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Mr. Duncan Edmonds
Abstract: In February 1990, F. W. de Klerk made a dramatic announcement to South Africa's parliament that symbolized for racism what the fall of the Berlin Wall meant for communism: Nelson Mandela was to be released; the African National Congress would be legalized; and the government would begin negotiations leading to a national constitution with equal rights for all South Africans. What is not generally known is that for years prior to his announcement, the South African government had been carefully and secretly discussing the power-sharing arrangements with Mr. Mandela, in preparation for his eventual release. We have recently witnessed the initial results of this remarkable, negotiated revolution. In this issue, the author outlines a number of difficult challenges to President Mandela's new government. May 1994. Author: Mr. Duncan Edmonds.
Editors Note: In February 1990, F. W. de Klerk made a dramatic announcement to South Africa's parliament that symbolized for racism what the fall of the Berlin Wall meant for communism: Nelson Mandela was to be released; the African National Congress would be legalized; and the government would begin negotiations leading to a national constitution with equal rights for all South Africans. What is not generally known is that for years prior to his announcement, the South African government had been carefully and secretly discussing the "power-sharing" arrangements with Mr. Mandela, in preparation for his eventual release. We have recently witnessed the initial results of this remarkable, negotiated revolution. What now are the prospects for its continued success?
In this issue, Mr. Duncan Edmonds, former Chairman of Canadian Studies at Yale University and recently a visiting lecturer at the University of the Western Cape in South Africa, outlines a number of difficult challenges to President Mandela's new government.
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In contrast to the gloomy and often apocalyptic forecasts over the last several decades, the dramatic events of recent years culminating in last month's election have created an atmosphere of much hope that the "problem" of South Africa may finally be in the process of peaceful resolution. The sweeping ANC victory and the virtual coronation of President Mandela, attended by dignitaries from more than 130 countries, including 50 Heads of State, was a triumphant event. Not even the widespread violence and constant uncertainty of recent months can detract from this historic achievement. With the tumult and the tension of the negotiations for the interim constitution and the election now concluded, South Africa has finally crossed the democratic threshold. A multi-racial electorate of some 20 million voters, the vast majority of whom had never voted before, has elected a government which will serve until April 1999. Notwithstanding some inevitable rough patches, international observers have given the election a stamp of approval. Under the interim constitution, with its system of proportional representation, President Mandela has appointed six members of the National Party and three members of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IKP) to his 27-member cabinet in a government of national unity. These appointments include former President F. W. de Klerk as one of two deputy presidents, and his former finance minister, Derek Keys who remains in that post, as well as Mr. Buthelezi, the IKP leader, appointed Minister of Home Affairs.
In the post-Cold War period in which the world is struggling to adjust, virtually the entire international community desires to see the liberalization and democratization of South Africa succeed, for present here are the most fundamental issues of racial, social and economic equity facing mankind. But it will not be automatic and it will not be easy, and it is wise to remember, as Alexis de Tocqueville reminds us in his study of the causes of the French Revolution: "...it often happens that when a people which has put up with an oppressive rule over a long period without protest suddenly finds the government relaxing its pressure, it takes up arms against it. Generally speaking, the most perilous moment for a bad government is one when it seeks to mend its ways.... For the mere fact that certain abuses have been remedied draws attention to the others and they now appear more galling; people may suffer less, but their sensibility is exacerbated."
The most ominous factor within the complexity of the situation is the widespread violence which continues to cast a massive shadow over the future of South Africa. Violence threatens investment and the future growth of the economy, both of which will be essential to the democratic prospects of the country. It militates against the development of a positive image, seriously impairs hope for stability and contributes to a sense of uncertainty, notwithstanding the enormous progress achieved in recent years.
How is this violence to be understood and analyzed? An earlier Commentary (No. 7, December 1990) analyzed nine different variants of violence in South Africa and concluded: "Basically, violence is becoming increasingly endemic in the country as a whole. None of the variants is mutually exclusive; rather, they tend to have more than one cause and more than one group of perpetrators. It is the tendency of the various types of violence and their perpetrators to overlap which produces the complexity of the present crisis situation in South Africa."
