account.

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