Phillip van Niekerk, the correspondent for the Globe and Mail (13 April 1991 ) asks, "What possesses them to go to war against fellow blacks with such ferocity?" but can only conclude, "No one - not sociologists, psychologists or political analysts - can provide an explanation of what it is really about." While there is significant academic literature on violence in South Africa, a fully comprehensible analysis which might begin to provide a prescription for its ultimate resolution has yet to appear. Herbert Adam and Kogila Moodley in their sociological work (Negotiated Revolution, 1993) have contributed to our understanding of violence by focusing on "predisposing social conditions, such as the rural-urban divide, the inter-generational cleavages, and the differential living conditions, social status and heightened competition of long-term urban residents, shack dwellers and migrants in single-men hostels." When one adds to this formidable list the real possibilities for tension if the new régime fails to move rapidly enough to raise the living standards of the many millions of newly enfranchised black voters, it becomes clear that continuing widespread violence will enshroud South Africa for many years to come. Nelson Mandela showed a perceptive awareness of problems in the townships in a speech in 1992: "The youths in the townships have had over the decades a visible enemy, the government. Now that enemy is no longer visible, because of the transformation that is taking place. Their enemy now is you and me, people who drive a car and have a house. It is order, anything that relates to order, and it is a grave situation."
Many white South Africans attribute the violence to ethnic tensions between elements of the Xhosa-led ANC and the Zulu-based Inkatha Freedom Party. While this view is too one-dimensional, nonetheless the primary locus of the violence is directly related to the intolerance between these two groups. It is ironic that the central Zulu figure, the 65-year-old Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, was widely regarded until recent years by white South Africans and many world leaders as the most promising and moderate of the black leadership after he broke with the ANC in 1980 over several issues including the ANC alliance with the Communist Party and the reliance on sanctions and armed violence to end apartheid. After Mandela's release and the progress of recent years, Buthelezi has become increasingly marginalized, and he will lose his power-base in the new South Africa when KwaZulu is re-absorbed into the new federation with the nine other mini-states set up under apartheid. His behaviour in recent months, including his refusal to sign the interim constitution and to contest the election until an 11th-hour compromise in return for entrenchment of the Zulu monarchy as head of KwaZulu/Natal and an agreement on post-election mediation on regional powers, represents an ominous sign for the future.
The Zulus are very nationalistic and maintain a strong historic pride in their struggles in South Africa which can easily be aroused to precipitous action. Buthelezi is the great-grandson of the Zulu king who routed the British army at the bloody battle of Isandlwana in 1879, where to this day the burial markers, mounds of white stones, remain as a visible symbol of the ferocity of the Zulus. The seven million Zulus, representing about 20% of the country's population, are the only remaining monarchy, and even the entrenchment of King Goodwill Zwellthini, Buthelezi's cousin, may not be sufficient to repress their demands for a separate Zulu homeland.
It is a fundamental prerequisite for any democratic society that the will of the majority, determined through a free and fair electoral and legislative process, shall prevail. In the months ahead Buthelezi's role will be critical to the peaceful evolution of democracy in South Africa. It is premature to offer a conclusive judgement as to whether he will become a statesman or a frustrated tribal leader working to foment further violence and instability, but given his many outstanding qualities and a continuation of the wise and conciliatory leadership of President Mandela, there are more grounds for hope than pessimism regarding Chief Buthelezi's role, particularly as he has accepted a senior cabinet position in the new government.
In contrast to the potential for militancy and instability among elements of the Zulus and some other groups, there is a surprising silent majority of blacks in South Africa, illustrated by the Zion Christian Church, the largest indigenous religious movement in Southern Africa. While sometimes scorned by black militants and intellectuals and often viewed as confirmation for the belief of some whites that many blacks are satisfied with a life of subservience to authority, nonetheless this religious group of some five million adherents represents a cautious and deeply conservative people who abhor violence and support a strong base of stability throughout the country.
Given the murky history of the security and intelligence forces, a central question facing South Africa over the next few years is whether the government through its security and police forces will be able to contain and manage the continuing violence. The security apparatus which de Klerk inherited from P. W. Botha in 1989 was deeply flawed and "exercised extensive influence over state decision-making and policy implementation" (see Commentary #15 for an analysis of de Klerk's relationship with the South African Intelligence Services). The publication in March 1994 of the Goldstone Commission report confirmed what the ANC and many others have been alleging for several years; namely the existence of a "third force" within the security service, augmented by right-wing extremists and members of the Inkatha Freedom Party which has been directly involved in the killing of 11,000 people during the last three years. The charges that police were involved in the manufacture, smuggling and purchase of weapons and provided combat training to Inkatha supporters was a serious blow to de Klerk and undermined his continuing insistence that the state was not involved in the ANC-Inkatha violence. As Adam and Moodley state (p. 129): "Ample evidence exists that right-wing forces within the police and military intelligence either actively foment black violence and exploit cleavages or do not care much to suppress black violence and charge perpetrators. There are poorly trained policemen and security officials in various government agencies who resent both the negotiation course and the ascendancy of blacks."
The Goldstone Commission has rendered invaluable service to South Africa by dealing forthrightly with the issues of responsibility for the violence. The new government is fully aware of the depth and complexity of the problems it faces, and the international community, with a substantial Canadian contribution, is actively engaged in providing training and other measures of assistance on this issue. The centre is holding and the extremes of right and left, always the flashpoints for violence, are losing ground, as was reflected during the election where the terrorist bombings of the Boer extremists, while dramatic, were disorganized and swiftly suppressed by the security forces.
Although there can be little doubt that the spectre of violence will hover over South Africa for some years to come, difficult as it may be with the constant media focus, the matter needs to be kept in broad perspective. Comparisons with the death toll from the scourge of AIDS or the recent appalling tribal carnage in Rwanda are salutary in this regard. While violence may be at least ameliorated and substantially contained in the short-run, ultimately the challenge is to begin to remove its most basic causes, foremost of which are the economic and social inequities of the society.
In terms of basic economics, the profile of South Africa is very impressive. A major gateway to markets in other African countries, one of the world's leading mineral producers and a major agricultural exporter, South Africa has an increasingly sophisticated labour force available in expanding numbers. With a highly developed physical and financial infrastructure and a market of nearly 40 million consumers, South Africa has a low debt exposure and enjoys considerable confidence from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The country has a superb climate, a well developed tourist and resort infrastructure, a strong entrepreneurial base and significant managerial expertise. With only about 4% of the continent's population and 4% of its land mass, South Africa is the industrial and economic giant of Africa. It generates 60% of all electricity in Africa, produces 86% of all the steel, consumes 40% of all the cement, produces 45% of the minerals and provides 40% of Africa's industrial production. South Africa ranks as an upper-middle-income developing country, roughly on a par with most Latin American countries and several Eastern European countries. The economy is very open, with foreign trade counting for about 55% of GDP. Inflation is not a major problem, with the consumer price index in single- digit figures. An expanding South African economy has the potential to impact positively on economic growth throughout Southern Africa. This potential has been well recognized by the world community and will constitute an important rationale for international assistance to South Africa. The United States has included South Africa on its list of top ten countries for business, investment and trade opportunities, and President Clinton has announced a substantial increase in American aid. Canada has recently sent a major trade delegation, re-opened its trade office and is actively pursuing commercial opportunities.
It is evident that the economic potential of South Africa is very great. The challenges for the new government will be in the area of social engineering and reorientation of this economy to reflect the democratic realities and tensions of the new society. The major ANC policy document, "Ready to Govern" (May 1992) in its statement of economic policy, clearly articulates its national economic strategy with two principal components: (1) "Redistribution programs to meet the basic needs of our people. A priority...will be the provision of basic services, affordable housing and infrastructure. Legal, practical and psychological barriers created by apartheid and patriarchy will be broken down to open up the economy to give opportunities to those who have been historically excluded. (2) The restructuring of the economy on the basis of new comprehensive and sustainable growth and development strategies for all sectors of the economy."
Camouflaged behind such vague and academic words lurks an economic revolution which directly challenges the status quo of the white minority who control and direct the economic and commercial life of South Africa. The gravest dangers reside in the mid-term. In reality, South Africa is two starkly different societies: one, comprising about 10 million people-whites and coloureds and perhaps half a million blacks-has a high standard of living by any international comparison; and the other, comprising about 30 million blacks, is exceedingly poor and lacks housing, education, electricity, sanitation and any credible experience of democratic institutions. Whites earn eight times more than blacks and pay nearly all the tax revenue of the government. Only 2% of all the managers in South African business are black. While there are a few promising examples of black entrepreneurship, they are minimal in the total scheme of things.
Resolving the apartheid legacy of unjust and discriminatory land ownership will undoubtedly be the most complex and politically volatile problem the new government will face. Under many laws and policies dating back to 1913, blacks have been prohibited from owning land in nearly 90% of the country. Some 3.5 million blacks have been evicted or dispossessed from their homes and there are thousands of cases of rural labour tenants who claim a birthright to land covered by legal documents held by white owners.
All the sense of responsibility and moderation the ANC has exhibited in recent years, which has been the indispensable key to progress so far, will be tested under extreme pressure from the newly enfranchised majority. While most comparisons with the rest of sub-Saharan Africa may not be appropriate for South Africa, the dangers of excessive political influence over the economy and moving too precipitously to rectify the economic disparities and inequities of the past are all too reminiscent of the experience of the rest of Africa. There will be vitally important roles for the World Bank, the IMF and other actors in the international community, including Canada, to co- operate with the new government to avoid the perils which have so devastated the economies of the rest of the continent. The dilemma can be simply and starkly stated: how does a democratic South Africa resolve the massive problems of social injustice and inequity without destroying the fragile economic structure which ultimately provides the only hope for achieving the goals? The most prudent course to follow will be to stretch out the timing of many of the ANC policies relating to housing, education and other social expenditures. Clearly there will be much political tension and disagreement regarding priorities and timetables, and de Klerk as Deputy President and Keys as Finance Minister will have to play a very delicate role in this area to maintain Mandela's confidence and remain key figures in the government. The social science literature dealing with the feasibility of combining political and social reform with policies of economic redistribution provides many more warnings of disaster than positive case models. The prospects for democracy over the next decade are inextricably linked to the resolution of this central problem.
Another problem which challenges progress into this uncertain future will be the re-engineering of the public service in South Africa. At least three fundamental problems must be confronted. The existing public service is bloated and inefficient. Ninety per cent of the 3000 senior positions are presently occupied by white Afrikaner males, the vast majority of whom have close ties to the National Party. Finally, the entire apparatus is widely viewed as illegitimate by the newly enfranchised black majority. Prof. Job Mokgoro of the University of the Western Cape, one of the country's leading figures in public administration, has written that "Public Administration as an academic discipline and as a practice is experiencing a serious legitimacy crisis, largely as a result of its historically close relationship with the apartheid ideology" (Saspost February 1993).
In March 1993 the Canadian government launched a $10 million Policy Support Project administered by the International Development Research Council (IDRC) to provide significant training and other assistance in public administration. Several Canadian NGOs such as the Southern Africa Educational Trust, and many individual Canadians such as Prof. Douglas Anglin and Mary Anglin, Al Johnson, the Hon. Walter McLean and former RCMP Commissioner Robert Simmonds, have made important contributions in recent years in South Africa. This Canadian assistance, combined with other programs from the Commonwealth Secretariat, the United Nations, the United States and other countries, needs to continue for several years. Indeed, international assistance, including a large and socially responsible role for the private sector, must not only be maintained, but wisely expanded and co-ordinated in the near future.
How to control and contain the violence? How to manage and expand the economy and improve the living conditions of some 30 million blacks? How to re-engineer the public service? How can the government buy precious time to allow the new constitution and the new federal structures to evolve? These are among the formidable challenges in the next few years. Many of the political problems remain to be resolved. Who will succeed Mandela and through what type of process? Will the ANC coalition hold or will it be split apart, with its communist and union wings forming radical new political parties? How will Chief Buthelezi and his party relate to the new South Africa? The possibility of a KwaZulu secession is by no means out of the question, and as Minister of Home Affairs, Buthelezi occupies a key position from which to press his demands for greater provincial autonomy. Will the right-wing Boers continue to press for their own "volkstaat"? Perilous as some of the speculative answers to these and other questions may be, it is vital to appreciate that the prospects for democracy do not rest solely on answers to these types of questions, but rather on the continuing dynamics of the maintenance of choice in a free society which South Africa has now achieved. Above all, sustainable democracy requires stability and a composite of attitudes and values which Bagehot once called "animated moderation". In this regard, many elements of South Africa's rich heritage, combined with the process of negotiation and the achievements of recent years, offer much promise.
In the final volume of his autobiography in 1987, Alan Paton, who provided such a stimulus for international interest in his country, urged the release of Mandela from prison and speculated on what might result: "One thing would happen. Mandela would be greeted in every part of South Africa by the greatest crowds in our history. They would expect nothing less from him than liberation. Is he now able to do it? Is he still in sufficient command of himself and events to do it, and to get others to co-operate in doing it? We do not know the answers to these questions." Paton died before his questions could be answered in the triumphant and dramatic manner the world is now applauding. Will democracy, so painfully borne in South Africa, be sustained and mature over the coming years? The prognosis is one of cautious optimism, with the major qualification perhaps best articulated by an explicit warning in the much quoted ANC manifesto: "An election victory is only a first step. No political democracy can survive and flourish if the mass of our people remain in poverty, without land, without tangible prospects for a better life."
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